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Chile: First woman president elected
But government set to continue neo-liberal policies
THE ELECTION of Michel Bachelet as the first woman to be elected President of Chile has aroused big interest around the world.
Patricio Guzmán, Socialismo Revolucionario, Santiago, Chile (Translated by Kevin Simpson, London)
The newly elected President was an activist of the Socialist Party (Partido Socialista - PS) from an early age. Bachelet was the daughter of a left-wing Chilean air force general tortured to death in prison following Pinochet's 1973 military coup. Michel and her mother were tortured and had to flee into exile. As a single mother (a situation shared by many Chileans), this background has given her political capital.
There are enormous expectations in the new government. Indeed many people are hopeful that under this fourth Concertación government [Coalition of Parties for Democracy - made up of the Christian Democratic Party (PDC), Party for Democracy (PPD), Social Democrat Radical Party (PRSD) and the Socialist Party (PS)] things will begin to change in a more progressive direction.
But there is another part of Bachelet's political biography which shows that the direction her government will take will be one of yet another 'neo-liberal' Concertación government.
Michel Bachelet previously held the posts of Ministry of Defence and of Health. But she singularly failed to put forward new or distinct policies when she held these ministries and neither did she express any differences with the neo-liberal policies of the Ricardo Largos [the previous President and Socialist Party leader].
A paradox of all the Concertación governments is that they have always raised the banner of social equality whilst at the same time the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few has continued to increase.
As a result, Chile has a worse distribution of wealth than Ethiopia and in Latin America is only surpassed by Brazil. 20% of the population own 60% of the wealth.
Multinationals have increasingly deepened their penetration of the Chilean economy and Bachelet has gone out of her way to make clear to the Chilean and international bosses that the same rules of the "game" will be maintained as before.
In the short term, developments will lead to people either feeling disappointed, rebellious or frustrated. The elections have shown that the main problem which confronts the working class is the lack of their own political representation.
All the parties which previously portrayed themselves as being for the "workers and poor masses" have been emptied of activists. The Socialist Party has converted itself into a machine of "notables" who have enriched themselves either through being directors of the old state industries which are now privatised or by being part of the state machine.
These parties have voluntarily abandoned rank and file organisation and any resemblance of independent party activity, whilst the Communist Party (Partido Comunista - PC) for its part has been reduced to the remnants of a mass party.
The call made by the PC leadership to support Bachelet in the second round of the elections showed that the party really does not have the political will to fight against capitalism. In fact for the first time in decades, the electoral turn by the PC leaders has led to a crisis within the party's left wing, particularly amongst the youth wing.
To avoid the inevitable disappointment with Bachelet's presidency it is necessary to urgently begin the task of building a new workers' party. Such an organisation could put forward a democratic and socialist programme independent of the coalitions which serve the ruling class, the right wing Alliance and the Concertación.
In The Socialist 26 January 2006: