Chile Inaugurates Its First Woman President
March 11, 2006
Michelle Bachelet (54) is the first woman president of Chile and the first woman president in South America who is not the widow of a political leader. A Socialist, pediatrician, former political prisoner and exile, and mother of three, Ms. Bachelet's presidency represents a huge step for Chile from years of oppressive dictatorships to a democracy. Her innaguaration was held 16 years to the day after dictator General Pinochet relinquished power.
Ms. Bachelet's father was an air force general, jailed for treason after Gen. Augusto Pinochet took power in an American-supported coup in 1973. He died in prison.
Ms. Bachelet is also openly agnostic, in a country where the Roman Catholic Church has historically held great power and influence. When she took her oath of office Bachelet promised rather than swore to uphold the Chilean Constitution.
She has promised to focus her presidency on social equality and respect for human rights. Her immediate priorities are a more just distribution of income and reform of the country's pension system.
Ms. Bachelet has already fulfilled another of her campaign promises: sexual equity in appointments to government posts. She has named a cabinet of 10 men and 10 women, and designated the governors of the country's 12 regions on the same basis.
Ms. Bachelet: "Chile is going to be the first country that will have, in public sector decision making positions, total parity" between men and women.