Michelle Bachelet (Veronica Michelle Bachelet Jeria) is a current Executive President of the Republic of Chile, a Pacific coastal country in Southern America. Bachelet was nominated in 2004 as a left-centrist candidate for presidency and won the election runoff in January 2006 gaining 53.5% of the votes and becoming the first female President of the country. Moreover, she is the first Chilean female political personality of high importance who established her political career and managed to advance in politics using no help and connections of her husband or male protectionist.
Bachelet was born on September 29, 1951, in Santiago, to a family of Chilean Air Force Brigade General Alberto Bachelet. Her childhood was one of constant traveling from one military camp to another, and her first interests included volleyball, theater and music. After finishing high school in 1970, she entered a medical college of the University of Chile with one of the best national enrollment test result. From he own words, she decided to dedicate her life to medicine because it was “…a concrete way of helping people cope with pain..” and “..a way to contribute to improve health in Chile” (The Andean World, n.d.).
In 1973, when Augusto Pinochet seized the reins of power, Alberto Bachelet was arrested and charged for treason. After several months of torture he died of a stroke. This tragedy was followed by arrest and deportation of Michelle and her mother, so they spent several years in Australia and East Germany, where Bachelet continued her education and worked in a communal clinic. In 1979 the Bachelets received permission to be back to Chile, where three years later Michelle received an M.D. and continued her social activities as a member of Chilean Socialist Party, promoting the ideals of democracy and social equality.
Her political career started in the mid-1990s when she entered the ballot for the Head of Las Condes Administration. In 2000 Bachelet was appointed Minister of Health as a person with high competence in military medicine and a good experience of work in such organizations as the National AIDS Commission and the National Health Service. Her liberal reforms did not receive a lot of support from the Ministry officials. That is why Bachelet attempted a resignation which was, however, rejected by the President. Soon, she became a Minister of Defense, the only female in the continent to hold this administrative position.
Her presidential campaign started in October 2004 and she had to face a former Senator and member of Chilean center-right party Sebastian Pinera as the main rival. In the first round Bachelet could not obtain the majority of the votes, receiving only 46%. Nevertheless, the runoff against Pinera proved to be more successful, and in March 2006 Michelle Bachelet entered the office as the first female President of Chile, bringing along many new politicians (including a lot of women) as the members of her Cabinet.
The first year of her presidency was marked by a number of determined political steps, liberal democratic reformations and scandalous dismissals of some of her Ministers. In particular, she had to fight with very deep-rooted corruption which was spread throughout the country’s administration system. Besides, Bachelet’s recent decree allowing selling “morning after pill” over the counter to the girls over 14 evoked a wave of national criticism and disagreement. Currently, she is facing another problem: the necessity to improve Chilean transportation system according to the project called Transantiago.
Nevertheless, she tries to keep her popularity high by organizing and participating in numerous governmental health care programs. In addition, Bachelet is a very active player in foreign politics and her major accomplishments are a number of treaties with developed Asian countries, establishing the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership. Her main personal values are duty and responsibility. Last year Forbes ranked Michelle Bachelet as the 17th of the world’s 100 most successful women, and her reaction on this recognition of her efforts was the following: “This is not a ranking that motivates me. What motivates me is working for a better Chile,” (Chile General Government Secretariat, 2006).
Michelle Bachelet Jeria. (2006, March 17). Chile General Government Secretariat. Retrieved February 7, 2008
Unofficial Biography of Michelle Bachelet. (n.d.). The Andean World. Retrieved February 7, 2008, from <http://www.mundoandino.com/Chile/Michelle-Bachelet>.