Just-elected President, we wonder whether Michelle Bachelet is not a mouthful of godsend fresh air in an oppressive Chilean culture. This baby-boomer [generation from the post-war baby-boom], leader of the Chilean Socialist Party, and paediatrician, is not only the first woman Head of State in Chile, but also a feminist, agnostic, and a single mother with three children by two different fathers. Not bad for Chile, a Latin American country with the lowest percentage of women in the workforce, where divorce was not still available last year and where one of the most-watched TV networks is run by an ultraconservative Catholic university.
While the country is tightly bound in conventionality, it is mainly because of its 17 years of promotion of “family values”, not because of Pinochet’s dictatorship. Bachelet’s victory could help unfetter Chilean society. But it requires something more than symbolic measures. Her socialist predecessors, like Ricardo Lagos, had weakly opposed to the calcified structure of Chilean society. Similarly, they never opposed “free trade”, which is savage capitalism imposed by bayonets. Chile has a solid growth rate but the social cost is high: low wages, workers lack rights and welfare does not exist. These are major inequalities worldwide.
Bachelet will make a real difference if she tackles this issue, reforms the retirement system and health insurance by cutting military credits. Finally, she also has to face the past and prosecute Pinochet.

Los Angeles Times (United States)

A to-do list for Chile”, by Marc Cooper, Los Angeles Times, January 18, 2006.