Chile has a new President of the Republic: Sebastián Piñera Echenique, who was sworn in as president for the 2010-2014 term in a sober ceremony held in the National Congress Hall of Honor in Valparaiso, seat of the legislative branch.
Thus, Michelle Bachelet concludes her presidency, and a new government coalition is ushered in: the Coalición por el Cambio, led by Sebastián Piñera, who won the 17th January election. For its part, the Concertación de Partidos por la Democracia, which had run the country since 1990, has joined the opposition.
The event started at close to midday and was presided over by Senator Jorge Pizarro, president of the upper house in the Chilean Congress. Following an old democratic tradition, the former president passed the presidential sash to Piñera, along with the so-called “brooch of O’Higgins”, a medal originally bestowed upon the Chilean independence leader Bernardo O’Higgins in 1823.
Close to 1,100 guests participated in the power transfer ceremony, including the presidents of Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Guatemala, Brazil, Paraguay, and Prince Felipe of Spain.
Others present included the vice president of the Dominican Republic, Nuncio Aldo Cavalli in representation of the Vatican, the Salvadoran and Portuguese foreign ministers, and delegations from Israel, Croatia, Algeria, the United Kingdom, India, Syria, Gabon and Lebanon, among others.
The ceremony was particularly solemn and simple in consideration of the powerful earthquake that shook central-southern Chile last 27 February, an issue that will be the top priority for the incoming administration.
The aftershocks are still felt in the country and even in the midst of the act there were two strong aftershocks, one of 7.2 and the other one of 6.9 degrees in the Richter scale, causing concern among the attendees, but everyone remained calm and the ceremony took place in complete normality.