In 2000 Ricardo Lagos Escobar, a member of the ruling center-left Concertación coalition, became the first Socialist to be elected president since Salvador Allende. As president, Lagos worked to decrease poverty and improve social services, including an increase in unemployment insurance and available housing. He also finalized a number of free trade agreements with countries such as the United States and South Korea. These agreements will eventually reduce or eliminate tariffs on traded goods.
Under the Lagos government, Chile again tried to come to grips with the legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship. In 2001 Pinochet was indicted on charges of kidnapping and murder and placed under house arrest. But the appeals court ruled that Pinochet was mentally unfit to stand trial and dismissed the legal proceedings against him. The Chilean Supreme Court upheld the appeals court decision in 2002.
In November 2004 an official Chilean government report concluded that more than 27,000 Chileans had been tortured during the Pinochet regime. In December Chile’s National Congress approved compensation for the torture victims in the form of a monthly pension and access to housing, education, and health benefits.
In 2005 the Chilean courts continued to battle over whether Pinochet could be charged with the various crimes committed during his presidency. At the same time Pinochet’s political and popular support suffered after investigations revealed he may have stolen millions in government funds while in power. Pinochet died in December 2006 before he could ever be brought to trial. At the time of his death he was under indictment for tax evasion and human rights violations.
In January 2006 the Socialist candidate Michelle Bachelet was elected Chile’s first female president. Bachelet and her family were arrested and tortured by Pinochet’s regime in the mid-1970s, and her father (a military officer) died in prison during this time. She and the rest of her family were eventually released and forced into exile before returning to Chile later in the decade. In the election Bachelet’s ruling coalition won control of both branches of the National Congress. The new president vowed to increase the number of women serving in the Chilean government and to narrow the gap between rich and poor in the country. "Chile" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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