Chile’s Communists make comeback with support for Michelle Bachelet

Party has not backed a candidate since Allende in the 1970s

Former President Michelle Bachelet arrives in Chile in March.
Former President Michelle Bachelet arrives in Chile in March.Iván Alvarado (Reuters)

The Chilean Communist Party, which for decades was outlawed under the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, is making a high-profile comeback with its backing of former President Michelle Bachelet for a new term in office.

Not since the 1970 to 1973 administration of President Salvador Allende have the Communists joined a coalition to support a candidate. If Bachelet wins next year’s election – as most polls tip her to do – the communists will return to La Moneda presidential palace 40 years after the bloody overthrow of Allende.

“Our party is going to support Michelle Bachelet as our candidate in the primaries,” said Guillermo Teillier, president of the Communist Party, after meeting with delegates for more than 10 hours on Saturday to discuss whether they will back the former president.

Bachelet, who returned to Chile in March after resigning her post as head of UN Women, will run in a primary on June 30. She has said that she wanted to form a new coalition of parties to govern Chile. She served as president from 2006 to 2010.

The center-left coalition Concertación governed Chile from 1990, when democracy was restored, until 2010 when the conservative Sebastián Piñera was elected president.

The Communists control the country’s biggest union CUT, but have fallen out of favor with a robust student movement, which organized a series of strikes last year to demand changes to the current public education system.

Following the September 11, 1973 coup that ousted Allende, the Communists decided to organize an armed struggle against the Pinochet dictatorship under the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front (FPMR). In the 1980s, Teillier became military chief for his party and under the pseudonym Sebastián Larraín launched an unsuccessful revolt against Pinochet in 1985.

When democracy was restored, the Communists decided the conditions were not ripe to join the center-left pact of Concertación and remained on the sidelines.

With the death of its longtime leader, Gladys Marín, in 2005, the Communists began making gradual moves to return to the political scene. In 2008, it joined forces with Concertación to win two mayoral races, and the following year also took three seats in Congress.

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