APPEARANCE

Señora Presidenta

The General’s Daughter Becomes Chile’s First Woman President

Good afternoon, palace guards!
Good afternoon, Mrs. President!

On March 11, 2006, Dr. Michelle Bachelet, daughter of a renowned Chilean general who died in prison under Dictator Augusto Pinochet, marched gracefully before the presidential palace guards in Santiago, Chile. She stopped, expertly turned on her heels and called the guards to attention. They responded by calling her Señora Presidenta.

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María Elena Wood/ Wood Producciones
In this clip from the documentary La Hija del General (The General's Daughter), Chilean President Michelle Bachelet defends herself from accusations of conspiring with the military and explains her appeal to the Chilean people.
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María Elena Wood/ Wood Producciones
Michelle Bachelet and her father Alberto Bechelet, a General in the Chilean Air Force, before his arrest in 1973. A year later, the general died in prison from a heart attack allegedly brought on by torture. View Larger >
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María Elena Wood/ Wood Producciones
Michelle Bachelet studied medicine at the University of Chile and was active in the Socialist Party's youth wing. In 1975, Chilean intelligence services arrested Michelle and her mother. They were held prisoners for months in the notorious prison Villa Grimaldi. View Larger >
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María Elena Wood/ Wood Producciones
In 2002, Michelle became the Chilean Minister of Defense. In that role she came to lead the same institution that, a quarter of a century prior, had robbed her father of his life. View Larger >
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María Elena Wood/ Wood Producciones
Bachelet campaigning for the presidency, surrounded by television cameras. Dubbed "Bachelet phenomenon," Bachelet had taken the country by the storm. In 2000 she was barely known. Six years later, she was the first female president of Chile. View Larger >
That was a historic moment. That was the first time those words were ever pronounced because Chile had never before had a woman president. Many had doubts that Chile would ever have one, especially one like Michelle Bachelet. Bachelet is a self-professed socialist in an increasingly free market-obsessed world. She is a divorcee with three children from two different partners in a country where the institution of marriage is sacred. She is an unapologetic agnostic living in a conservative, Roman-Catholic country.

Chilean filmmaker María Elena Wood followed and filmed Michelle Bachelet for an entire year, trying to understand the woman behind the "Bachelet phenomenon"- a term the Chilean press has used to describe her meteoric rise to power. "Until March of 2000, I was nobody," Bachelet says in Wood's film La Hija del General. "And then the President [Lagos] asked me to solve the problems in the hospitals, and I became famous." Since 2000, Bachelet has served as both the Minister of Health and Minister of Defense.

Some attribute Bachelet's overwhelming popularity to her personality. She herself admits that she is much loved by the people and that much of her appeal lies in her being a woman. "People are very affectionate and they show their affection by kissing, hugging, touching me. It must be because I am a woman. They would certainly not act like that with a male candidate," says Bachelet.

Others accuse her of being a "marketing product," and a "populist media star with a hidden agenda up her sleeve." In the clip from the film La Hija del General on the left, she ably responds to these accusations of empty sensationalism and media populism: "Saying that I have wide popular support because I am nice is not an insult to me, but to the Chilean people... I represent this country's capacity to revisit itself. I represent people's resilience and their ability to accept their history from a constructive instead of a negative and aggressive point of view. In my conviction and in my personal history, intolerance, arrogance and condemnation have led us to what had happened. And I won't repeat that."

With her deep convictions and distinct style of leadership, Bachelet has had a rocky start in her first two years of office. Time will tell whether Señora Presidenta is able to move Chile beyond its painful past into an era of true democracy.





Comments

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Deleted User

Mrs. President…I wonder what we would call a woman president in the United States…Would it be Madame President (we called Nancy Pelosi Madame Speaker) or would it be Mrs. President?

Its great to see a Chilean president considering all the machismo in Latin America.

donya disperati
United States

senora presidenta- this women is an inspiration to any women with dreams to head into political roles. she has defied the odds of becoming the first women president in chile and she is also a divorced women with three kids from different partners, she has a tuff attitude and hopefully that will take her far.

Omar Alcala
United States

This comment is on Senora Presidenta. It's interesting to note that in a conservative Roman Catholic State, as Chile would be, they have elected a woman as their leader. Mind you, she's the daughter of one of their former generals. Though in her younger days, she looks nothing like how she looks nowadays.

Why is there such negativity surrounding Michelle Bachelet? The article mentions how a woman figure can lighten the hearts of so many. She is a progressive, free market liberal in a conservative society. If she could win over the hearts and minds of her conservative constituents then she should be good enough to be the Chilean president.

Jennifer Serna
United States

This comment is in reference to Senora Presidenta article. I find it fascinating how Michelle Bachelet was encourage to run for office, even though she never intended to, and actually won. This demonstrates progress in Chile as she is the first female president.

donya disperati
United States

this is regarding senora presidenta... i think this article is a great example of how dynamic leaders gain respect even if not everyone agrees with all their views.

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Deleted User

Amazing story. More countries should head the fine example of encouraging more women to take a lead in their country. This was inspiring that she was virtually unknown in 2000, (other than being the General's daughter) and here she is now, not only in political office...but the first female president in Chile!


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