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Kirchner couple slide into second mandate swapping jobs

Monday, December 10th 2007 - 20:00 UTC
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The symbol of power passes from husband to wife The symbol of power passes from husband to wife

The first elected woman president of Argentina, Cristina Kirchner, 54, was sworn in on Monday, receiving the sash of office from her husband, the outgoing head of state. Chants of “Viva Cristina” erupted when Kirchner swapped her position as first lady for that of president.

Ms Kirchner was sworn in before the two chambers of Congress and in the presence of 160 foreign delegations. In her first speech as president, Kirchner vowed to wage war on poverty. "There will be no definite triumph as long as there is poverty," she said. The new president hailed her husband's government, which she said battled tirelessly against unemployment and poverty and is credited with leading Argentina out of the 2001-2002 economic meltdown. The first woman president said her administration will be based on four main chapters: recovering the institutional framework; a participating society; an economic accumulation model with social inclusion and in international affairs, global insertion and multilateralism. During her hour-long inaugural speech, Fernandez's voice rose in anger as she demanded faster progress from dozens of slow-moving court investigations of human rights abuses of the country's 1976-83 dictatorship. "I expect that in the four years of my term, trials that have been delayed more than 30 years will be concluded. We must try and punish those who were responsible for the greatest genocide" in modern Argentine history. The first-lady-turned-president made it clear her husband would not fade into the political background. "For me and for all Argentines, he will also continue being president," she said recently. But the first couple also insisted she alone will make the decisions. "We have been a couple for 32 years. We have had a lot of experiences together. But she is the one who has to make the decisions ... it would be a big mistake if I interfered," Nestor Kirchner told local television. Nestor Kirchner, who remained popular throughout his four year presidency, has not explained why he stepped aside for his wife instead of seeking another four-year term. With the notable exception of the economy minister, the new president will keep most of her husband's cabinet. She also stressed her determination to maintain high growth rates, rejecting calls to let the economy slow down in order to slash inflation. "Every time that has been said, Argentina ended up in recession," she said, stressing that "Chinese-style" growth, which since 2003 has been close to nine percent, has made it possible to reduce poverty in the wake of the disastrous 2002 crisis. However experts warn that the prosperity that came about during Nestor Kirchner's government is weakened by high inflation rates. The government says inflation is at 10 percent, but a number of economists insist the figure is above 15 percent. Unemployment is mired at near 10 percent and a quarter of the country's 39 million people are poor Argentina last year paid back its entire IMF debt of almost nine billion dollars. Mrs. Kirchner now hopes to sort out the country's debt with the Paris Club of creditors. Argentina stopped payments on that debt in 2002. On Tuesday, the new president will hold talks with International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who attended her swearing-in. The new president will also face a major challenge in battling endemic crime, which polls show is Argentines' main concern.

Categories: Politics, Argentina.

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