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Michelle Bachelet

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Dates:

September 29, 1951 -
Elected president of Chile, January 15, 2006; inauguration March 11, 2006.

Occupation:

President of Chile; pediatrician

Known for:

First woman elected as president of Chile; first woman minister of defense in Chile and Latin America

About Michelle Bachelet:

On January 15, 2006, Michelle Bachelet became Chile's first woman president-elect. Bachelet came in first in the December 2005 election but did not manage to win a majority in that race, so she faced a runoff in January against her nearest opponent, billionaire businessman, Sebastian Pinera. Earlier, she was minister of defense in Chile, the first woman in Chile or all of Latin America to serve as a minister of defense.
Bachelet, a Socialist, is generally considered a center-leftist. While three other women have won presidential elections in the Americas (Janet Jagan of Guyana, Mireya Moscoso of Panama, and Violeta Chamorro of Nicaragua), Bachelet was the first to win a seat without first becoming known through a husband's prominence. (Isabel Peron was her husband's vice-president in Argentina and became president after his death.)

Michelle Bachelet Background:

Michelle Bachelet was born in Santiago, Chile, on September 29, 1951. Her father, Alberto Bachelet, was an air force brigadier general who died after being tortured for his opposition to Augusto Pinoche's regime. Her mother, an archaeologist, was imprisoned in a torture center with Michelle in 1975, and went into exile with her.

Education and Vocation:

From 1975-1979 Michelle Bachelet was in exile with her mother in Australia and Germany, where she completed her education as a pediatrician. She studied military strategy at Chile's National Academy of Strategy and Policy and at the Inter-American Defense College in the United States.

Tortured Under Pinochet Regime:

Michelle Bachelet worked secretly for the Socialist Youth, and was imprisoned by the Pinochet regime in 1975 and held in the torture center at Villa Grimaldi, along with her mother. Her father had died in prison in March, 1974, after being tortured.

Government Service:

Michelle Bachelet became Chile's Minister of Health in 2000, serving under socialist President Ricarco Lagos. She then served as Minister of Defense under Lagos, the first woman in Chile or Latin America to hold such a post.

Bachelet and Lagos are part of a four-party coalition, Concertacion de Partidos por la Democracia, in power since Chile restored democracy in 1990. Concertacion has focused on both economic growth and spreading the benefits of that growth throughout segments of society.

Family:

Michelle Bachelet has three children, and is separated from her husband.

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