Michelle Bachelet, Chile’s first female president, begins her first official visit to the United States today. The New York Times reports that Bachelet will meet with President Bush and attend a dinner in her honor hosted by the White House Project and women politicians. She will also visit leaders of both parties on Capitol Hill and speak to the Organization of American States, reports the Associated Press (AP).
While the Bush administration’s relationship with Bachelet’s government has been much more cordial than those with the governments of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia, it has not been entirely smooth. Bachelet, speaking to the Times about Chile’s private social security system, which Bush has praised, noted the discriminatory effects of the current system for women which she has promised to address. According to the AP, the Bush administration is also disappointed that Bachelet has shown support for Chavez, who was invited to her inauguration.
Bachelet, an agnostic and a single mother, gained popularity as minister of health in 2000, when she revamped Chile’s moribund public health system. In 2002, she was appointed Chile’s Defense Minister, the first woman in Latin America to hold the post. A charismatic speaker, Bachelet campaigned on a leftist platform and spoke out for women’s rights.