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April 28, 2007

Women Who Rule

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michelle bachelet

Photo Credit: J. De La Maza/Getty Image

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So now that the midterms are out of the way, we’re eyeing the ’08 election bids: Condi? Hillary? If either declares-and wins-she’ll join these women, already warming

THE SURVIVOR: Michelle Bachelet, 55 president of Chile; elected January 15, 2006

MADE-FOR-TV BEGINNINGS: In 1975, two years after Augusto Pinochet’s coup d’état, Bachelet, then a 23-year-old med-school student, and her mother were imprisoned and tortured. Her father, a prominent air-force general, had died a year before from similar treatment.

NINE LIVES: Later, she and her mother sought asylum in Australia, then East Germany. She returned to Chile in 1979 to work at a clinic for children from families victimized by political oppression, then en rolled at the Chilean national war college in 1996. She was named minister of health in 2000, and in 2002, head of the Defense Ministry.

ALIAS-LIKE PLOT TWIST: Ironically, the latter was the same institution involved in the death of her father, who was killed by fellow officers when Pinochet took power.

BALLSY LIFESTYLE CHOICE: An unrepentant agnostic in an almost uniformly Catholic country, Bachelet has three children from two different fathers.

CAMPAIGN PLEDGES: Gender parity in her cabinet—a pledge she made good on; free preschool for children in the poorest 40 percent of Chilean society; stronger domestic-abuse laws.

WHY SHE MATTERS: The U.S. views Chile as an ally on a vastly anti-American continent.

WHO WOULD PLAY HER IN THE MOVIE: Kathy Bates (if Helen Mirren is unavailable)


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