Chile: Michelle Bachelet's home grown, regional, and CIA-orchestrated poisoned chalices Print E-mail
The Deccan Herald -- Friday January 13, 2006

Left turn
Michelle Bachelet is the first woman president of male-dominated Chile

The election of Michelle Bachelet, a socialist and long-time human rights activist, is the latest in a string of victories for leftwing presidential candidates in South America. Ms Bachelet’s victory is historic. She is Chile’s first woman president. Her election in a country that is male-dominated ­ only four per cent of Chile’s senators are women ­ and socially conservative is no small achievement. Ms Bachelet is the fourth president from the centre-left Concertacion that has ruled Chile since the return of democracy to the country in 1990. She is said to be far more radical than her predecessors and with support from her party in the Senate and the House of Representatives – the centre-left holds majorities in both – she could implement a bold agenda. She is expected to give priority to workers’ rights and pension reform during her four-year term at the helm. Just a month ago, Bolivians chose the left-wing Evo Morales as their President, reaffirming the fact that a wave in favour of the left is indeed sweeping across Latin America. Left-wing candidates have been winning presidential elections in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Venezuela and Uruguay in recent years and leftists seem poised to win in upcoming elections in Peru, Ecuador and Mexico as well. For decades, Latin American leaders were the US’ staunchest allies. Today, that has changed. But for El Salvador and Honduras, other countries now have leaders who swept to power on anti-US platforms and pro-people policies.

While a centre-left bloc seems to be emerging in South America, there are differences on the degree of opposition of governments to pro-market policies. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is bitterly opposed to the private sector but this is not the case with Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Besides, not all of South America’s governments are opposed to doing business with the US. What unites them, however, is that they are no longer as beholden to Washington as they were in the past.

South America’s centre-left leaders would need to consolidate their hold. They need to move beyond rhetoric and bring real change in their people’s lives. In the past, the CIA has engineered coups to oust leaders who did not toe the US line. There is little to indicate that Washington’s views on the matter have changed.