Chile president to reshuffle entire cabinet as popularity falls

Chile president to reshuffle entire cabinet as popularity falls
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

SANTIAGO, May 6 (Reuters) - Chile President Michelle Bachelet said she will reshuffle her entire cabinet in the next few days, a surprise announcement that indicates the depth of her concern about a collapse in her popularity.

"A few hours ago I requested the resignation of all the ministers, and I will take 72 hours to decide who will stay and who will go," she said in an interview with a local TV station on Wednesday evening.

Center-left Bachelet's popularity has hit an all-time low in recent weeks after a series of corruption scandals. Earlier on Wednesday, the latest poll showed that disapproval of the president was still growing.

As well as a scandal over illicit campaign financing that has mostly drawn in opposition politicians, Bachelet herself has been tainted by questions over a bank loan and lucrative land deal that benefited her daughter-in-law.

Although she has always maintained she was unaware of the deal, in the programme on Wednesday night - titled 'What is going on with Chile?' - Bachelet said she made "important mistakes" in not returning from holiday or commenting on the case in a timely way.

The fuss over the scandals has overshadowed her political agenda at a time when she is trying to push through ambitious labour, education and other reforms.

Most politicians from within Bachelet's party welcomed the move. "Well done, President!," tweeted left-wing senator Carlos Montes. "The resignation request marks a new stage."

It is not clear who, if any, of the ministers will stay. Traditionally the finance minister, currently Alberto Arenas, remains in place for the entire four years of an administration.

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