Are Chileans Happy about Michelle Bachelet’s Return?

Friday evening, Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile and head of UN Women, announced that she would be returning to her home country for “personal reasons” after Holy Week. As Chile’s Presidential elections loom, most speculate she will soon announce her intention to run for another term as president. (The constitution prohibits consecutive terms.)

Yet it while the U.S. media has noted the agitation that Chilean politians on both the left and right are experiencing in the face of Bachelt’s silence regarding her plans, it seems that for the most part, they have not quite captured the frustration that many Chilean citizens feel in terms of her prolonged absence and now, return, just in time to run for president.

Personally, I still have much to study regarding the issues and do not wish to take a stand at this time. But I find it interesting that, overwhelmingly, the Chilean media, as well as my various social circles here in Santiago–which range from academics, to lefities, to leftist-sympathizers (some who rarely vote), to more center-right folks–have emphasized Bachelet’s absence more than her return to Chile. They wonder how someone who went to the U.S. for a few years can just jump back onto the political scene to save the day, as it were.

I think a better argument to make would be to point out her support of political repression against Mapuches–which the right has perpetuated (and started, perhaps, but that fight really goes back to colonial times). She undoubtedly made great strides in many areas, including women’s rights–but of course, those are just cosas de mujeres (women’s things). But no one doubts her political power–she left office with over an approval rating of around 80%, making her a powerful opponent, candidate, or friend. But whatever Chileans think about Bachelet, they are surely anticipating some sort of announcement from her, either in support of a presidential candidate or her own intentions to run.

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