Bachelet, Michele

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Bachelet, Michele

Michele Bachelet (Verónica Michele Bachelet Jeria) (bĕōn´ēka mēchĕl´ bächĕlĕt´ her´ēä), 1951–, Chilean political leader and government official, president of Chile (2006–10, 2014–). Her father, Alberto Bachelet, was an air force general and official in President Salvador Allende's government; after Allende was overthrown (1973), he was arrested by the Pinochet regime, tortured, and died in prison (1974). In 1975, Bachelet and her mother were also arrested and tortured, then exiled. Returning in 1979, Bachelet graduated (1982) from medical school, then worked as a pediatrician and later as an epidemiologist. She did postgraduate work in strategic and defense studies in 1996–97. A Socialist, Bachelet served as minister of health (2000–2002) and defense (2002–4) under President Ricardo Lagos, becoming a popular national figure. In 2004 she resigned to run for the Chilean presidency, and won the nomination of the center-left coalition. Promising political continuity with her post-Pinochet predecessors, she was elected president in 2006, becoming the first woman in Chile to win the office. Generally a popular president, she used financial reserves from the copper boom to help Chile weather the 2008–9 global financial crisis and recession. Her last days in office were marred by government missteps in responding to the devastating Feb., 2010, earthquake and its aftermath. She was succeeded as president by Sebastián Piñera. Later in 2010 she was named head of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). She resigned that post in 2013, and became a candidate for the Chilean presidency, easily winning a second term after a runoff.

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