BY KEVIN G. HALL
Herald Foreign Staff
VALPARAISO, Chile -- Ricardo Lagos was sworn in Saturday as Chile's
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
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
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
involved with the people,'' said Rafael Ruiz, a Lagos campaign advisor.
``This is a very emotional ceremony. It is a step forward for
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