Sunday, January 15, 2006
Socialist Bachelet Wins Chilean Presidency
By EDUARDO GALLARDO
Associated Press Writer
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) -- A socialist doctor and former political prisoner was elected Sunday as the country's first female president, with her conservative multimillionaire opponent conceding defeat in a race that reflected Latin America's increasingly leftward tilt.
The victory of Michelle Bachelet - a political prisoner during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet and defense minister in the current administration - extends the rule of the market-friendly center left coalition that has governed since the end of Pinochet's 1973-90 rule.
Her political success has baffled many Chileans who thought a left-leaning single mother jailed during Pinochet's dictatorship stood little chance in this socially conservative country.
GOI: What a great day for leftists to see a left-leaning, single mother, ex-political prisoner win this Presidency.
Bachelet had expected resistance from Chile's conservative military establishment when appointed defense minister. "I was a woman, separated, a socialist, an agnostic ... all possible sins together," said Bachelet, who nonetheless became a popular figure among the admirals and generals.
Bachelet, 54, will be only the third woman directly elected president of a Latin American country, following Violeta Chamorro, who governed Nicaragua from 1990 to 1997, and Mireya Moscoso, president of Panama from 1999 to 2004.
However, Bachelet, unlike those two women, did not follow a politically prominent husband into power.
Bachelet's father was an air force general who was arrested and tortured for opposing the 1973 coup that brought Pinochet to power. Alberto Bachelet died in prison of a heart attack, probably caused by the torture, Bachelet says.
A 22-year-old medical student at the time, Bachelet was also arrested along with her mother and later forced into five years of exile, first in Australia, then in communist East Germany. She married a fellow Chilean exile while in East Germany. Back in Chile, they separated, and she had a third child from a new relationship.
Lagos, the mentor she is following into power, has deftly balanced his socialist ideology with market-oriented economics and enjoys an approval rate above 70 percent. Lagos is constitutionally prohibited from seeking immediate re-election, but as he voted, his backers chanted "2010," referring to the next election.
In spite of their different political backgrounds and ideologies, both Bachelet and Pinera outlined similar goals, promising to continue the two-decade-long free-market policies that have made Chile's economy one of the healthiest in the region.
They two said they would fight to lower the 8 percent unemployment rate, improve public health, housing and education services and curb rising urban crime. They also promise to reform Chile's 25-year-old private social security systems to ensure better pensions for retirees, though neither has given details of how.
Bachelet said she would stress efforts to reduce inequities among the rich and the poor.
Bachelet indicated she would work with all the region's leaders. "We shouldn't take Latin America back to the Cold War. Chavez, Morales, they are presidents elected by their peoples. Chile must have relationships with all of them."
GOI: Go-go gadget Democratic Socialism!! This just shows that more and more the hybrid political system of Democratic Socialism (as kicked off in Europe) is the government of the future.
---End of Transmission---