Monday, October 9, 2006

First woman elected president of Chile

Last March, Michelle Bachelet was elected president of Chile, becoming the first woman to hold that office. has since listed her as the seventeenth most powerful woman in the world. Bachelet’s appearance last week on ABC’s “The View” has largely flown under the radar, as South American relations are overshadowed in the daily news by more urgent security threats elsewhere. As a highly non-traditional candidate, her path to the highest public office in Chile deserves some consideration.

Bachelet is a socialist, a single mother, and a pediatrician in a traditionally conservative, Catholic society. During the rein of Pinochet, she was incarcerated and tortured along with her mother. Chile is often viewed as an example of successful implementation of a free market economy in Latin America. Although Bachelet’s socialism isn’t what the United States would like to see, her credentials are nonetheless impressive.

Some observers question what Bachelet’s election indicates for the future of Chile. In some ways, her election may be seen as a break from past social conservativism towards a more liberal orientation. Bachelet certainly has many challenges ahead of her in order to implement the reforms on which she campaigned. As her term progresses, it will be interesting to measure her impact on Chile and all of South America.

Lydia Pfaff
DI columnist

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