Argentina’s first female president takes over |

Argentina’s first female president takes over

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) ” Cristina Fernandez was sworn in Monday as Argentina’s first elected female president, completing a rare husband-wife transfer of power that the nation hopes will ensure continued recovery from an economic meltdown.

Half a decade after the financial blowout, which her husband and current President Nestor Kirchner has called an “economic hell,” Fernandez embarked on a four-year term, challenged with prolonging a recovery that has seen annual growth rates above 8 percent.

“The government that is coming is going to be much better than the one that’s now leaving,” Kirchner said. He handed over power Monday afternoon to Fernandez, a three-term senator who won office handily on their left-leaning Victory Front coalition ticket.

Cheering lawmakers in Congress, controlled by Fernandez’s forces, applauded as the 54-year-old leader took her oath.

Scores of police blocked streets around Congress for the inauguration attended by fellow South American presidents.

Fernandez won 45 percent of the vote against a divided opposition on Oct. 28. She now joins Michelle Bachelet in neighboring Chile as the second current female president in South America.

Approval ratings for Kirchner topping 60 percent have been largely credited with Fernandez’s victory, although she also has been praised for an astute, unorthodox campaign. Refusing to debate any of her rivals and granting few interviews, Fernandez preferred to be photographed overseas meeting world leaders ” projecting a flair for international diplomacy while masking a lack of executive branch experience.

Fernandez seems unlikely to alter Kirchner’s alliance with Latin American leftists, including Chavez, but she could forge better ties with the next U.S. president.

At home, the new president will try to correct some lingering headaches from the Kirchner term: inflation that private economists estimate in the double digits, corruption scandals and a sputtering energy crisis. Unemployment is mired at near 10 percent and a quarter of the country’s 39 million people are poor.

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