March 11 - Returning to Chile's top job after a spell with the United Nations, Michelle Bachelet heads a coalition that ranges from moderate leftists to communists. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: Michelle Bachelet took over the presidency of Chile in a ceremony loaded with symbolism on Tuesday, after promising to stick to her tax-and-spend campaign pledges despite a sharp economic slowdown. Bachelet accepted the presidential sash from Senate head Isabel Allende, the daughter of late socialist President Salvador Allende, whose overthrow in 1973 ushered in the 17-year dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Returning to Chile's top job after a spell with the United Nations, Bachelet heads a coalition that ranges from moderate leftists to communists. She wants to address social inequality in the top copper exporter by overhauling education and healthcare, funded by tax reforms. Apart from a prickly Congress and volatile student movement, which has been vociferously demanding better, free education, she will have to deal with a struggling economy. Economic activity growth slowed to a near four-year low in January and falling copper prices and a weakening peso are taking their toll. Bachelet's swearing-in in the port city of Valparaiso, the seat of Chile's Congress, was attended by presidents from around the region, with the notable exception of Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro, who was due to come but apparently canceled at the last minute. In a possible reflection of the strategic importance of Chile - a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council - U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was in Santiago to attend the ceremony. He has been meeting with Bachelet and other Latin American leaders. Apart from the troubles in Venezuela, Biden was expected to use his visit to discuss the TransPacific Partnership free trade agreement. Chile and the United States are among 12 countries involved in TPP talks, though disagreements between some partners have delayed a final deal.