Michelle Bachelet Jeria    President of Chile  2006-2010

Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria (born September 29, 1951) is a center-left politician and was President of Chile—the first woman to hold this position in the country's history. She won the 2006 presidential election in a runoff, beating center-right billionaire businessman and former senator Sebastián Piñera, with 53.5% of the vote. A moderate Socialist, she campaigned on a platform of continuing Chile's free market policies, while increasing social benefits to help reduce the country's gap between rich and poor, one of the largest in the world. She was inaugurated on March 11, 2006.

M.Bachelet—a pediatrician and epidemiologist with studies in military strategy—served as Health Minister and Defense Minister under President Ricardo Lagos. She is a separated mother of three and a self-described agnostic.A polyglot, she speaks Spanish, English, German, Portuguese and French.In 2009, Forbes magazine ranked her as 22nd in the list of the 100 most powerful women in the world (she was #25 in 2008 #27 in 2007 and #17 in 2006) In 2008, TIME magazine ranked her 15 on its list of the world's 100 most influential people.

Family background

Bachelet was born as the second child of archaeologist Ángela Jeria Gómez and Air Force Brigadier General Alberto Bachelet Martínez. Her paternal great-great-grandfather, Louis-Joseph Bachelet Lapierre, was a French wine merchant from Chassagne-Montrachet who emigrated to Chile with his Parisian wife, Françoise Jeanne Beault, in 1860 hired as a wine-making expert by the Subercaseaux vineyards, located in southern Santiago. Bachelet Lapierre's son, Germán—Michelle Bachelet's great-grandfather—, was born in Santiago in 1862 and married in 1891 to Luisa Brandt Cadot, a Chilean of French-Swiss origin, giving birth in 1894 to Michelle Bachelet's grandfather Alberto Bachelet Brandt. Her maternal great-grandfather, Máximo Jeria Chacón, of Greek ancestry, was the first person to receive a degree in agronomic engineering in Chile and founded several agronomy schools in the country.He married Lely Johnson, the daughter of an English physician working in the country. Their son, Máximo Jeria Johnson, married Angela Gómez Zamora, and gave birth to Michelle Bachelet's mother, Ángela Margarita in 1926.


Early life and career


Childhood years

Born in Santiago, many of Bachelet's childhood years were spent traveling around her native Chile, moving with her family from one military base to another. She lived and attended primary school in Quintero, Cerro Moreno, Antofagasta and San Bernardo. In 1962 she moved with her family to the United States, where her father was assigned to the military mission at the Chilean Embassy in Washington. Her family spent almost two years living in Bethesda, Maryland, where she attended Western Junior High School (now known as Westland Middle School) and learned to speak English fluently Returning to Chile in 1964, she graduated from high school in 1969 at Liceo Nº 1 Javiera Carrera, a prestigious girls-only public school, finishing near the top of her class.There, she was president of her class, a member of the school's choir and volleyball teams, and part of a theater group and a music band called Las Clap Clap (which she helped found) that toured around several school festivals. She entered medical school at the University of Chile in 1970, after obtaining one of the highest national scores in the university admission test. She originally wanted to study sociology or economics but was prevailed upon by her father to study medicine instead. She has said she opted for medicine because it was "a concrete way of helping people cope with pain" and "a way to contribute to improve health in Chile."


Torture and exile

Facing growing food shortages, the government of Salvador Allende placed Bachelet's father in charge of the Food Distribution Office. When General Augusto Pinochet came to power in the September 11, 1973 coup, General Bachelet, refusing exile, was detained at the Air War Academy, under charges of treason. Following months of daily torture at Santiago's Public Prison, on March 12, 1974, he suffered a cardiac arrest that resulted in his death. On January 10, 1975, Bachelet and her mother were detained at their apartment by two DINA agents, who blindfolded them and drove them to Villa Grimaldi, a notorious secret detention center in Santiago, where they were separated and submitted to interrogation and torture.[13] Some days later they were transferred to Cuatro Álamos ("Four Poplars") detention center, where they were held until the end of January. Later in 1975, due to sympathetic connections in the military, both were exiled to Australia, where Bachelet's older brother Alberto had moved in 1969.

In May 1975, Bachelet left Australia and moved to East Germany, to an apartment assigned to her by the German Democratic Republic (GDR) government in Am Stern, Potsdam; her mother joined her a month later (living separately in Leipzig). In October 1976 she began working at a communal clinic in the Babelsberg neighborhood, as a preparation step to continue her medical studies at an East German university. During this period she met architect Jorge Leopoldo Dávalos Cartes, another Chilean exile, whom she married in 1977. In January 1978 she went to Leipzig to learn German at the Karl Marx University's Herder Institute (now the University of Leipzig). Her first child with Dávalos, Jorge Alberto Sebastián, was born there in June, that same year. She returned to Potsdam in September 1978, to continue her medical studies at the Humboldt University of Berlin for two years. Five months after enrolling as a student, however, she obtained authorization to return to her country.


Return to Chile

In February 1979, Bachelet returned to Santiago, Chile from East Germany. Her medical school credits from the GDR were not transferred, forcing her to resume her studies from where she had left off before fleeing the country.[citation needed] She graduated as a M.D. on January 7, 1983 opting to work in the public sector, applying for a position as general practitioner, to wherever attention was most needed; her petition was, however, rejected by the military government on "political grounds."Instead, because of her academic performance and published papers, she earned a scholarship to specialize in pediatrics and public health at Children's Hospital Roberto del Río (1983–1986). During this time she also worked at PIDEE (Protection of Children Injured by States of Emergency Foundation), a non-governmental organization helping children of the tortured and missing in Santiago and Chillán. She was head of the foundation's Medical Department between 1986 and 1990. Some time after her second child with Dávalos, Francisca Valentina, was born in February 1984, she and her husband legally separated.

Between 1985 and 1987 Bachelet had a romantic relationship with Alex Vojkovic Trier,[16] a Communist engineer and spokesman for the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front, an armed group which among other activities attempted to assassinate Augusto Pinochet in 1986. This affair turned into a minor issue during her presidential campaign, during which she argued that she never supported any of Vojkovic's activities.

In 1990, after democracy was restored in Chile, Bachelet worked for the Ministry of Health's West Santiago Health Service and was a consultant for the Pan-American Health Organization, the World Health Organization and the German Corporation for Technical Cooperation. While working for the National AIDS Commission (Conasida), she became romantically involved with Aníbal Hernán Henríquez Marich, a fellow physician—and right-wing Pinochet supporter—who fathered her third child, Sofía Catalina, in December 1992; their relationship ended, however, a few years later. Between March 1994 and July 1997, Bachelet worked as Senior Assistant to the Deputy Health Minister.

Driven by an interest in civil-military relations, in 1996 Bachelet began studies in military strategy at the National Academy for Strategic and Policy Studies (Anepe) in Chile, obtaining first place in her class. Her student achievement earned her a presidential scholarship, permitting her to continue her studies in the United States at the Inter-American Defense College in Washington, D.C., completing a Continental Defense Course in 1998. That same year she returned to Chile to work for the Defense Ministry as Senior Assistant to the Defense Minister. She subsequently graduated from a Master's program in military science at the Chilean Army's War Academy.


Political life


Involvement in politics

In her first year as a university student (1970), Bachelet became a member of the Socialist Youth (then presided by future deputy and now disappeared physician Carlos Lorca, who has been cited as her political mentor[17]), and was an active supporter of the Popular Unity. In the immediate aftermath of the coup, she and her mother worked as couriers for the underground Socialist Party directorate that was trying to organize a Resistance movement; eventually almost all of them were captured and disappeared.[18] Following her return from exile she became politically active during the second half of the 1980s, fighting —though not on the front line— for the re-establishment of democracy in Chile.[citation needed] In 1995 she became part of the party's Central Committee, and from 1998 until 2000 she was an active member of the Political Commission.

In 1996, Bachelet ran against future presidential adversary Joaquín Lavín for the mayorship of Las Condes, a wealthy Santiago suburb and a right-wing stronghold. Lavín won the 22-candidate election with nearly 78% of the vote, while she finished fourth at 2.35%. At the 1999 Coalition of Parties for Democracy (CPD—Chile's governing coalition since 1990) presidential primary, she worked for Ricardo Lagos's nomination, heading the Santiago electoral zone.


Work as minister



Bachelet, as Minister of Defense, meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2002

On March 11, 2000 Bachelet —a virtual unknown at the time— was appointed Minister of Health by President Ricardo Lagos. She began an in-depth study of the public health-care system that led to the AUGE plan a few years later. She was also given the task of eliminating waiting lists in the saturated public hospital system within the first 100 days of Lagos's government. Unable to meet this goal (she had reduced waiting lists by 90%)[8], she offered her resignation, which was promptly rejected by the President. More controversially, she allowed for the free distribution of the morning-after pill for victims of sexual abuse.

On January 7, 2002 Bachelet was appointed Defense Minister, becoming the first woman to hold this post in a Latin American country and one of the few in the world. While Minister of Defense, she promoted reconciliatory gestures between the military and victims of the dictatorship, culminating in the historic 2003 declaration by General Juan Emilio Cheyre, head of the army, that "never again" would the military subvert democracy in Chile. She also oversaw a reform of the military pension system and continued with the process of modernization of the Chilean armed forces with the purchasing of new military equipment, while engaging in international peace operations.

A moment which has been cited as key to Bachelet's chances to the presidency came during a flood in northern Santiago, where she, as Defense Minister, led a rescue operation on top of an amphibious tank, wearing a cloak and military cap.


Presidential candidacy

Chilean presidential election, 2005-2006

In late 2004, following a surge of her popularity in opinion polls, Bachelet was established as the only CPD figure able to defeat Lavín, and she was asked to become the Socialists' candidate for the presidency. She was at first hesitant to accept the nomination, as it was never one of her goals, but finally agreed because she felt she could not disappoint her supporters. On October 1 of that year she was freed from her government post in order to begin her campaign and to help the CPD at the municipal elections. On January 28, 2005, she was proclaimed the Socialist Party's candidate for president.

An open primary scheduled for July 2005 to define the sole presidential candidate of the CPD was canceled after Bachelet's only rival, Christian Democrat Soledad Alvear, a cabinet member in the first three CPD administrations, pulled out early due to a lack of support within her own party and in opinion polls.

At the December 2005 election, Bachelet faced the center-right candidate Sebastián Piñera (RN), the right-wing candidate Joaquín Lavín (UDI) and the far-left candidate Tomás Hirsch (JPM). As predicted by opinion polls, she failed to obtain the absolute majority needed to win the election outright, winning 46% of the vote. In the runoff election on January 15, 2006, Bachelet faced Piñera, and won the presidency with 53.5% of the vote, thus becoming her country's first female elected president and the first woman who was not the wife of a previous head of state or political leader to reach the presidency of a Latin American nation in a direct election.

On January 30, 2006, after being declared President-elect by the Elections Qualifying Court (Tricel), Bachelet announced her cabinet of ministers, which was unprecedentedly composed of an equal number of men and women, as was promised during her campaign. In keeping with the coalition's internal balance of power, she named seven ministers from the Christian Democrat Party (PDC), five from the Party for Democracy (PPD), four from the Socialist Party (PS), one from the Social Democrat Radical Party (PRSD) and three without party affiliation. In the days that followed, she named the group of deputy ministers and regional intendants, following the same rule of "gender parity."


Bachelet was sworn in as President of the Republic of Chile on March 11, 2006, in a ceremony held in a plenary session of the National Congress in Valparaíso, which was attended by a record number of foreign heads of states and delegates. She finish her 4 years term with a record of 84% approval.