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January 16, 2006

Bachelet Elected President in Chile!

Hurrah! As I previously reported, Socialist Party candidate Michelle Bachelet won the first round of presidential elections in Chile and yesterday she won the final round, making her Chile's first female president! Yay! (To review: according to Chilean law, a presidential candidate must receive over 50% of the votes to win the office; since Bachelet had two major opponents in the first round, she got 46% of the vote. In the second round, she received 53%, while her opponent billionaire Conservative Sebastian PiƱera received 46%.

Bachelet appealed to people's desire to acknowledge the terrible dictatorship of Pinochet (who killed her father and tortured Bachelet and her mother before allowing them to flee into exile), while moving forward into a new era. Bachelet is a pediatrician. Later in life, she studied strategic studies at the national war college and the Inter-American Defense College in Washington, DC. After her strategic studies, she became politically active and was named Minister of Health. Two years later, she was named Minister of Defense, the first woman to hold that position. I am impressed with all aspects of her life, especially her belief that you must fully understand the military in order to change its place in society.

"You know that I have not had an easy life, but who has had an easy life?" Bachelet told supporters Sunday night during a victory speech in downtown Santiago. "Violence entered my life, destroying what I loved. Because I was a victim of hate, I have dedicated my life to turn that hate into understanding, into tolerance and, why not say it, into love."
I am impressed that a Catholic, traditional country (where only 36% of women have paid employment) accepted an agnostic, single mother as their president. This level of cultural acceptance is just as profound as the political shift taking place elsewhere in South America. Bachelet trusts the USG and free trade much more than other South American leaders; but she tempers that trust with a desire to directly help the Chilean poor.

I am excited by her victory and look forward to her presidency.

More information:
Above quote from "Chile Elects First Female President: Bachelet, a Former Political Prisoner, Will Keep Socialists in Power," by Monte Reel in WaPo
"A Leader Making Peace With Chile's Past," biographical sketch by Larry Rohter in NYT
"What is Missing in This Woman's Victory? Coattails by Larry Rohter in NYT

Posted by cj at January 16, 2006 11:36 AM


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