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Chile's Earthquake Has Great Cultural, Economic Impact

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Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said Friday that the earthquake and the following tsunami that hit the country on Feb. 27 had a great cultural and economic impact on Chile.

At a press conference, Pinera said the 8.8-magnitude earthquake, the fifth largest ever recorded in the world, cost the nation tens of billions of US dollars.

However, he added, the traumatic earthquake will also make Chileans spiritually stronger.

"The people of Chile have shown their courage. I believe we will be able to overcome this tragedy," he said.

The president added that reconstruction work after the quake will last many years and will require an adjustment to the nation's budget plan for the current year.

"There will be austerity in public spending, moving money from lower priority projects to reconstruction projects," said the president, who was already well known for being a billionaire before he won the Jan.-17 presidential election runoff.

"We will also use part of savings ... to boost reconstruction plans," Pinera said. As the biggest copper exporter in the world, Chile has saved 11 billion dollars during the years of high copper prices. The nation owns the National Copper Corporation of Chile (Codelco), the world's largest copper company.

This weekend, Pinera said he will leave on an inspection tour of some of the worst quake-hit cities and towns including Concepcion, Talcahuano, Dichato, Pelluhue, Cauquenes, Talca, Iloca and Curico.

(Xinhua News Agency March 2010)

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