Sunday, January 15, 2006

La Mitch-Chell! Chile's President-in-waiting

Happy Update: Bachelet wins! [updated 12:46 am Jan 16; AP photo courtesy of]

Today's run-off presidential election in Chile is definitely one to watch (Homer Simpson: Mmmmm....chili run-off...).

Seriously. Socialist Michelle Bachelet ("La Mitch-Chell!" to her supporters) is due to take the presidency in the very country that once imprisoned & tortured her. From The Observer:
Bachelet's election will be all the more extraordinary given her fate at the hands of Pinochet. Following his 1973 military coup, she was arrested and taken prisoner. Soldiers tortured and beat her at Villa Grimaldi, an infamous centre in Santiago. 'They put tape and dark glasses over our eyes,' she said in an interview. 'They tortured me. They hit me, but they did not put me on the electric table.'
Bachelet, then a 23-year-old medical student, treated the wounded prisoners, including her mother. Both her father and boyfriend were tortured to death. She survived and, with her mother, went into exile, first to Australia, then East Germany, where she helped to organise the then clandestine Socialist party inside Chile. On her return in 1979, she worked as a paediatrician, specialising in treating children traumatised by the violence of military rule.
Bachelet is expected to beat billionaire right-wing candidate Sebastian PiƱera. You may hear a lot of "firsts" associated with Mitch-Chell. To wit:
  • She is a woman but--unlike Isabel Peron in Argentina--not inheriting the presidency from a husband
  • She is a single-mother of three
  • She is an atheist in a predominantly Catholic country (and continent)
There are several profiles of Bachelet in this weekend's papers. The Globe & Mail, The Observer, and WaPo to name just three. Read about this woman: something tells me you'll be hearing a lot more about her in the days ahead.

Bachelet's personal history is important: she is a witness to a very nasty part of history. Kissinger and Co. continue to insist--against all declassified evidence to the contrary--that they were not involved in facilitating Pinochet's bloody rise to power. I'm going to bet that Bachelet knows better. I was going to write a hu-u-u-u-uge post about Pinochet and US/Kissinger/CIA complicity in the overthrow of Allende but I think I'll just direct you to the following articles and radio-pieces (which do a much more competent job than I could!):
  1. "The Pinochet files: A series of declassified US documents have revealed the extent of America's role in the Chilean coup," by Jonathan Franklin (The Guardian, Wednesday September 10, 2003)
  2. Listen to Amy Goodman's interview with Peter Kornbluh, author of The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability. Kornbluh is a senior analyst at the National Security Archive, a public-interest documentation center in Washington.
  3. "Remembering Allende," by Marc Cooper (The Nation Magazine, September 29, 2003)
  4. "A Plot Thickens: Three Decades After Chile's Right-Wing Coup, Historians Have Yet to Dot All the i's. But One Thinks He May Have Crossed a K," By Lynne Duke (Washington Post, Sunday, February 27, 2005; Page D01). Photo courtesy of The Washington Post article. WaPo caption:"Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet shaking hands with Henry Kissinger in 1976. Questions linger about the U.S. role in the Pinochet-led coup. (Upi)"


Blogger Liberal Common Sense Asshat Nominee said...

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1/17/2006 10:27 AM  

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