Your article, “Violence on Chile Coup Anniversary” (September 12, 2007) could be amplified to address several other critically important aspects of Chile’s distinct, if troubled, political culture. Michele Bachelet began her presidential term as a leading figure in Chile’s fight for women’s rights and as an apostle for a more open society where a modern woman like herself could freely function. She overcame great odds by becoming her country’s first female president in an ebulliently male-dominated culture. On top of this, Bachelet is a separated mother of three and a self-professed agnostic in a largely Catholic country, further distancing herself from the core of Chilean society. Her election appeared to mark both a breakthrough for Chile as well as for Latin American women in general. But with her approval ratings now plummeting and due to the blame she is unfairly taking for the recent explosive riots marking the anniversary of the 1973 Pinochet coup, prospects for reconciliation for now appear to be lost. You report that the President ordered criminal charges to be filed against anyone responsible for the riots. The difficult road that she now walks may need to involve cracking down on the perpetrators of violence, but she mustn’t forget that under Pinochet and as late as today, the poor feel justifiably outraged that it is they who have to bear the greatest pain for change to occur, be it under the detestable Pinochet dictatorship, or Chile’s polite but largely insensitive ruling middle-class.
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