May 7, 2015 / 1:53 AM / 2 years ago

Chile president to reshuffle entire cabinet as popularity falls

Chile's President Michelle Bachelet speaks at a news conference after her welcoming ceremony in the presidential palace in Guatemala City, January 30, 2015. REUTERS/Josue Decavele

SANTIAGO (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 program 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 labor, 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.

Reporting by Antonio de la Jara and Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Ken Wills and Alex Richardson

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