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Chile's President Pinera removes interior, foreign, defense ministers

Credit: REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has reshuffled six ministers, including from the key interior and foreign portfolios, as he seeks to shore up his fractious ruling coalition following a rebellion over a controversial pensions bill passed last week.

By Aislinn Laing and Natalia A. Ramos Miranda

SANTIAGO, July 28 (Reuters) - Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has reshuffled six ministers, including from the key interior and foreign portfolios, as he seeks to shore up his fractious ruling coalition following a rebellion over a controversial pensions bill passed last week.

The second reshuffle in nine months of almost all of the president's inner political circle save the finance ministry saw a swing towards conservatism in the political affiliations of new ministers, also in the defense, social affairs, presidency and communications portfolios.

"I call on this new cabinet and all of the Chile Vamos coalition to begin a new stage for our government and for our country, with a true constructive spirit, conviction, unity, faith and hope," Pinera said at a swearing-in ceremony at the presidential palace in the capital Santiago.

The reshuffle comes as the centre-right president faces his toughest year in office so far, with massive social protests from October to December and the combined economic and social blow of the coronavirus outbreak that began in March.

Last week, both senators and deputies from the ruling Chile Vamos coalition backed an opposition bill for citizens to be allowed to draw down 10% of their pensions from the country`s private retirement system.

The government staunchly opposed the move, saying it would fund relief for hard-hit citizens from the public purse, and warning about the longer-term impact on profitability and already-low average payouts of pensions as well as on the economy.

Interior Minister Gonzalo Blumel, who doubles as cabinet chief, took the fall for failure to stop the pensions rebellion and was replaced by senator Víctor Perez, a member of the far-right UDI party, which is part of the ruling Chile Vamos coalition. Perez will be the third interior minister in nine months. Pinera also replaced his health minister in June.

(Reporting by Aislinn Laing; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bernadette Baum)

((Aislinn.Laing@thomsonreuters.com; +56 223704250;))

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