Chile's President reshuffles Cabinet amid falling popularity ratings

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet (centre) meeting with members of the Committee of Politics at La Moneda Palace in Santiago de Chile, on May 6, 2015. Ms Bachelet announced a surprise Cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday, in a second-term scramble to sil
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet (centre) meeting with members of the Committee of Politics at La Moneda Palace in Santiago de Chile, on May 6, 2015. Ms Bachelet announced a surprise Cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday, in a second-term scramble to silence her socialist government's critics. -- PHOTO: EPA

SANTIAGO (AFP) - Chile's President Michelle Bachelet announced a surprise Cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday, in a second-term scramble to silence her socialist government's critics.

"The time has come to make changes in my cabinet," Ms Bachelet told Canal 13 television. "I have asked for the resignation of all my Cabinet ministers. I will take 72 hours to announce who will be staying and who will be leaving."

The President did not make any suggestions as to specific pending changes.

Ms Bachelet has been a towering figure on the Chilean political scene since first winning the presidency in 2005.

She left office in 2010 with an approval rating of 83 per cent, then, barred from serving a second-consecutive term, surged back to power in the December 2013 election. She won 62 per cent of the vote and become the first president to serve more than one term since Chile's return to democracy in 1990.

But her popularity has tumbled to around 30 per cent since accusations emerged that her eldest child Sebastian Davalos used his political influence to get his wife Natalia Compagnon a US$10 million (S$13.2 million) bank loan.

Ms Compagnon's company used the money to buy property that was then slated for urban re-zoning, selling the land at a US$5 million profit.

Ms Bachelet denies any prior knowledge of the loan, but the scandal has seriously dented her image as a reformer.