Bachelet’s Chile: moving closer to Venezuela?
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet may turn out to be a better president than her predecessor Sebastian Piñera, but many pro-democracy activists in Latin America may well come to miss his recent views on Venezuela, Cuba and other authoritarian regimes.
Bachelet, a Socialist former president who returned Tuesday to the presidential palace for a second term, suggested during her campaign that her top foreign policy priority will be to improve ties with Brazil, Argentina and other Atlantic rim South American nations. Piñera, in turn, had stressed Chile’s ties with the more pro-free market Pacific Alliance, made up of Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile.
In her first press conference after her inauguration, Bachelet announced that her first foreign trips will include Argentina, and that Chile will pursue “a very strong Latin American agenda.”
Asked about Venezuela, she said that Chile will “accompany the Venezuelan people and government,” and added — in what some saw as a nod to the Venezuelan government — that Chile will “never support any movement that violently wants to topple a democratically elected government.”
The Venezuelan government describes the ongoing protests against its authoritarian rule as a coup attempt, and claims that it has arrested opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez for allegedly inciting violence. Lopez and other opposition leaders deny they are behind the violence, and international human rights groups say there is no evidence that they have done anything but exercise their right to criticize the government.
Bachelet also said that she will defend democracy and human rights in the region, but the big question in human rights circles is to what extent will she do that.
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