Latin America & Caribbean

Chilean president appoints new cabinet

Chile's President Michelle Bachelet shakes hands with economist Rodrigo Valdes. 11 May 2015 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Michelle Bachelet appointed economist Rodrigo Valdes as finance minister

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has appointed a new cabinet as she seeks to overcome a fall in popularity and a series of political scandals.

Jorge Burgos, the current defence minister, has been made interior minister, replacing Rodrigo Penailillo.

Economist Rodrigo Valdes has been made finance minister, replacing Alberto Arenas.

It is the first time a Chilean finance minister has been replaced mid-term since the return of democracy in 1990.

Ms Bachelet also changed the ministers of justice, labour, culture and social development and appointed a new presidential spokesman.

"This new, inspiring and demanding phase requires renewed energies and new faces," she said in a statement at the presidential palace.

Ms Bachelet asked all her ministers to resign as a poll last week put her approval rating at 29% - the lowest for her current administration as well as for her previous presidency between 2006 and 2010.

Correspondents say Ms Bachelet's popularity has been hit a series of political scandals, a slowing economy and disillusion with her campaign of reforms.

Trust in Chile's politicians and the business elite was eroded by a campaign-financing scandal involving right-wing politicians and a prominent financial company.

Also, Ms Bachelet's son resigned in February as head of a government charity over allegations of influence-peddling.

Although Chile's national bank regulator cleared Sebastian Davalos of any wrongdoing, the issue became a scandal.

Economists welcomed the appointment of Mr Valdes, who is currently chairman of state bank Banco del Estado and a former deputy director of the International Monetary Fund.

His predecessor, Mr Arenas, had a strained relationship with the business community following unpopular reforms.

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