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President Michelle Bachelet in Official Visit to the United Kingdom

April 3-5, 2008

Her Excellency Michelle Bachelet, President of the Republic of Chile, carried out an official visit to the United Kingdom on early April. On Thursday 3, she arrived at Heathrow Airport, Royal Suite, and was received by the Baroness of Seccombe, representing Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II; Mrs. Anne Morrison, representative of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Mr. Rafael Moreno, Ambassador of Chile to the United Kingdom.

During those three days, Her Excellency met with the Queen at Windsor Castle, and attended the Summit of Progressive Leaders, hosted by UK's Prime Minister Gordon Brown. She traveled to London with an official delegation of 20 people that included the ministers of Foreign Affairs, Finance and Environment, 5 Congressmen and 6 businessmen.

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On her first day in town, The President was invited to lunch at London's Mansion House as the guest of the Lord Mayor of London Alderman David Lewis.

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Earlier, H.E. had received from Rt Hon Lord Hurd of Westwell, Chairman of the Advisory Council of FIRST magazine, a copy of a special report on Chile that was published on occasion of her visit.

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With little time to rest, President Bachelet gave the Canning House Lecture on "Growth, Globalisation and Equality: an Economic Agenda for Latin America" in the magnificent Lancaster House.

FCO Minister of State Dr Kim Howells MP made the introductory remarks.

Before her presentation, H.E. was awarded an Honorary Degree by the University of Essex in recognition of her achievements in strengthening justice and democracy in Chile.

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presidenta bachellet

At 4:30 p.m., H.E. arrived with her entourage at the Westminster Abbey, where she was greeted by the Dean of the Abbey, the Very Reverend Dr. John Hall. Accompanied by the Attaches of the Naval, Air Force and Military Chilean Missions, the President laid a wreath on the tomb of Admiral Thomas Cochrane, Tenth Earl of Dundonald, and on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

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The President was greeted at the event by Wines of Chile´s UK Director Michael Cox.

In the evening, the President was the special guest of Wines of Chile in London's prestigious Vintners' Hall, in the City. The occasion was to celebrate the UK's position as the leading export market for Chilean wine-sales in 2007 exceeded 136 million bottles worth over US$ 230 million in export value.

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Ambassador Moreno introduces Ms. Michaela Williamson, Head of the Chile Desk of the Latin America Department of the Foreign Office.

The last engagement of the day was a reception hosted by Ambassador Rafael Moreno at his residence, in Belgravia. More than a 100 guests - Chileans and British- gathered in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere with the President and the official delegation.

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Next day, President Bachelet had a work breakfast at the Dorchester Hotel with the foreign editors of "The Guardian"; "The Times", "The Independent" and "The Economist". She was joined by the Chilean Ambassador Rafael Moreno; the Press Attaché of the Chilean Embassy in London Ms. Odette Magnet, and Claudio Cuadros, one of the President's press officers of La Moneda Palace, in Santiago.

The U.K. journalists had lots of questions that ranged from the challenges and achievements of her Administration to the recent conflict between Ecuador and Colombia, President Hugo Chavez and his influence in the region, her personal story during the Pinochet dictatorship and how a woman feels in power, among other topics. "The Independent" and "The Times" ran a piece on the President and her visit to the United Kingdom, as well as a wide range of newspapers and media outlets worldwide did.

Since the day was sunny, the President enjoyed a five minute walk to the Hilton Hotel, where she met with around 70 people, part of the Chilean community in London. The event was organized by the Chilean Consulate and the Consul Ms. Andrea Concha gave a warm greeting to H.E. and delivered a short speech (click here for the text).

On behalf of the group, Francisco Gómez took the opportunity to mention some concerns shared by the community, such as the right for Chileans to vote abroad and the need to have an improved Constitution that can better represent the aspirations of the Chileans.

President Bachelet replied that her Government was working on that right to vote but, until now, it has not been approved in the Parliament. She also referred to the changes that will take place in July regarding the pension fund program and the measures being taken in order to favor the unemployed, the housewives and the poor.

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At noon sharp and during half an hour, the President and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, held a private meeting at Windsor Castle. "Chilean-British relations are excellent", said the President afterwards. She recalled the close links of both countries and mentioned that the Queen had visited Chile in 1968, together with her husband. "Our country has been visited by her children and even a grandson and Her Majesty was very well updated about these two years of government and she asked about several situations we have gone through", remarked the President, the only leader that attended the progressive governance conference invited to a private interview with the Queen.

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Later in the day, H.E. was the key-note speaker at the event organized by the London School of Economics and Political Science, in London. In front of an enthusiastic audience, she gave a presentation under the title "Free and Fair: an agenda for democratic transformation".

According to LSE data, around 30 Chilean students are currently enrolled in some program or other at this school.

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Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Bachelet underlined -in the Progressive Governance Conference, organized by Policy Network, in The Grove Hotel, in Watford- the urgent need for "a new progressive agenda" in order to tackle global issues.

The meeting gathered 300 international experts, government advisers and policy makers and the following world leaders: Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister of Australia; Helen Clarke, the Prime Minister of New Zealand; former U.S. President Bill Clinton;Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa; Alfred Gusenbauer, the Austrian Chancellor; Dimitris Christofias, President of Cyprus; John Kufuor, President of Ghana; Romano Prodi, Prime Minister of Italy; Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia; Gediminas Kirkilas, Prime Minister of Lithuania; Jens Stoltenberg, Prime Minister of Norway and Robert Fico, Prime Minister of Slovakia.

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Past 7 pm, President Bachelet arrived at Chequers (Buckinghamshire, southern England), as a guest at a dinner hosted by Prime Minister Gordon Brown in his summer residence. The invitation was extended to all the Heads of State attending the world conference at The Grove Hotel.

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Before the inauguration of The Summit of Progressive Leaders, on Saturday morning, April 5, the Chilean President met in a bilateral with PM Gordon Brown. During half an hour, they talked about the promotion of human rights and justice, economic cooperation, the reduction of poverty and social exclusion.

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The Summit ended with a press conference at The Grove Hotel, hosted by Gordon Brown, who was joined by the entire delegation of world leaders.

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The President's last official event before boarding the plane back to Santiago, was a bilateral meeting with Ms. Helen Clark, the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

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