Michelle Bachelet, a moderate socialist who was President of Chile from 2006-10, was inaugurated for the second time today after winning an election in which she promised to finance education reform with higher corporate taxes, improve health care, make the constitution more representative and reduce the gap between rich and poor.
Bachelet's "New Majority" coalition welcomed Communists, street activists and former student leaders, and won in December by the widest margin in eight decades of presidential elections. During her first presidency Bachelet won praise for shepherding Chile through the global economic crisis, using government reserves to help the poorest Chileans, and she enjoyed 84 percent approval when she left office. The student protests that bedeviled outgoing President Sebastian Pinera began under Bachelet.
Chile's economy thrived under Pinera, but metals prices have dropped and growth has slowed just as Bachelet hopes to take in about $8.2 billion in taxes from businesses to fund her education reform.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro canceled plans to go to the swearing-in after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who attended, called the street protests in Venezuela "alarming" and said democratically elected leaders who rule as authoritarians damage their people and countries. Maduro sent his foreign minister Elias Jaua to Chile in his stead.