President García attends Piñera’s inauguration in Chile

President Alan García arrived in Chile Thursday morning to attend the presidential inauguration of Sebastián Piñera, which was jolted by a powerful earthquake minutes before the ceremony.

Piñera was sworn in during a ceremony attended by foreign dignitaries in the city of Valparaiso, where Chile’s Congress is located, state news agency Andina reported.

President García was accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister José Antonio García Belaunde.

Presidents from six other South American countries attended Piñera’s inauguration. They included Argentina’s Cristina Fernández, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Colombia’s Álvaro Uribe, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo, and José Mujica of Uruguay.

The ceremony occurred less than two weeks after the massive magnitude-8.8 quake hit southern Chile killing hundreds and setting off tsunami alerts. The aftershock felt on Thursday just minutes before Piñera was sworn in was one of the largest since the Feb. 27 quake.

The United States Geological Survey originally said the quake registered a magnitude-7.2, however later changed it to a magnitude-6.9. The epicenter was located about 85 miles south of Valparaiso in Chile’s central Libertador O’Higgins region. Preliminary measurements by the U.S.G.S recorded at least nine other aftershocks in Libertador O’Higgins on Thursday that were magnitude-5.0 or larger.

Chile’s National Office for Emergencies, or ONEMI, issued a tsunami alert.

“It is only a tremor, lets not over dramatize it,” said García. “We are use to tremors in Lima, so you need to take advantage of the moment to dance.”

Piñera, a conservative billionaire and Harvard-educated economist, defeated former president Eduardo Frei in a second round run off vote last January, ending two decades of center-left rule in Chile. He replaces Michelle Bachelet.

President García said in January that he expects Piñera’s election to improve relations between the two South American countries.

Relations between Peru and Chile had deteriorated since 2007 when Peru opened its case on the border dispute at The Hague. More recently, Chile’s decision to build up its arms purchase and Peru’s accusation that Chilean military officers were paying a Peruvian air force officer to reveal national secrets have further increased tensions.

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