Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

More Than a Woman

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

More Than a Woman

Article excerpt

Elections in Chile have done much more than usher a woman into the presidency for the first time. The arrival of Socialist Michele Bachelet appears to be I bringing a new generation to power. Her victory follows December 11 legislative elections and the recent elimination of Pinochet-era "designated-senator" posts, which together give the center-left coalition an absolute majority in both chambers of Congress for the first time since the reestablishment of free elections in 1990. This means Bachelet will be able to carry out her programs without parliamentary obstacles, except in the case of constitutional reforms. Pinochet--old now and hotly pursued by those seeking justice for some of the crimes committed during his regime--has been practically absent from the election campaign, but the weight of his reputation is still enough to strip the right of the credibility it needs to aspire to win some day.

Bachelet, fifty-four, a physician and separated mother of three, presents an unusual profile in politics. She is the daughter of a military man who was loyal to Allende and died after being tortured by coup forces. She also suffered her own reprisals and was exiled only to return and later become Minister of Health then Defense Minister for the now-outgoing administration of Ricardo Lagos. She is a guarantor of tolerance since, as she says, she has been the "victim of hate." Women's votes played a role in her victory, though traditionally Chilean women have tended to vote on the right. Her arrival at La Moneda Palace and her promise of a gender-balanced government reverberates far beyond Chile. …

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