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Isabel Allende set to become Chile’s first female senate leader

AFP

Chilean Socialist senator, Isabel Allende, the daughter of toppled former president Salvador Allende, was appointed head of the Chilean senate on Thursday, making her the first woman to occupy the post.

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Almost half a century after her father was killed in a violent 1973 coup d’état, the daughter of Salvador Allende is set to become the leader of the Chilean senate following a decision on Thursday by the country’s new centre-left coalition government, which won power in November last year.

“My father, as we know, served as senate leader for three years, and for me, it comes as an immense honour and with great pride to be the first woman [leader] in the history of the senate,” Allende told major Chilean radio station, Radio Cooperativa, on Thursday.

One of Allende’s first duties as senate leader will be to place the Chilean national sash on president elect Michelle Bachelet at her inauguration on March 11.

The event is considered symbolic of a breakthrough in women’s struggle for power, and will make Chile a global frontrunner in gender equality within politics.

“This image is going to go all around the world,” Socialist senator Fulvio Rossi said on Thursday. “Two women holding Chile’s most important positions – it will forever legitimise the importance of women in power.”

Symbolic figures

Both Allende and Bachelet also carve symbolic figures in Chile’s turbulent 20th century history.

The 1973 coup in which Allende’s father was killed ushered in a 17-year dictatorship under former general Augusto Pinochet, whose brutal rule dominated Chilean politics long after his resignation in 1990.

Bachelet’s father also died at the hands of the coup leaders. As a brigadier in the national air force, Alberto Bachelet remained loyal to Salvador Allende following his death and was subsequently imprisoned by the Pinochet regime. He died of a heart attack after months of torture in prison. Bachelet herself was also arrested and tortured and went into exile.

A former doctor and head of United Nations Women, Bachelet served as Chile’s first female president between 2006 and 2010. She was re-elected in November after a four-year hiatus.

Bachelet and Allende will assume their roles on March 11.

 

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