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The BBC's James Reynolds reports
"His first priority will be to tackle Chile's social problems"
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Saturday, 11 March, 2000, 18:55 GMT
Pinochet opponent takes power
Ricardo Lagos
All-inclusive: Lagos offers "a place for everyone"
Chile has sworn in its first Socialist president since the 1973 military coup in which General Augusto Pinochet swept to power.

The pinochet File
Ricardo Lagos, who won January's election, succeeds Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei and is the third democratically-elected president since General Pinochet stepped down in 1990.

"This is a fiesta for democracy," said Mr Lagos, as he took his oath in the Congress building in the port city of Valparaiso, watched by dignitaries from Europe and the Americas.

"I will make a tremendous effort to show the world that this is a democratic country where power is in the hands of authorities, elected by the people, and where the armed forces are obedient," he said.

"In Chile, there is a place for everyone."

Return to Santiago

President Lagos' inauguration comes a little more than a week after General Pinochet returned to Chile following more than 16 months under arrest in the UK.

Ricardo Lagos and Eduardo Frei
Outgoing President Eduardo Frei congratulates his successor
Mr Lagos became well known in 1988, when he worked to defeat a referendum that would have extended General Pinochet's power until the turn of the century.

As General Pinochet is a life senator, he was entitled to attend the inauguration - but he was not present.

"It was obviously better that he did not attend the ceremony," Foreign Minister Soledad Alvear told reporters.

Mr Alvear was one of 16 cabinet ministers who took the oath of office after President Lagos had been sworn in.

The new president was due to return to the capital Santiago in the evening to make his first address to the nation from the balcony of the presidential palace, La Moneda.

General Pinochet's forces bombed La Moneda on the day he ousted former President Salvador Allende.

General's fate

Chile is recovering from its first recession in 15 years, sparked by the international financial crisis in 1998.

President Lagos has promised to put a greater emphasis on tackling social problems, on reducing crime and unemployment, and on improving health and education.

Pinochet in wheelchair
General Pinochet faces new medical tests
Correspondents say that many Chileans will also watch closely to see how he deals with the general.

He has said that the country's courts will decide General Pinochet's fate.

A Chilean judge considering more than 60 civil lawsuits against the general has said he intends to pursue a prosecution.

New medical tests will have to be carried out according to Chilean law, which states that anyone over 70 facing legal action must undergo a medical examination.

Those found to be insane or suffering from dementia are then exempt from standing trial.

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17 Jan 00 | Americas
Profile: Ricardo Lagos
05 Mar 00 | Americas
Stark choice for Pinochet
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