Michelle Bachelet a Biography By Ashley Ross

Michelle Bachelet is the current president of Chile. She is now serving in her second term and is the first woman president of Chile. Her step into power has been a small revolution mainly due to her socialistic political views. She first served as president of Chile from March 2006- March 2010 where she received the popular vote by 53%. She was not reelected back into office until March 2014, where she received 62% of the popular vote, she will continue to serve until March 2018. Michelle's personal story and political views is what has helped her win the hearts of many Chileans. Not only was she rated by Forbes as the 18th most powerful woman in the world but she was the first person since 1932 to be elected twice as president of Chile.

Background: Michelle was born in Santiago, Chile on September 29th, 1951. Her full given name is Michelle Bachelet Jeria, the second child to the Bachelet's. Her mother who was an archaeologist, Angela Jeria Gomez, still lives today and is 90 years old. Her father Alberto Bachelet was a brigadier general in the Air Force. During the presidency of Salvador Allende, Alberto Bachelet was the secretary of National Supply and Marketing, he was in charge of the food rationing throughout the country due to food shortages that had risen under Salvador Allende's term. After the military coup' de tat on September 11, 1971 Augosto Pinochet stepped into office. Alberto was known as a supporter of President Allende, he was arrested and tortured by Pinochet's militants on the account of treason. He later died of a heart attack in prison on March 13, 1973. Michelle and her mother were held in a notorious detention center in Santiago during her father's imprisonment. They were threatened, screamed at, tied to chairs for hours, slapped, shaken yet thankfully they personally never suffered electrical shocks like some of the other detainees. After several months, they were freed from exile due to the lobbying of a close relative who was an Air Force general. They went to Australia to be in exile and this was also where Michelle's older brother, Alberto, was living. The lived in Australia and later moved to East Germany. It was 4 years until decided back to Chile at the age of 28.

Education: Due to her father's occupation in the military Michelle went to several different schools all around Chile. She went to school in Cierro Moreno, Quintero, Antofagasta and San Bernando. She even spent two years in the United States while her father worked in the Chilean Embassy in the year 1962. She lived there for two years and learned to speak perfect English. Once her family moved back to Chile and attended an all-girls high school. She graduated as one of the top students in her class. She then attended the University of Chile as a medical student. She was indecisive in what she should get her degree in. Her father told her she should consider medicine; she also was a member of the on campus socialist party. It was while she was attending the university that her world got flipped upside down and Michelle and her mother ended up in a detention center and later exiles. After their time in Australia, Michelle was the first move to Germany. The Socialist Party directorate requested Michelle so that she could be a part of the Chilean solidarity campaigns. While in Germany, Michelle took steps to continue her degree in medicine. She furthered her studies at Humboldt University in Eastern Berlin once she was able to speak German proficiently. It wasn't until 1979 that Michelle moved back to Chile once her mother's expulsion order was lifted. Upon returning she finished her medical degree specializing in pediatrics and public health in 1982. Michelle Bachelet later studied military strategy from Chile's National Academy of Strategy and Policy and at the Inter-American Defense College in the United States.

Family: Michelle did not return to Chile alone. She brought with her two children, Jorge Alberto Sebastian and Francisca Valentina, along with her husband Jorge Davalos, a fellow Chilean exile in Germany. The two had a short lived marriage and later they split in 1986. The Chilean government has strict divorce laws and it is not easy to divorce. Michelle later on had one more child, her daughter Sofia Catalina with a physician who she was unable to marry due still being legally bound to Jorge at the time.

Career: At first it was difficult for Michelle to find employment in Chile due to her family name and their political affiliations. She found a position at Swedish clinic who specialized in treating victims of political repression and torture. She remained there until 1990, the end of the Pinochet rule. Bachelet worked on epidemiological and AIDS programs which lead her to become work at the Ministry of Health in 1994. It was there that she was invited to further her studies at the Inter-American Defense College in Washington in 1997. When she returned, she joined the Chilean socialist party as part of the political commission and she also worked for the Defense Ministry. Which she became the leader of the Defense Ministry. According to Rohter, "The symbolism of her leadership of the institution that had killed her father appealed greatly to Chileans trying to reconcile with their bitter past." In 2005, Michelle was chosen by the CDP to represent them as a presidential candidate. Her campaign focused primarily on the impoverished Chileans, indigenous Mapuches and their human rights, promoting rights of women and finally reformations to the pension system. Michelle promised that foreign affairs would be continued with the United States and many other countries such as, Germany, Mexico, and Argentina. In a primarily Catholic country Bachelet faced opposition for her agonistic views and status as a divorced mother of three children. In December 2005, she won in the voting but it was not the majority in order to win. It wasn't until Jan 15,2006 that she defeated her competitor, Sebastian Piñera. She won this election with 53% of the vote. She became the first woman president of Chile on March 11, 2006.

First term as President: Early on in her presidency, Michelle faced difficulties. There were protests from students who were seeking reform to the public school system. There were also strikes by coal miners. Bachelet's predecessor, Ricardo Lagos, had a public transportation system that was implemented in 2007 which was chaotic and brought much criticism of the government. Bachelet's popularity decreased, which she regained through her economic policies especially when the price of copper sky rocketed. Bachelet directed that the profits should be set aside as a savings. That savings aided the country in 2008 when the global financial crisis hit Chile with a reformed pension program, stimulus package that promoted jobs and social programs. These successes lead to Michelle Bachelet being one of the most popular presidents to serve, towards the end of her term she helped lead a relief effort from the 8.8 earthquake that left devastation in Chile. Due to legislation Bachelet was unable to serve two consecutive terms.

Second Term: Michelle finished serving her first term in office in early 2010. The UN Women had been newly established and Michelle Bachelet was chosen as the head of the organization. She remained there for three year until she was able to run for office once more. She ran against 9 other candidates one which was a former childhood friend, Evelyn Matthei. Evelyn Matthei was also the daughter of a military general but her family during the Pinochet dictatorship prospered. This time running for office Bachelet focused on reforming education, women's rights, more rights to the LBGT community, raise in taxes to corporations, and a revise to the constitution. Her promise include 50 reforms in her first 100 days of office. In December 2014, Bachelet won the majority with 62% of the vote, Matthei was second with 38% of the vote. She was sworn into office on March 11, 2015. Since her election she has been busy with passing bills and laws. A major one has been the change in the tax bracket for corporations that went from 20% to up to 27%. Bachelet has had her hands full. One circumstance that has caused some concern of the integrity of Michelle's cabinet ,was with her son, Sebastian. The scandal involved Sebastian and his wife receiving a 10-million-dollar loan which they received from the Vice chairman of the Bank of Chile. Which they then resold for a 5-million-dollar profit. Michelle Bachelet denied any knowledge of the scandal but despite that Bachelet's approval ratings have plummeted in recent times. The approval rating has reached as low as 15%, which has been the lowest approval ratings since open elections started in 1990. Michelle to cope with the disapproval asked 23 members from her cabinet to resign. Michelle was able to keep her promise with the reforms. She has 92% of those that have been fulfilled. She has continued to help lead one of the most powerful nations in the western hemisphere. Luckily her term is not over and she will hopefully be able to end her presidency on a more positive note.

Credits:

Created with images by Ministerio Bienes Nacionales - "Presidenta de la República, Michelle Bachelet" • MinMujeryEG - "Firma Ministerio de la Mujer (47)"

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