Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet resigned from her position at the United Nations to return to her homeland ahead of elections in November.
Bachelet, constitutionally banned from running for a second consecutive term, took a break from politics to lead UN Women, a gender-equality agency created in 2010, the same year she left office. She remains her country’s most popular politician.
“I’m going back to my country,” the 61-year-old said on Twitter yesterday at the end of a grueling round of negotiations in New York on a document about eliminating violence against women and girls.
With elections in the Andean country looming, Bachelet’s departure from a position she held for two years will likely end speculation about whether she will run again. When she left office, the former physician enjoyed a 78 percent approval rating, according to Santiago-based polling company CEP.
By contrast, the current leader and political rival, Sebastian Pinera, has the lowest approval rating of any president since the Latin American nation’s return to democracy in 1990. Pinera, like Bachelet before him, is barred by law from running for a consecutive term.
Bachelet’s return may also bring back to power her Socialist Party, ousted by conservative Pinera’s National Renewal party. The winning political coalition will inherit South America’s second-fastest-growing economy after Peru yet also civil unrest following two years of protests by students.
Born into a military family, Bachelet has a compelling personal story anchored in Chile’s tumultuous past.
As a 23-year-old medical student, she was detained and tortured by officers of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in 1975. The year before, Bachelet’s father, Air Force General Alberto Bachelet, died in jail of a heart attack after being tortured on suspicion he opposed the coup that toppled Socialist President Salvador Allende.
Bachelet completed her studies in East Germany after being exiled to Australia. An agnostic and divorced mother of three in a Catholic country, she defied social norms on her return to Chile and rise to power. Her first cabinet post was as health minister. She then became defense minister at a time her U.S. counterpart was Donald Rumsfeld.
At the UN, where she enjoyed a high profile, she does not leave much of a legacy as her office carried no executive powers and her role was confined to raising awareness about the condition of women.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday said she was “the right person in the right job at the right time.”
Bachelet herself said that what she brought to the job were her contacts and close relationships with other leaders, including former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has been mentioned as a possible presidential contender in 2016.