michelle bachelet united nations Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images
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Bachelet vs. Bolton

The new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, arrives on the job at a time when the office she leads is coming under attack – and not only from the usual suspects. In fact, it is US National Security Adviser John Bolton, a longtime adversary of the UN, who poses the biggest threat.

NEW YORK – On September 1, Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile, took office as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Her long record of success in Chilean politics has prepared her well for this assignment, which could easily become one of the toughest of her career.

The office she leads is under attack, and not only from thuggish authoritarian leaders in Egypt, Hungary, the Philippines, and Russia. American officials – and in particular, National Security Adviser John Bolton – are also working hard to undermine the office’s effectiveness. Among Bachelet’s top challenges will be persuading the US Congress to block efforts by the Trump administration to withhold funds from her agency in violation of US treaty obligations.

That message may be a hard sell, but her experience makes her uniquely qualified to deliver it. In 1975, Bachelet and her mother were imprisoned and tortured by Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s regime. For several weeks, Bachelet was blindfolded and strapped to a chair in the Villa Grimaldi detention center in Santiago as her captors threatened to kill her mother. They were eventually released and allowed to go into exile in Australia, and then to East Germany.

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