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Chile gets a new president…
[Sally C. Pipes] 3/13/06
election of Michelle Bachelet as president of Chile is being
hailed as part of an inexorable march toward a better world
run by women. Before popping the champagne, we might wait to
see how the women perform in office, particularly in Chile,
where the new leader will face challenges.
Party, as part of a center-left coalition, has led Chile into
a free-trade pact with the United States, reduced inflation,
and seen annual economic growth of about six percent. She says
she will maintain the same policies, though she strikes me
as an unlikely candidate to do so.
an air force general, died of a heart attack after being arrested
by the Pinochet regime. Michelle fled, first to Australia and
then to East Germany, a rather strange choice. Why flee to
a Stalinist regime more repressive than anything Chile had
experienced? The German Democratic Republic, as East Germany
styled itself, was not at all democratic. It was a one-party
totalitarian dictatorship that needed to imprison citizens
behind walls and barbed wire – and shot those who attempted
unlike Fidel Castro, stepped aside to allow democratic elections.
These brought to power Socialist Party leaders such as Ricardo
Lagos, in whose government Michelle Bachelet served as Chile's
minister of health and minister of defense. She became Chile's
first female president by defeating conservative businessman
Sebastian Pinera by 53.5 to 46.5 percent. She has announced
plans to tackle issues such as pre-school access, unemployment,
and pension reform, but her main challenge will be maintaining
In case anyone
hasn't noticed, Latin America has turned sharply to the left,
with left-wing governments ruling in Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela,
and Bolivia. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Bolivia's Evo Morales
represent the extremes, spouting economic gibberish and fevered
anti-American rhetoric. They also fawn over Fidel Castro. Mr.
Morales describes the Castro regime, a one-party communist
dictatorship for nearly 50 years as a "democracy." It
Bachelet will be under great pressure to join the chorus but
so far she shows no trace of the anti-American rhetoric in
the style of Chavez. As for her part in the better world run
by women, the women do seem to be on a roll.
recently took the helm in Germany and Tarja Halonen was reelected
president of Finland. We might mention Helen Clark in New Zealand
and Gloria Arroyo in the Philippines. There is even talk that
we might have a female leader here in the United States, though
one can argue that Hillary Clinton, the most likely candidate,
has already served two terms.
no honor roll of female leaders is complete without Margaret
Thatcher, an ideal role model for Michelle Bachelet. When Margaret
Thatcher took over the UK it was in economic ruin. She turned
it around, in the face of furious opposition from class warriors,
union militants, and socialists of all denominations. She also
had to deal with something Chile's new president is not likely
to face, an invasion of its territory by an Argentine military
junta. She prevailed, which speeded the junta's fall.
For her part,
Michelle Bachelet inherits a stable and growing economy. She
should seize the opportunity to become the voice of reason,
independence, and prosperity in a continent where men such
as Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales lead the way in economic and
political nonsense. She can show that leadership by avoiding
clashes with Washington and maintaining sound economic policies
based on the free market.
Bachelet took office on March 11. I wish her well, but I won't
be giving her any points simply for being a woman. All leaders
should be judged on their record. -one-
2006 Pacific Research Institute