SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chilean President Michelle Bachelet announced a slight reshuffling of her cabinet on Friday, the second time in a month she has replaced ministers in her inner circle.
In a brief speech at the La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, center-left Bachelet said she had accepted the resignations of Labor Minister Ximena Rincon, government spokesman Marcelo Diaz and Sports Minister Natalia Riffo.
"In this new phase, the government must ensure that we advance and consolidate the changes we've begun. That will be the central task of this cabinet, to move this work forward and produce a positive and concrete impact," she said.
Bachelet has attempted to push through an ambitious package of reforms during her second term in office, including changes to the tax code to help pay for improvements to education and a restructuring of the electoral system. But many of her reforms have been stymied, as weak economic growth has drained public resources and corruption scandals have dragged her approval rating into the gutter.[nL1N19S1XW]
Friday's cabinet reshuffle followed one in October, in which Bachelet replaced the ministers of energy, national assets and justice.[nL1N1CP1ZN]
In Chile, it is common for the president to reshuffle the cabinet in the final year of a term in order to free cabinet members to run in elections or join presidential campaign teams.[nL1N1CP1ZN][nL1N1CX0R1]
Chile's presidential and parliamentary elections take place in November 2017, and the right-wing coalition is expected to make gains due to the deep unpopularity of the governing coalition. In October, the right snatched dozens of mayoralties from the ruling Nueva Mayoria coalition in a boost to former leader Sebastian Pinera, the front-runner to lead conservatives in the 2017 presidential election.[nL1N1CU00F]
Of the three ministers who resigned, Rincon is the most politically consequential. As labor minister, she played a key role in attempting to push a pro-worker labor reform through Congress. But the law was severely neutered by courts and political infighting, leaving both unions and business leaders unhappy.[nL1N19921V][nL1N19S1V1]
She will be replaced by Alejandra Krauss, a member of the left-leaning Christian Democratic Party who served as a planning minister during a previous center-left government.
(Reporting by Gram Slattery and Anthony Esposito; Editing by Dan Grebler)