President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet delivers a
keynote address and participates in a question and answer session moderated by
John H. Coatsworth, Acting Dean, School
of International and
Public Affairs. This event is co-sponsored by the Institute of Latin American
Michelle BacheletPresident of the Republic of Chile
Michelle Bachelet participated in World Leaders Forum Head of State Week in September 2007.
President Michelle Bachelet was born in Santiago, Chile, on September 29, 1951, the second child of Alberto Bachelet and Angela Jeria. Her father was a general officer in the Chilean Air Force, which led to a peripatetic childhood traveling throughout Chile, moving from one military base to another.
Upon graduating from Liceo No. 1, a prestigious girls-only public high school in 1969, Bachelet began the study of medicine under counsel by her father. In 1973, while studying medicine at the University of Chile, President Salvador Allende's government was overthrown in a military coup d'etat by General Augusto Pinochet. Bachelet's father was in charge of the government's food distribution office at the time of the coup - and consequently was imprisoned by Pinochet's forces and died one year later of a heart attack brought on by torture.
In January 1975, Bachelet and her mother were detained at their home and taken to a notorious, secret detention center known as Villa Grimaldi, where they were separated and tortured. They were soon released to the Cuatro Álamos detention center where they were held until the end of January. Upon their release, Bachelet and her mother were exiled to Australia where they joined her brother, Alberto. From there they moved to Germany, where Bachelet met and later married architect Jorge Dávalos, a fellow Chilean exile.
In 1982, Bachelet returned to Chile to complete her medical training and graduated as a physician from the University of Chile. Bachelet spent four years in pediatrics and public health, followed by treating children traumatized by dictatorships- specifically children of the tortured and missing in Chile. With democracy restored in 1990, Bachelet was hired as an epidemiologist at the Metropolitan Health Service then later moved to the National AIDS Commission. In 1994, Bachelet joined the Health Ministry as a Senior Assistant to the Deputy Health Minister.
In 2000, Bachelet was named Minister of Health. During her tenure, she overhauled numerous antiquated or outdated medical policies and procedures and established, among other things, a 24-hour toll-free patient hotline number, extended medical and dental coverage, treatment programs for treating depression, nutrition programs for seniors and better drug coverage for HIV/AIDS patients.
In January 2002, some 27 years after her forcible detention at Villa Grimaldi, Bachelet was named Minister of Defense, becoming the first woman to hold that position in the country's history as well as in all of Latin America. Among her achievements as Minister of Defense were establishing equal-opportunity policies for women in the Chilean military as well as in federal and local police organizations.
In October 2004, Bachelet resigned as the Minister of Defense to begin campaigning full time for the office of the President of Chile. Bachelet campaigned as a center-leftist arguing for an increase in social welfare benefits; forming a gender-balanced cabinet; ending job discrimination against young people, women, and seniors; increasing early childhood education, and providing access to daycare for working mothers.
In a run-off election on January 15, 2006, Michelle Bachelet won with 53 percent of the vote to become Chile's first female president.
Bachelet has three children, Sebastián, Francisca, and Sofia.