Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria
(born September 29, 1951) is a center-left
politician and was a previous President of Chile
—the first woman to hold this position in the country's history. She won the 2006 presidential election
in a runoff, beating center-right billionaire businessman and former senator Sebastián Piñera
, with 53.5% of the vote. A moderate Socialist
, she campaigned on a platform of continuing Chile's free market
policies, while increasing social benefits
to help reduce the country's gap between rich and poor, one of the largest in the world
. She was inaugurated on March 11, 2006.
Bachelet — a surgeon, pediatrician and epidemiologist with studies in military strategy—served as Health Minister and Defense Minister under President Ricardo Lagos. She is a separated mother of three and a self-described agnostic. A polyglot, she speaks Spanish, English, German, Portuguese and French. In 2007, Forbes magazine ranked her as 27th in the list of the 100 most powerful women in the world (10 spots down from the 2006 list).