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Chile's President Assumes Power in Austere, Post-quake Ceremony

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The ceremony took place at the nation's Congress in Valparaiso, 120 kilometers northwest of the capital Santiago. The activities then will move to the nearby resort town Vina del Mar, where the president has an official residence where he will offer "a working lunch" for guests.

After the ceremony, Pinera was to visit Constitucion, a fishing and tourism city that suffered a two-meter-high tsunami immediately after the earthquake.

"Pinera is giving out good signals, including the sober ceremony and the immediate visit to the affected areas," said Jose Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States.

The new president will also convene a cabinet meeting to deal with the earthquake.

"It is also a good signal that he is going to begin immediately with a cabinet meeting," Insulza said.

Outgoing President Michelle Bachelet presented the newly appointed Chilian armed forces head Fuente-Abla with the saber representing his authority in a private ceremony in the Santiago Military Academy on Tuesday.

Before the quake, the military had planned a public ceremony with marching bands and military honors, which were cancelled because 14,000 soldiers are patrolling the streets of quake-hit cities to prevent looting while navy officers are focused on shipping food and shelters to coastal towns destroyed by the tsunami.

Pinera won the Jan. 17 presidential election runoff with 51.7 percent of the vote. His personal wealth of around US$2 billion comes largely from his ownership of national airline LAN Chile, which he has to sell in order to assume the presidency. He also had a controlling state in top Chilian soccer club Colo Colo.

(Xinhua News Agency March 12, 2010)

Sebastian Pinera (2nd R, Front) waves to audience at the Congress house in Valparaiso, Chile, on March 11, 2010.
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