December 15, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Michelle Bachelet regains Chilean presidency

Michelle Bachelet, Chile, Socialist Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Michelle Bachelet (Photo by Ricardo Stuckert of Agência Brasil; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Chilean voters on Sunday elected former President Michelle Bachelet as their country’s next president.

Bachelet defeated Evelyn Matthei by a 62-38 percent margin in the second round of voting in the South American nation’s presidential elections. The former president on Nov. 17 defeated her main rival in the first round of voting, but she needed at least 50 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off.

The Associated Press reported only 41 percent of voters turned out during the second round of voting.

“It is time to put ourselves to work, to put an end to inequality, to realize this dream of everyone,” said Bachelet during her victory speech in Santiago, the Chilean capital, according to the newspaper El Mercurio. “It is time to build a stronger and better democracy.”

Bachelet, a left-leaning Socialist whose father was tortured to death following the 1973 coup that toppled then-President Salvador Allende’s government, vowed to address long-standing socio-economic inequalities in Chile and reform the South American nation’s education system during the campaign. She also supports marriage rights for same-sex couples and a proposal that would allow transgender Chileans to legally change their name and sex without sex-reassignment surgery, hormonal treatments and psychiatric or psychological evaluations.

“It is a position of absolute support that has been included in her governing platform,” Andrés Ignacio Duarte Rivera, founder of the Organization of Transsexuals for the Dignity of Diversity, told the Washington Blade during an International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission briefing he attended in New York on Dec. 11.

Bachelet’s platform also supports efforts to strengthen Chile’s LGBT-inclusive hate crimes and anti-discrimination law named in honor of Daniel Zamudio, a 24-year-old man whom a group of self-described neo-Nazis beat to death inside a Santiago park in 2012 because he was gay. The convicted mastermind of the attack against Zamudio received a life sentence in October.

“Congratulations to Bachelet,” tweeted Jaime Parada Hoyl, spokesperson for the Chilean LGBT advocacy group Movement for Homosexual Integration who in November 2012 became the first openly gay political candidate elected in the South American country. “We will be here when you need to push through the changes that the conservatives… will try to block.”

Santiago resident Leandro Ignacio Díaz Castro also welcomed the election’s outcome.

“I am very happy with Bachelet’s big victory,” Díaz told the Blade as he listed same-sex marriage, free and quality education and a new labor code as among the former president’s campaign promises. “I am happy because I know that better times are coming for Chile.”

Bachelet was Chile’s president from 2006-2010.

She will succeed outgoing President Sebastián Piñera and officially take office early next year.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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