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Piñera makes changes to cabinet (Chile)
Chile's President Sebastian Piñera accepted on Friday (Jan 14) the resignation of energy minister Ricardo Raineri, transport and telecommunications minister Felipe Morande and work minister Camila Merino, the presidential website reported.


The news came just a day after the resignation of defense minister Jaime Ravinet.


The stepping down of energy minister Raineri is seen as a result of southern Magallanes province resident protests over state oil company Enap's decision to reduce gas subsidies in the largely isolated region that is blighted by low temperatures for much of the year. The government has stood by the decision, to take effect starting in February, but is looking to lower tensions with the minister's removal.


Piñera - facing a 41% nationwide disapproval rate according to a January 12 survey taken by the CERC center for studies - named current mining minister Laurence Golborne to take Raineri's place. Golborne will now have two ministries under his tutelage. The move is believed to aim to capitalize on the wave of popularity Golborne has experienced ever since the October 2010 rescue of the 33 miners trapped in the collapsed San Jose copper-gold mine.


Meanwhile, transport and telecommunications minister Morande is seen to be victim of less than stellar results on capital Santiago's mass transport system Transantiago, which has been plagued with problems since its inception during the administration of past president Michele Bachelet.


A minister has yet to be named in Morande's place, but a government official told BNamericas that a replacement is expected to be named during the week beginning January 17.


Piñera is turning to two experienced politicians - Andrés Allamand and Evelyn Matthei as respective defense and work ministers - in a move seen as trying to bring more political weight and experience to the administration.


The new ministers were due to be sworn in on Sunday (Jan 16) night.

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