Bachelet stays the course in Chile

Chile-Argentina Andes passes
Chile has agreed with Argentina on plans to relieve congestion at Andes passes, but is still at loggerheads with Bolivia over disputed territory and water rights (source: macpixxel for GIS)

Neither an economic slump nor slumping popularity has deflected Michelle Bachelet from her reform agenda. Amid a leadership vacuum in Latin America, the Chilean president looks far from being a lame duck.

Ms. Bachelet has arrived at the mid-point of her four-year term as Chile’s president with support of less than 30 percent in the polls. This from a president who had ended her first term of office six years ago with a record-high approval rating of 80 percent – the best of any president since Chile returned to democracy in 1990.

Despite her slumping popularity and harsh criticism from the media, most of which is openly right-wing and opposed to her government, Ms. Bachelet has held together her fractious New Majority coalition while winning the legislative battles need to secure a series of major reforms – just as she had promised in her campaign more than two years ago.

Now the president must decide what to do with the rest of her term. Chile is closely watched in the rest of the hemisphere because of its democratic institutions, its adherence to the rule of law and its remarkable economic transformation over the past two decades. Its voice is particularly significant in matters of trade, democratic governance and Latin America’s evolving identity as a community of nations. Ms. Bachelet’s own importance as a regional figure has grown as the continent’s natural leader, Brazil, finds itself paralyzed by a corruption scandal and economic stagnation.

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