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Prepared by: Eben Kaplan
January 17, 2006


Chileans will be led for the first time by a woman, socialist Michelle Bachelet (BBC) after a presidential runoff Sunday confirmed she is the electorate’s choice. The contest pitted Bachelet (Newsweek), a foe of Chile’s former dictatorship, against Sebastián Piñera (Pravda), a center-right businessman who is one of Chile’s richest men. Chile is the latest Latin American nation to turn left in search of answers (TIME). This year, Latin America’s democracies will hold more than a dozen presidential and parliamentary elections (BBC).

This has America’s foes in the regions licking their chops. After all, Hugo Chavez (Economist), Venezuela’s socialist president and the region’s leading anti-American agitator, picked up an unabashed ally when Evo Morales won Bolivia’s December 18 election. But Newsweek explains not all Latin leftists are created equal: Bachelet, for instance, will likely follow in the footsteps of her predecessor (FT), Ricardo Lagos, whose policies helped make Chile a model for the region. The Council on Hemispheric Affairs downplays the importance of Sunday’s vote in the leftward regional trend. In the longer term, however, Peter Hakim, chairman of the Inter-American Dialogue, writing in Foreign Affairs, warns Washington is in danger of losing influence in Latin America if policies are not reexamined.

Bachelet official site (Spanish)

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