In this Spanish name
, the first or paternal surname
and the second or maternal family name is Jeria
Bachelet's paternal great-great-grandfather, Louis-Joseph Bachelet Lapierre, was a French
wine merchant from Chassagne-Montrachet
who immigrated to Chile with his Parisian wife, Françoise Jeanne Beault, in 1860; he was hired as a wine-making expert by the Subercaseaux vineyards
. Bachelet Lapierre's son, Germán, was born in Santiago in 1862, and in 1891 married Luisa Brandt Cadot, a Chilean of French and Swiss
descent, giving birth in 1894 to Alberto Bachelet Brandt.
Bachelet's maternal great-grandfather, Máximo Jeria Chacón, of Spanish (Basque
region) and Greek
heritage, was the first person to receive a degree in agronomic engineering
in Chile and founded several agronomy schools in the country.
He married Lely Johnson, the daughter of an English physician working in Chile. Their son, Máximo Jeria Johnson, married Ángela Gómez Zamora. Their union produced five children, the fourth of whom is Bachelet's mother.
Early life and career
Bachelet was born in La Cisterna
a middle-class suburb of Santiago
. She was named after French actress Michèle Morgan
Bachelet spent many of her childhood years traveling around her native Chile, moving with her family from one military base
to another. She lived and attended primary schools in, among other places, Quintero
, and San Bernardo
. In 1962, she moved with her family to the United States, where her father was assigned to the military mission at the Chilean Embassy in Washington D.C.
Her family lived for almost two years in Bethesda, Maryland
, where she attended Western Junior High School
and learned to speak English fluently.
Returning to Chile in 1964, she graduated in 1969 from Liceo Nº 1 Javiera Carrera
, a prestigious girls' public high school, finishing near the top of her class.
There she was class president, a member of the choir and volleyball teams, and part of a theater group and a band, "Las Clap Clap", which she co-founded and which toured around several school festivals. In 1970, after obtaining a relatively high score on the university admission test, she entered medical school at the University of Chile
, where she was selected in the 113th position (out of 160 admitted applicants).
She originally intended to study sociology or economics, but was prevailed upon by her father to study medicine instead.
She has said she opted for medicine because it was "a concrete way of helping people cope with pain" and "a way to contribute to improve health in Chile."
Detention and exile
Facing growing food shortages, the government of Salvador Allende
placed Bachelet's father in charge of the Food Distribution Office. When General Augusto Pinochet
suddenly came to power via the 11 September 1973 coup d'état
, Bachelet's father was detained at the Air War Academy on charges of treason. Following months of daily torture at Santiago's Public Prison, he suffered a cardiac arrest that resulted in his death on 12 March 1974. In early January 1975, Bachelet and her mother were detained at their apartment by two DINA
who blindfolded them and drove them to Villa Grimaldi
, a notorious secret detention center in Santiago, where they were separated and subjected to interrogation and torture.
Of her torture, Bachelet said, in 2004, that "it was nothing in comparison to what others suffered". She was "yelled at using abusive language, shaken," and both she and her mother were "threatened with the killing of the other." She was "never tortured with electricity
," but she did see it done to other prisoners.
Commemoration of Orlando Letelier
, a former Chilean minister, who was assassinated by Pinochet's secret police in Washington, D.C. in 1976
In May 1975 Bachelet left Australia and later moved to East Germany, to an apartment assigned to her by the German Democratic Republic
(GDR) government in Am Stern
; her mother joined her a month later, living separately in Leipzig
. In October 1976, she began working at a communal clinic in the Babelsberg
neighborhood, as a preparatory step to continuing her medical studies at an East German university. During this period, she met architect Jorge Leopoldo Dávalos Cartes, another Chilean exile, whom she married in 1977. In January 1978 she went to Leipzig to learn German at the Karl Marx University's Herder Institute
(now the University of Leipzig
). Her first child with Dávalos, Jorge Alberto Sebastián, was born there in June 1978. She returned to Potsdam in September 1978 to continue her medical studies at the Humboldt University of Berlin
for two years. Five months after enrolling as a student, however, she obtained authorization to return to her country.
Return to Chile
After four years in exile, Bachelet returned to Chile in 1979. Her medical school credits from the GDR were not transferred, forcing her to resume her studies where she had left off before fleeing the country.
She graduated as physician-surgeon
on 7 January 1983.
She wished to work in the public sector wherever attention was most needed, applying for a position as general practitioner
; her petition was rejected by the military government on "political grounds". 
Instead, owing to her academic performance and published papers, she earned a scholarship from the Chilean Medical Chamber to specialize in pediatrics
and public health
at the University of Chile's Roberto del Río Children's Hospital (1983–86). She completed the program with excellent grades but for "financial reasons" did not obtain her certification.
During this time she also worked at PIDEE
(Protection of Children Injured by States of Emergency Foundation), a non-governmental organization helping children of the tortured and missing in Santiago and Chillán
. She was head of the foundation's Medical Department between 1986 and 1990. Some time after her second child with Dávalos, Francisca Valentina, was born in February 1984, she and her husband legally separated. Between 1985 and 1987, Bachelet had a romantic relationship with Alex Vojkovic Trier,
an engineer and spokesman for the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front
, an armed group that, among other activities, attempted to assassinate Pinochet in 1986. The affair was a minor issue during her presidential campaign, during which she argued that she never supported any of Vojkovic's activities.
After Chile made a transition to democracy
in 1990, Bachelet worked for the Ministry of Health's West Santiago Health Service and was a consultant for the Pan-American Health Organization
, the World Health Organization
and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit
. While working for the National AIDS Commission (Conasida) she became romantically involved with Aníbal Hernán Henríquez Marich, a fellow physician – and right-wing Pinochet supporter – who fathered her third child, Sofía Catalina, in December 1992; their relationship ended a few years later. Between March 1994 and July 1997, Bachelet worked as Senior Assistant to the Deputy Health Minister.
Driven by an interest in civil-military relations, in 1996 Bachelet began studies in military strategy
at the National Academy of Political and Strategic Studies
(ANEPE) in Chile, obtaining first place in her class.
Her student achievement earned her a presidential scholarship, permitting her to continue her studies in the United States at the Inter-American Defense College
in Washington, D.C., completing a Continental Defense Course in 1998. That same year she returned to Chile to work for the Defense Ministry as Senior Assistant to the Defense Minister. She subsequently graduated from a Master's
program in military science
at the Chilean Army
's War Academy.
Early political career
Following her return from exile she became politically active during the second half of the 1980s, fighting – though not on the front line – for the re-establishment of democracy in Chile. In 1995 she became part of the party's Central Committee, and from 1998 until 2000 she was an active member of the Political Commission. In 1996 Bachelet ran against future presidential adversary Joaquín Lavín
for the mayorship of Las Condes
, a wealthy Santiago suburb and a right-wing stronghold. Lavín won the 22-candidate election with nearly 78% of the vote, while she finished fourth with 2.35%. At the 1999 presidential primary of the Concertación
, Chile's governing coalition from 1990 to 2010, she worked for Ricardo Lagos's nomination, heading the Santiago electoral zone.
Minister of Health
On 11 March 2000, Bachelet – virtually unknown at the time – was appointed Minister of Health
by President Ricardo Lagos. She began an in-depth study of the public health-care system that led to the AUGE plan a few years later. She was also given the task of eliminating waiting lists in the saturated public hospital system within the first 100 days of Lagos's government. She reduced waiting lists by 90%, but was unable to eliminate them completely
and offered her resignation, which was promptly rejected by the President. She authorized free distribution of the morning-after pill
for victims of sexual abuse
, generating controversy.
Minister of National Defense
On 7 January 2002, she was appointed Minister of National Defense
, becoming the first woman to hold this post in a Latin American country and one of the few in the world.
While Minister of Defense she promoted reconciliatory gestures between the military and victims of the dictatorship, culminating in the historic 2003 declaration by General Juan Emilio Cheyre
, head of the army, that "never again" would the military subvert democracy in Chile. She also oversaw a reform of the military pension system and continued with the process of modernization of the Chilean armed forces with the purchasing of new military equipment, while engaging in international peace operations. A moment which has been cited as key to Bachelet's chances to the presidency came in mid-2002 during a flood in northern Santiago where she, as Defense Minister, led a rescue operation on top of an amphibious tank
, wearing a cloak and military cap.
2005–2006 presidential election
Bachelet during a television debate in 2005
In late 2004, following a surge of her popularity in opinion polls, Bachelet was considered the only politician of the Coalition of Parties for Democracy
(Concertación de los Partidos por la Democracia; CPD) able to defeat Joaquín Lavín
, and she was asked to become the Socialists' candidate for the presidency.
At first hesitant to accept the nomination as it was never one of her goals, she finally agreed because she felt she could not disappoint her supporters.
On 1 October of that year she was freed from her government post in order to begin her campaign and to help the CPD at the municipal elections held later that month. On 28 January 2005 she was named the Socialist Party's candidate for president. An open primary
scheduled for July 2005 to define the sole presidential candidate of the CPD was canceled after Bachelet's only rival, Christian Democrat Soledad Alvear
, a cabinet member in the first three CPD administrations, pulled out early due to a lack of support within her own party and in opinion polls.
In the December 2005 election, Bachelet faced the center-right candidate Sebastián Piñera
), the right-wing candidate Joaquín Lavín (UDI
) and the leftist candidate Tomás Hirsch
). As the opinion polls had forecast, she failed to obtain the absolute majority
needed to win the election outright, winning 46% of the vote. In the runoff election on 15 January 2006, Bachelet faced Piñera, and won the presidency with 53.5% of the vote, thus becoming her country's first female elected president
and the first woman who was not the wife of a previous head of state or political leader to reach the presidency of a Latin American nation in a direct election
First presidency (2006–2010)
Bachelet waving with other leaders at the inauguration ceremony in Valparaíso
Bachelet was sworn in as President of the Republic of Chile on 11 March 2006 in a ceremony held in a plenary session of the National Congress
attended by many foreign heads of states and delegates.
Much of Bachelet's first three months as president were spent working on 36 measures she had promised during her campaign to implement during her first 100 days in office. They ranged from simple presidential decrees, such as providing free health care for older patients, to complex bills to reform the social security system and the electoral system. For her first state visit
, Bachelet chose Argentina, arriving in Buenos Aires
on 21 March. There she met with president Néstor Kirchner
, with whom she signed strategic agreements on energy and infrastructure, including the possibility of launching a bidding process to operate the Transandine Railway
In March 2006 Bachelet created an advisory committee to reform the pension system, which was headed by former budget director Mario Marcel.
The commission issued its final report in July 2006,
and in March 2008 Bachelet signed the bill into law. The new legislation established a Basic Solidarity Pension (PBS) and a Solidarity Pension Contribution (APS), guaranteeing a minimum pension for the 60% poorest segment of the population, regardless of their contribution history.
The reform also grants a bonus to female pensioners for every child born alive.
In October 2006 Bachelet enacted legislation to protect subcontracted employees
, which would benefit an estimated 1.2 million workers.
In June 2009 she introduced pay equality legislation
, guaranteeing equal pay for equal work in the private sector, regardless of gender.
In September 2009 Bachelet signed the "Chile Grows with You" plan into law, providing comprehensive social services to vulnerable children from ages zero to six. That law also established a social welfare management framework called the "Intersectoral Social Protection System", made up of subsystems such as "Chile Solidario" and "Chile Grows with You".
Between 2008 and 2010 the Bachelet administration delivered a so-called "literary briefcase" (a box of books including encyclopedias, dictionaries, poetry works and books for both children and adults) to the 400,000 poorest families with children attending primary school from first to fourth grade.
In March 2009, Bachelet launched the "I Choose my PC" program, awarding free computers to poor seventh-graders with excellent academic performance attending government-subsidized schools.
During 2009 and 2010 Bachelet delivered maternity packages
to all babies born in public hospitals, which are about 80% of total births.
In January 2010, Bachelet promulgated a law allowing the distribution of Emergency contraception
pills in public and private health centers, including to persons under 14, without parental consent. The law also requires high schools to add a sexual education
program to their curriculum.
Bachelet's first political crisis came in late April 2006, when massive high school student demonstrations
– unseen in three decades – broke out throughout the country, demanding better public education. In June 2006, she sought to dampen the student protests by setting up an 81-member advisory committee, including education experts from all political backgrounds, representatives of ethnic groups, parents, teachers, students, school owners, university rectors, people from diverse religious denominations, etc. Its purpose was to propose changes to the country's educational system and serve as a forum to share ideas and views. The committee issued its final report in December 2006.
In August 2009, she signed the education reform bill into law, which created two new regulatory bodies: a Superintendency on Education and a Quality Agency.
During her presidency Bachelet opened 18 new subway stations in Santiago, nine in 2006, one in 2009 and eight in 2010.
In December 2009 Bachelet announced the construction of a new subway line in Santiago, to be operational by 2014
(the date was later changed to mid-2016
In February 2007 Santiago's transport system
was radically altered with the introduction of Transantiago
, designed under the previous administration.
The system was nearly unanimously condemned by the media, the users and the opposition, significantly damaging her popularity, and leading to the sacking of her Transport minister. On her decision not to abort the plan's start, she said in April 2007 she was given erroneous information which caused her to act against her "instincts."
In September 2008, Chile's Constitutional Court declared a US$400 million loan by the Inter-American Development Bank
to fund the transport system unconstitutional. Bachelet – who had been forced to ask for the loan after Congress had refused to approve funds for the beleaguered program in November 2007 – made use of an emergency clause in the Constitution
that grants funds equivalent to 2% of the fiscal budget.
In November 2008, she invoked the emergency clause again after Congress denied once again funds for the system for 2009.
On 27 February 2010, in the last week of summer vacations
and less than two weeks before Bachelet's term expired, Chile was ravaged by an 8.8-magnitude earthquake
that killed more than 500 people, toppled apartment buildings and bridges and triggered tsunamis that wiped away entire fishing villages. Bachelet and the government were criticized for a slow response to the disaster, which hit on a Saturday at 3:34 am.
and left most of the country without electricity, phone or Internet access.
Bachelet declared a "state of catastrophe
" and on Sunday afternoon sent military troops to the most affected areas in an effort to quell scenes of looting
She imposed night curfews
in the most affected cities.
She was criticized for not deploying the troops fast enough.
In January 2009 Bachelet opened the Museum of Memory in Santiago, documenting the horrors of Pinochet's 16-and-a-half-year dictatorship.
In November she promulgated a law (submitted to Congress during the previous administration) creating the National Institute for Human Rights, with the goal of protecting and promoting human rights in the country.
The law also allowed for the reopening of the Rettig
and Valech commissions
for 18 months.
She used her power as president to send a bill to legalize gay marriages, and sponsored a reproductive rights bill,
On 10 August 2018 the outgoing UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warmly welcomed the UN General Assembly
’s appointment of Michelle Bachelet to succeed him. He said that "She has all the attributes – courage, perseverance, passion, and a deep commitment to human rights"
Other legislation passed
In January 2010, Bachelet enacted a law creating the Ministry for the Environment. The new legislation also created the Environmental Evaluation Service and the Superintendency for the Environment.
Half of the ministries in her first government were occupied by women; in her successor's team, Sebastián Piñera
, 18% were.
Bachelet was widely credited for resisting calls from politicians from her own coalition to spend the huge copper revenues to close the country's income gap.
Instead in 2007 she created the Economic and Social Stabilization Fund, a sovereign wealth fund
which accumulates fiscal surpluses which are above 1% of GDP.
This allowed her to finance new social policies and provide economic stimulus packages when the 2008 financial crisis hit the country.
During Bachelet's four years in office the economy grew at an average of 3.3% (2.3% in per capita terms), with a high of 5.7% in 2006 and a negative growth of −1.0% in 2009 due to the global financial crisis. The minimum wage
increased an average of 2% per year in real terms (the lowest of any president since 1990), while unemployment hovered between seven and eight percent during her first three years and rose to nearly 11% during 2009. Inflation averaged 4.5% during her term, reaching close to 9% during 2008 due to an increase in food prices.
Absolute poverty fell from 13.7% in November 2006 to 11.5% in November 2009.
Bachelet began her term with an unprecedented absolute majority
in both chambers of Congress – before appointed senators were eliminated in the 2005 constitutional reforms the CPD never had a majority in the Senate – but she was soon faced with internal opposition from a number of dissatisfied lawmakers from both chambers of Congress, the so-called díscolos
("disobedient", "ungovernable"), which jeopardized the coalition's narrow and historic
congressional majority on a number of key executive-sponsored bills during much of her first two years in office, and forced her to negotiate with a right-wing opposition she saw as "obstructionist".
During 2007 the CPD lost its absolute majority in both chambers of Congress, as several senators and deputies from that coalition became independent.
In December 2006, Pinochet died. Bachelet decided not to grant him a state funeral
, an honour bestowed upon constitutionally elected Chilean presidents, but a military funeral
as former commander-in-chief
of the Army appointed by President Salvador Allende. She also refused to declare an official national day of mourning
, but did authorize flags at military barracks to fly at half staff
. Pinochet's coffin was also allowed to be draped in a Chilean flag. Bachelet did not attend his funeral, saying it would be "a violation of [her] conscience", and sent Defense Minister Vivianne Blanlot
In April 2008, Bachelet's Education Minister, Yasna Provoste
, was impeached
by Congress for her handling of a scandal involving mismanagement of school subsidies. Her conviction was the first for a sitting minister in 36 years.
During her first year in office Bachelet faced continuing problems from neighbors Argentina and Peru. In July 2006 she sent a letter of protest
to Argentine president Néstor Kirchner
after his government issued a decree increasing export tariffs on natural gas to Chile, which was considered by Bachelet to be a violation of a tacit bilateral agreement. A month later a long-standing border dispute
resurfaced after Argentina published some tourist maps showing contested territory in the south – the Southern Patagonian Ice Field
(Campo de Hielo Patagónico Sur
) – as Argentine, violating an agreement not to define a border over the area.
In early 2007, Peru accused Chile of unilaterally redefining their shared sea boundary in a section of a law passed by Congress that detailed the borders of the new administrative region of Arica and Parinacota
. The impasse was resolved by the Chilean Constitutional Tribunal, which declared that section unconstitutional. In March 2007, the Chilean state-owned and independent public broadcaster Televisión Nacional de Chile
(TVN) canceled the broadcast of a documentary about the War of the Pacific
after a cautionary call was made to the stations’ board of directors by Chilean Foreign Relations Minister Alejandro Foxley
, apparently acting on demands made by the Peruvian ambassador to Chile;
the show was finally broadcast in late May of that year. In August 2007 the Chilean government filed a formal diplomatic protest with Peru and summoned home its ambassador after Peru published an official map claiming a part of the Pacific Ocean that Chile considers its sovereign territory. Peru said this was just another step in its plans to bring the dispute to the International Court of Justice
in The Hague
. In January 2008 Peru asked the court to consider the dispute, prompting Bachelet to summon home the Chilean ambassador in Lima
UN voting deadlock
Chile's 16 October 2006 vote in the United Nations Security Council election
– with Venezuela and Guatemala deadlocked in a bid for the two-year, non-permanent Latin American and Caribbean seat on the Security Council
– developed into a major ideological issue in the country and was seen as a test for Bachelet. The governing coalition was divided between the Socialists, who supported a vote for Venezuela, and the Christian Democrats, who strongly opposed it. The day before the vote the president announced (through her spokesman) that Chile would abstain, citing a lack of regional consensus on a single candidate, ending months of speculation. In March 2007 Chile's ambassador to Venezuela, Claudio Huepe
, revealed in an interview with teleSUR
that Bachelet personally told him that she initially wanted to vote for Venezuela, but then "there were a series of circumstances that forced me to abstain."
The government quickly recalled Huepe and accepted his resignation.
In May 2008, Bachelet became the first President pro tempore of the Union of South American Nations
(Unasur) and in September she called for an urgent summit after Bolivian President Evo Morales
warned of a possible coup attempt
against him. The presidents of Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil and Colombia, and the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States
, met with Bachelet at the La Moneda Palace
in Santiago, where they agreed to send two commissions to Bolivia: one to mediate between the executive and the opposition, and another to investigate the killings in Pando Department
In February 2009, Bachelet visited Cuba and met with Fidel Castro
. There she urged the United States to put an end to the embargo
. No Chilean head of state had visited the country in 37 years.
The meeting with Castro backfired when Castro wrote a day later that the "fascist and vengeful Chilean oligarchy is the same which more than 100 years ago robbed Bolivia of its access to the Pacific and of copper-rich lands in a humiliating war."
Progressive Leaders summit
Continuing the coalition's free-trade strategy, in August 2006 Bachelet promulgated a free trade agreement
with the People's Republic of China (signed under the previous administration of Ricardo Lagos), the first Chinese free-trade agreement with a Latin American nation; similar deals with Japan and India were promulgated in August 2007. In October 2006, Bachelet promulgated a multilateral trade deal with New Zealand, Singapore and Brunei, the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership
(P4), also signed under Lagos's presidency. She held free-trade talks with other countries, including Australia, Vietnam, Turkey and Malaysia. Regionally, she signed bilateral free trade agreements with Panama, Peru and Colombia.
In October 2007, Bachelet granted amnesty to undocumented migrants
from other Latin American countries. The measure was expected to benefit around 15,000 Peruvians and 2,000 Bolivians.
In December 2007 she signed in Bolivia a trilateral agreement with the presidents of Brazil and Bolivia to complete and improve a 4,700 km road to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, via Arica
in Chile and Santos
in Brazil. In May 2008, following months of intense lobbying, Chile was elected as member of the United Nations Human Rights Council
, obtaining the largest vote among Latin American countries.
In December 2009 Chile became the first country in South America, and the second in Latin America after Mexico, to receive an invitation to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Bachelet signed the accession agreement in January 2010,
but it formally became a member in May 2010, after she had left office.
Job-approval ratings. Blue is approval; red is disapproval.
Bachelet enjoyed an approval rating above 50% for her first three months in office, during the so-called "honeymoon period". Her popularity fell during the student protests that year, hovering in the mid-40s. In July she had a disastrous public relations incident when a group of residents she was visiting in the southern city of Chiguayante
who were affected by a landslide berated her publicly on television, accusing her of using their tragedy to boost her falling popularity. One woman demanded that she leave the scene so rescue efforts could continue.
In July, after only four months in office, Bachelet was forced to reshuffle her cabinet, in what was the fastest ministerial adjustment since 1990.
Bachelet's popularity dipped further in her second year, reaching a low of 35% approval, 46% disapproval in September 2007. This fall was mainly attributed to the Transantiago fiasco.
That same month she had a second negative incident when a group of earthquake and tsunami
victims she was visiting in the southern region of Aisén
received her bearing black flags and accused her of showing up late.
The city mayor, who told Bachelet to "go to hell", later apologized.
Over the following 12 months, however, Bachelet's approval ratings did not improve. At the onset of the global financial crisis in September 2008
Bachelet's popularity was at 42%, but gradually her job approval ratings began to rise. When she left office in March 2010 her popular support was at a record 84%, according to conservative polling institute Adimark GfK.
In April 2010, Bachelet inaugurated her own think-tank
, "Fundación Dialoga". Its headquarters are located in Providencia
, a suburb of Santiago.
Bachelet is a member of the Club of Madrid
, the world's largest forum of former heads of state and government.
Since 2010 she has also been a member of the Inter-American Dialogue
, the leading think tank on Western Hemisphere relations and affairs, and served as the organization's co-chair.
On 14 September 2010, Bachelet was appointed head of the newly created United Nations body UN Women
by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
. She took office on 19 September 2010. On 15 March 2013 she announced her resignation.
2013 presidential election
On 27 March 2013, Bachelet announced that she would seek a second term as President of Chile
in the 2013 elections
The well-respected CEP released a poll in May 2012 suggesting that 51% of voters wished to see her become the next president, far ahead of any other would-be candidate.
In the 17 November 2013 presidential election
, Bachelet fell short of the absolute majority needed for an outright win. In the runoff election, held on 15 December of that year, she beat former senator and Minister of Labor Evelyn Matthei
with over 62% of the vote; turnout was significantly lower than in the first round.
Second presidency (2014–2018)
Among one of Bachelet's main campaign promises for the 2013 election was the introduction of free university education in Chile and the end of profit-making educational institutions, as a response to the 2011–13 Chilean student protests
. The intention was that revenue from the increase in corporate tax rate by 2017 would be used to fund free education. The proposals were criticized and quickly became unpopular due to the opposition from students who felt that the proposals did not go far enough in removing profit making. Opposition parties, lower middle class voters and certain members of Bachelet's New Majority coalition attacked the proposals as the law that would prevent individuals from earning profits on public resources would not address making improvements in quality of education.
In 2015, the Chile Constitutional Court rejected large portions of Bachelet's plan to offer free college education to half of the nation's poorest students on grounds that requiring them to attend certain schools participating in the program could be considered discrimination. However, what remained of the plan allowed Bachelet to send 200,000 students from low-income families to college free of cost.
In January 2018, the Chilean Senate passed a law guaranteeing free education which was supported by conservative opposition parties as well, allowing the poorest 60% of students to study for free and doubled state funding for public universities. The new legislation created a higher education Superintendent empowered to supervise and penalise institutions which do not provide quality of education or have for-profit operations.
In September 2014, the Chilean Congress passed Bachelet's tax reform proposal which aimed to increase revenue by 3% of gross domestic product. Measures included in the reform were:
- increased corporate tax rate from 20% to 25% or 27%
- the maximum tax bracket for personal income tax lowered to 35 percent from 40 percent starting in 2018
- increased excise taxes for sweetened beverages, alcohol and tobacco
- "Green" taxes including a tax on carbon emissions for thermoelectric plants bigger than 50 MW and a tax on the import of diesel vehicles with higher cylinder capacity, excluding work vehicles
- measures against tax evasion
Critics blamed tax reforms for complexity driving away investment and blamed for the slowdown of the Chilean economy during Bachelet's second period in office. However, Bachelet's supporters argue that falling copper prices were more to blame for the economic slowdown. They argue that economic forecasts of faster growth in conjunction with rising copper prices and exports from 2018 onwards (after Bachelet's term) suggest that the tax reforms did not negatively affect the economy.
Others, such as MIT-trained economist and academic Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel, have found that Chile's overall terms of trade under Bachelet's second term worsened only marginally compared to those of her predecessor Sebastián Piñera, due in part to a lower cost of key imports like petroleum. Consequently, he concludes that Bachelet's reforms and governance likely were instrumental in causing a period of dampened growth throughout her presidency.
A new 720,000sq km protection area for waters surrounding the Easter Island
following a poll of the islands native to Rapa Nui inhabitants was created, protecting at least 142 endemic marine species, including 27 threatened with extinction.
Five new national parks in the Patagonia
region were created under a presidential decree, covering 10 million acres in January 2018, including 1 million acres of land contributed by conservationist Kris Tompkins
On 9 March 2018, Bachelet created nine marine reserves to protect biodiversity with her final presidential decree, increasing the area of the sea under state protection from 4.2 percent to 42.4 percent. The measure is expected to benefit marine life in approximately 1.4 million square kilometers.
Civil unions and same-sex marriage
When Michelle Bachelet again took office of President in March 2014, she made passing Piñera's civil union bill a priority.
The name of the bill was changed to Civil Union Pact
(Pacto de Unión Civil
) on 17 December, and Congress reiterated their intention to hold the final vote by January 2015.
On 6 January 2015, a provision recognising foreign marriages as civil unions was approved in the Constitutional Committee while the child adoption clause was turned down. The bill went to a final vote before both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies as it was amended.
On 13 January, the full Chamber of Deputies reinserted the adoption provision. On 20 January 2015, the Chamber approved the bill on a vote of 86 to 23 with 2 abstentions. On 27 January, the Senate rejected all the Chamber's amendments, so the bill was headed to the joint committee of both houses.
The committee reached the agreement in regard to the text of the bill and changed its name to Civil Union Agreement
(Acuerdo de Unión Civil
) the same day. The bill was passed in both houses on 28 January 2015.
Several lawmakers asked the Chilean Constitutional Court to verify the bill's constitutionality, which was upheld by the court in a ruling released on 6 April 2015.
The bill was signed into law by President Bachelet on 13 April 2015.
It was published in the Official Gazette on 21 April 2015 and took effect on 22 October 2015.
Chile's civil union provisions enable couples to claim pension benefits and inherit property if their civil partner dies as well as more easily co-own property and make medical decisions for one another. The Government estimated at the time of the law going into effect that some two million Chilean couples cohabiting could have their unions legally recognised. In the day following the law going into effect, approximately 1,600 couples signed up to register their unions.
On 1 December 2016, the Chamber of Deputies unanimously approved (except for 6 abstentions) a bill to give couples who enter in a civil union five days off, like what married couples have.
The bill was approved by the Senate in October 2017, in a unanimous 15–0 vote.
Women's rights and abortion Claudia Pascual
being appointed Minister of Women and Gender Equality, by President Bachelet, on 3 June 2016
A new Ministry for Women and Gender Inequality was formed, replacing the National Women's Service in June 2016 which aimed to formulate policies against abuse of women and gender inequality.
Claudia Pascual was appointed as the first ever Minister for Women and Gender Inequality.
The Chilean Congress approved Bachelet's abortion legalisation bill in some circumstances in July 2017, but was subjected to challenge in the Constitutional Court.
Later, Chile's total abortion ban implemented under the Pinochet regime in 1989 was lifted in August 2017 after the Constitutional Court voted 6–4 to allow the procedure under some circumstances: in cases of pregnancy as a result of rape (up to 12 weeks), if the fetus endangers the mother's life, or if the fetus is not viable. Prior to this, Chile was one of only four nations in the Americas that had a total ban on abortions, the others being El Salvador, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.
Constitutional and political reform
The Chilean Congress passed Bachelet's proposed abolishment of the binomial voting
system introduced by the Augusto Pinochet
regime and restoring proportional representation for election to both chambers of the Chilean Congress and requirements that 40% of candidates nominated are female in January 2015.
The new system took effect from the 2017 elections, increasing the members of the Chamber of Deputies from 120 to 155 seats and the Senate from 38 seats to 43 seats in 2017 and 50 seats in 2021. As a result, the 2017 election saw the end of the dominance of Bachelet's New Majority and conservative coalitions and increased number of new political parties represented in Congress.
President Bachelet with the Engel Commission, 23 February 2015
Following revelations that President Bachelet's son and daughter in-law were caught in an influence-peddling scandal, she appointed a Presidential Advisory Council on Conflicts of Interest, Influence Peddling, and Corruption (known as the Engel Commission
) headed by economist Eduardo Engel
. Subsequently, reforms recommended by the commission were implemented which included, ability to remove politicians from office if found guilty for transparency and election spending limits violations with disqualification for two subsequent elections and constitutional autonomy to Chile's electoral service (SERVEL), giving it complete independence from the government to more effectively oversee electoral processes and the functioning of politics in general.
In 2016, overseas voting rights for Chilean women and men living outside the country were introduced, allowing Chilean citizens who live abroad to exercise their right to vote beginning from the 2017 elections.
President Bachelet with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi
In September 2015, Bachelet's approval rating was 24%, compared to 72% disapproval.
Chileans' support for her dropped sharply after revelations of corruption scandals such as the Caval scandal, which involved her son and daughter-in-law accepting millions of dollars in the form of a loan from Vice-Chairman of the Banco de Chile Andrónico Luksic Craig. The couple's company (Caval) used the money to purchase land and resell it at a $5 million profit after repaying the loan. Bachelet maintains that she was unaware of her family's actions and found out about the agreement between Luksic and her daughter-in-law through the press.
By August 2016, Bachelet's approval rating dropped to 15%, the lowest for any President since the return of free elections in 1990,
and in March 2017, Bachelet's approval rating remained low, at about 23%.
Bachelet left office in March 2018 with an approval rating at 39% according to Adimark, in contrast to the 84% rating when she left office in 2010.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (2018)
On 10 September 2018, Bachelet urged China
to allow observers into Xinjiang
and expressed concern about the situation there. She said that: ’’The UN rights group had shown that Uyghurs
and other Muslims
are being detained in camps across Xinjiang
and I expect discussions with Chinese officials to begin soon’’.
China called for Bachelet to respect its sovereignty.
On 5 October 2019, Bachelet said she was “troubled” by Hong Kong
’s increasingly violent pro-democracy protests
, and stressed that any measures to quell the unrest must be grounded in law. She also stated that "Freedom of peaceful assembly … should be enjoyed without restriction to the greatest extent possible. But on the other hand, we cannot accept people who use masks to provoke violence."
In January 2021, in preparation for the 2021 spring session of the UN Human Rights Council, Bachelet has issued a hard hitting report on Sri Lanka. The report severely criticizes the failure of the current Sri Lankan government to address documented accusations of grave and numerous human rights crimes perpetrated during and after the Civil war in Sri Lanka, even though the war ended in 2009.
Media and educational Honours
Awards and media recognition
- Honorary Companion of the Order of Australia, Australia (5 October 2012).
- Grand Collar of the National Order of San Lorenzo, Equador (2010)
- Grand Cross with Chain of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary, Hungary (2008)
- Knight Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, Italy (9 October 2007).
- Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the White Rose of Finland (2007)
- Grand Cross with Golden Chain of the Order of Vytautas the Great, Lithuania (23 July 2008).
- Honorary Recipient of the Order of the Crown of the Realm, Malaysia (2009)
- Collar of the Order of the Aztec Eagle, Mexico (2007)
- Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the Netherlands Lion, The Netherlands (25 May 2009)
- Grand Collar of the Order of Prince Henry, Portugal (7 November 2007)
- Grand Cross of the Order of Christ, Portugal (1 December 2009)
- Grand Collar of the Order of Liberty, Portugal (30 March 2017)
- Collar of the Order of Isabella the Catholic, Spain (26 February 2010).
- Collar of the Order of Charles III, Spain (30 October 2014).
- Member of Royal Order of the Seraphim, Sweden (10 May 2016). Received on her state visit to Sweden.
- Collar of the Order of the Liberator
- Medal of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay (2006).
- Michelle Bachelet – Symbol des neuen Chile (Ebbo Demant/SWR, 2004)
- La hija del General ["The General's Daughter"] (María Elena Wood/2006)
Bachelet, Michelle. 2002. Los estudios comparados y la relación civil-militar. "Reflexiones tras una década de consolidación democrática en Chile", Revista Fuerzas Armadas y Sociedad, 17(4): 29–35.
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