QUERETARO, Mexico – Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet called on Monday on political leaders to acknowledge the abuse of women, above all in Latin America, because this is the first step toward eradicating it as a behavior.
“Leaders should accept that femicide is a dramatic reality in our region,” said Bachelet at the annual Hay Festival in Queretaro, Mexico, which this year is being held virtually.
In response to a question from Spanish journalist Javier Moreno, the director of the daily El Pais, regarding her thoughts about the denial by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the many murders of women there, Bachelet said that to combat the problem, first one must acknowledge it.
“As a former head of state, I believe that it makes more sense to take charge and say ‘We have a problem and we’re going to see how to deal with it,’” she said.
Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, spoke for about an hour, touching on different current issues in Latin America and emphasizing that recognizing the value of women must be considered a priority.
“Of the 12 countries that have best handled the (coronavirus) pandemic, nine are headed by women. It’s not true that women are not able to make decisions,” she said.
Bachelet said that the pandemic is creating more risks and leaders must find formulas whereby women can be protected as have been found in certain countries, where – for instance – a wife who is being abused can call a pharmacy to ask for a COVID facemask and, in reality, it’s a coded way for her to tell authorities that she’s in danger and needs help.
Regarding the priorities in Latin America, the ex-president of Chile, who governed from 2006-2010 and again from 2014-2018, discussed what she said was the urgent need to end the deep inequalities in the region, where vulnerable groups are the ones who are suffering the most.
“The region is one of the most unequal (areas) in the world and that is expressed in significant levels of poverty, inequalities inside countries mainly of vulnerable groups, who are always moving backwards,” she said.
Bachelet lamented the fact that there is a global recession at present and cited calculations by the UN Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC), according to which the GDP in the region will fall by 9.1 percent and 231 million people will slide into poverty.
“We already had significant inequality and this pandemic is going to increase it,” she said, suggesting changes in economic systems and labor laws to reduce the inequality gap.
The former Chilean leader mentioned the December elections in Venezuela and said that if the regime of Nicolas Maduro wants to demonstrate its transparency and show that it can be trusted, it should seek guarantees and the conditions to enable the largest number of people to vote in the election.
“It would be a very important step,” she said.
The Hay Festival in Queretaro – which will conclude on Monday with a chat by Mexican novelist Elena Poniatowska, the winner of the Cervantes Prize – has enjoyed the participation of several Nobel Prize winners, including Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai, as well as Literature award winners Mario Vargas Llosa, Kazuo Ishiguro and Olga Tokarczuk.