Prime Minister Helen Clark’s best friend in Latin America is Chile’s new Socialist President, Michelle Bachelet.
Some, however, see Bachelet a little differently. Beatrice Lumpkin is a long time correspondent for the Communist Party USA’s “People’s Weekly World”.
In March this year, Lumpkin re-visited Chile catching up with communist and unionist friends. Lumpkin had to cut short her last visit in 1973 when General Pinochet’s bloody coup made life dangerous for known leftists.
This is part of an article Lumpkin wrote for People’s Weekly World on her latest visit.
We had picked a good time to visit Chile, March 2006. Hope was in the air. Michelle Bachelet, elected by a center-left coalition, had just been installed as president. She is the first woman to become president of Chile. As our friend, Nery Barrientos, told us: “Her election has created a new and very positive environment. Historically, the progressive forces never got a majority among women. But now that has changed. There is a strong chance that it is going to stay that way.”
Other progressive South American presidents were there to greet Bachelet. They included Evo Morales of Bolivia, Nestor Kirchner of Argentina, Tabare Vasquez of Uruguay, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, and of course, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Bachelet has moved quickly to cement ties with her progressive neighbors.
She also met with leaders of the Communist Party of Chile to thank them and discuss the next steps. The Communist bloc of votes gave Bachelet the margin she needed to win the election.
The Communist votes were also decisive in electing the previous president, Ricardo Lagos. But he ignored it. Communist support of Bachelet was based on the key issues of labor rights, proportional representation, restoration of pensions, reparations to families whose loved ones were persecuted or killed by the dictatorship and prosecution of those guilty. There was general agreement with Bachelet on all of these issues.
To win these demands, the Communist Party of Chile has called for continued mass actions in the communities and workshops.
New Zeal The Chilean Communist Party gets up to 10% of the vote and is a very influential force, especially in the unions. Bachelet’s government is clearly beholden to the Communist Party, much as NZ Labour was beholden to the Socialist Unity Party during the ’80s.