Senator Isabel Allende, daughter of the late Chilean president Salvador Allende, on Tuesday transferred the presidential sash from the shoulders of departing President Sebastián Piñera to the shoulders of Michelle Bachelet Jena in a political transition full of symbolism.
At a noon ceremony in the Congress building in Valparaíso, Bachelet became the 40th president of Chile after receiving the sash from Allende and the brooch that seals the sash from Piñera. Both women are members of the Socialist Party; so was President Allende.
One day earlier, Allende, 69, had been elected president of the Senate in a 21-to-15 vote with 2 abstentions. A senator since 2010, she became the first woman to head the high chamber.
In a speech to the Senate on Monday, Allende said that “the historic image of two women simultaneously occupying the State’s two most important posts will go around the world.”
Recalling her father, who was a senator before being elected president in 1970 and who died in a military coup d’état on Sept. 11, 1973, she said that he “assumed with loyalty and responsibility the political leadership of the Senate, the republican space that by excellence protects the diversity of ideas, the political and ideological pluralism.
“That is why I want to offer a heartfelt homage to my father and all those who gave their lives, who fought to regain democracy,” she said.
After her father’s death in the coup that brought Gen. Augusto Pinochet to power, Isabel fled to Cuba with her mother, Hortensia Bussi, and two sisters, Beatriz and Carmen Paz. From there, they went to Mexico, where Isabel spent 16 years before returning to Chile in 1989.
From 1994 to 2010, she was a deputy in the House of Representatives; then she was elected to the Senate. She is a second-cousin to writer Isabel Allende (“The House of the Spirits,” “Maya’s Notebook,” “Island Beneath the Sea,” “Eva Luna” and others.)