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Chile's Bachelet moves swiftly on social change agenda

  • Michelle Bachelet, of Chile's Socialist Party, gestures to photographers prior to a debate with other presidential candidate hopefuls ahead of the primary election for the "Pacto Nueva Mayoria" coalition in Santiago, Chile, Monday, June 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)

SANTIAGO: Chile's new socialist President Michelle Bachelet moved swiftly Wednesday on promises to tackle inequality, submitting a bill to provide grants to poor families one day after taking office for a second time.

The bill would institute twice-a-year $80 payments to help poor families with seasonal expenses like back-to-school supplies or heating in winter.

Bachelet, who was sworn in Tuesday for a second four-year term as president, said the initiative was part of a bid to recenter social policy on "the rights of citizens."

"Chile has but one great enemy, and its name is inequality. Only together can we take it on," she said in her inaugural speech.

"Let's start now. The time is short," she stressed, pledging 50 initiatives in her first 100 days back in office.

During an intense campaign that ended in a landslide victory in December, Bachelet promised to reform Chile's education system, its taxes and to write a new constitution that wipes away vestiges of the 1973-90 dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

Bachelet succeeds Sebastian Pinera, a conservative who said he was leaving his successor "a better country than the one we had four years ago."

Pinera, barred from running for a second consecutive term, left office at the peak of his popularity.

But Bachelet is inheriting an economy that is losing steam after some five years at a five percent growth rate. Growth next year is forecast at between 3.75 and 4.75 percent.

 
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