Former Chile president appointed new UN human rights chief

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SANTIAGO, Chile — The U.N. General Assembly on Aug. 10 approved the nomination of former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet as the next U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres nominated Bachelet to succeed Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, a career diplomat from Jordan.

In its official press release, the U.N. described Bachelet as “a long-time human rights champion and groundbreaking leader,” highlighting her activism in the early 1970s. The U.N. with this statement marks the period in which Bachelet and her parents were political prisoners during Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship.

“I feel deeply honored to assume this position, which was a proposal by the secretary-general,” said Bachelet in a video she posted to her Facebook page shortly after her appointment was confirmed. She added that she will perform her duties “with all my strength, my energy and my convictions to ensure the dignity and well-being of so many people.”

Bachelet was Chile’s president from 2006-2010 and from 2014-2018. She was named the first executive director of U.N. Women in 2013.

Bachelet during her second term promoted the rights of Chile’s LGBTI community, signing the country’s civil union law in 2015 and introducing a same-sex marriage bill in 2017. Bachelet in her first interview after leaving office referred to her LGBTI agenda as one of her many achievements as president.

Local LGBTI leaders reacted positively to the appointment.

“(She is a) fundamental ally of women and rights for the LGBTI community where more courage is required today than ever before,” said Fundación Iguales President Juan Enrique Pi in his Twitter account.

El Movilh added it wishes “all the success in her new efforts. We are convinced that LGBTI issues will be part of her work as high commissioner.”

Movilh spokesperson Oscar Rementería added, “it’s not matter if you’re from right or left wing. Such a proud moment for our country!”

Bachelet assumes her duties in September in Geneva.

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