Chile: Bachelet victorious

In a straight fight against the right wing multi-millionaire candidate Sebastian Pinera, Michelle Bachelet of the Socialist Party took 53% of the national vote on 15 January to become Chile’s first woman President. She stood on a platform of workers’ and indigenous rights, calling for a reform of the state welfare system and the privatised pension scheme. Whether in practice she is any different from her Socialist Party predecessor Ricardo Lagos remains to be seen. Lagos pursued an aggressive neo-liberal policy of privatisation; that Chile’s economy continued to expand was mainly due to rising copper prices and rising demand for its agricultural exports. Politically, Lagos had sought to distance Chile from Venezuela and Cuba. Yet in 2003 it refused to support the US in the Security Council over the invasion of Iraq and its UN offices were amongst those that the US bugged in an effort to obtain advance information about their voting intentions. It subsequently refused to send troops to Iraq. In 2005, it nominated former foreign minister Jose Miguel Insulza as candidate for Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS) against the US’s favoured candidate, Luis Ernesto Derbez of Mexico. Insulza won the election, the first time the US’s candidate had lost. Whatever policy Bachelet follows internally, it is likely that Chile will follow an increasingly independent path internationally.
Robert Claridge

FRFI 189 February / March 2006


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