In 1971, while studying medicine at the University of Chile, she became active in the Socialist Party’s youth wing. At the time the party was “Guevarist” and was led by Marxist, Salvadore Allende.
After Allende was elected to power at the head of a socialist/communist coalition, Bachelet’s father, Alberto, supported the new regime. He was appointed by Allende to oversee the “supply and price councils” set up by the government to control and allot food supplies.
After General Pinochet’s overthrow of Allende, Bachelet senior was arrested. He died in March 1974 in a prison cell in the Air Force War Academy as the result of a heart attack, allegedly brought on by torture.
In January 1975, Michelle Bachelet and her mother, were arrested by the Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional, and taken to the Villa Grimaldi concentration camp. After a month behind bars, they were sent into exile to Australia. From there they moved to East Germany.
There Bachelet married Chilean architect Jorge Dávalos and continued her medical studies. The couple returned to Chile in 1979.
Bachelet, graduated from medical school in Chile in 1982, specialising in pediatrics and public health. Towards the end of Pinochet’s rule, Bachelet worked with an NGO that helped children traumatised by the disappearance of their parents under the military regime.
She also gained a graduate degree in the Armed Forces’ National Academy of Political and Strategic Studies and won a scholarship to attend the Inter-American Defence College in Washington, D.C.
In 1999 she joined the Socialist Party Political Commission and in 200 was appointed by President Ricardo Lagos, as the health minister in his first cabinet. In 2002, Bachelet became Chilean, minister of defence.
Lagos released Bachelet from her ministerial duties in October 2004 so she could campaign full time for the presidency.