After returning from her summer vacation on Lake Caburgua, Chile's President Michelle Bachelet plans to embark on an impressive tour of Latin American countries to encourage regional cooperation. She will then jet off to Europe to compare notes with sister countries famed for their welfare states.
Between April and March, President Bachelet will meet with Mexico's President Felipe Calderón, Uruguay's President Tabaré Vázquez and Brazil's President Lula de Silva as well as taking part in two regional summits in Guatemala and Venezuela. In Venezuela, President Bachelet and fellow Heads of State will unite as the South American Community of Nations to discuss energy issues. Chile's President is slated to meet privately with Venezuela's Hugo Chávez where the two will aim to smooth out relations following Chile's abstention from the United Nations Security Council vote last October (ST, Oct. 16 2006). Bachelet will then begin a tour of "like minded countries" in Europe ÃÂ¢€" relatively small states with developed economies and good social welfare - including Finland, Norway and Switzerland. Outside of Europe, the list of stops also includes New Zealand. The European trip will be a chance for Bachelet to compare market experiences and economic strategy, while examining the success of these country's models of social welfare. Bachelet pledged to develop a social protection network in Chile by the end of her term. She has already begun to introduce groundbreaking social policies such as "Chile Grows With You (Chile Crece Contigo)," providing "cradle to school" support for young children and mothers, opening 800 new day-care centers nationwide and providing free healthcare for poor senior citizens. "We want to develop a cooperation network and reciprocal understanding with like-minded countries," said Foreign Secretary, Alejandro Foxley. "This is a new trajectory for Chilean foreign policy and we'll be putting a major emphasis on it." The Santiago Times