The Miami Herald
March 12, 2000
Chile's Lagos takes oath, begins 2-day celebration

 Herald Foreign Staff

 VALPARAISO, Chile -- Ricardo Lagos was sworn in Saturday as Chile's first
 Socialist president since Salvador Allende was overthrown in a bloody 1973
 military coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

 ``This is a fiesta for democracy,'' said a smiling Lagos, wearing a dark suit and
 red tie. He took his oath in the Congress building in Valparaiso, a port city
 northwest of Santiago, as leaders from Europe and the Americas looked on and

 Organizers planned rock and folk concerts in 27 cities across Chile, and Lagos
 exhorted crowds to turn out.

 ``Chileans should come celebrate to applaud the beginning of a new century, a
 new government,'' he said.

 Attorney General Janet Reno headed the U.S. delegation, signaling support for
 the independence of Chilean judges who are weighing requests to strip Pinochet
 of legal immunity and prosecute him for alleged human rights violations during his
 rule from 1973 to 1990.

 The inauguration was notable for some prominent absences.

 Lagos, 62, did not invite conservative Joaquin Lavin, who lost the Jan. 16 runoff
 election by just 2 percent. Despite fears of a surprise, Pinochet did not attend,

 The former military ruler returned this month from nearly 17 months under house
 arrest in London, where he evaded extradition to any of the four European
 countries that wanted to try him for alleged human rights violations against their
 citizens. His family had signaled he would stay away, but about 200 protesters
 showed up to chant anti-Pinochet slogans from behind barriers about a block from
 the inauguration ceremony.

 After a lunch with visiting heads of state and other dignitaries, Lagos flew to
 Chile's third-largest city, Concepcion, starting two days of national celebration.
 The trip was interpreted as a gesture to address a frequent complaint in this
 country of 15 million: that too little political attention is paid to areas outside of
 Santiago, the administrative capital.

 ``Symbolically, it indicates he will be a president who will be more actively
 involved with the people,'' said Rafael Ruiz, a Lagos campaign advisor.

 ``This is a very emotional ceremony. It is a step forward for Chilean democracy,''
 said Porfirio Muñoz-Ledo, one of Mexico's best-known leftist politicians.

 This report was supplemented with material from Herald wire services.

                     Copyright 2000 Miami Herald