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Michelle Bachelet, socialist ex-president of Chile, is tapped for UN human rights post

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Michelle Bachelet was nominated this week to head the U.N. human rights agency.

Michelle Bachelet was nominated this week to head the U.N. human rights agency.  (AP, File)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has nominated socialist ex-President Michelle Bachelet of Chile to be the next human rights chief, the U.N. said Wednesday.

Spokesman Farhan Haq said that Guterres has informed the General Assembly of the nomination for high commissioner of human rights.

Bachelet served as president of Chile twice, from 2006-10 and from 2014-18. Between those terms, she was executive director of the U.N body for gender equality and the empowerment of women.

The pick came after High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein chose not to seek another term in office. Zeid was known for his fiery rhetoric, particularly against President Trump, who he once compared to the Islamic State.

The U.S. has been pushing back against what it sees as anti-Israel and anti-U.S. bias at the U.N. Last month, the U.S. announced its withdrawal from the Human Rights Council -- with Ambassador Nikki Haley deriding it as a “cesspool of political bias.” While the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) and the HRC are separate bodies, they work together in promoting the U.N.’s agenda on human rights.

Haley reacted to the nomination by saying that it was incumbent on Bachelet to "avoid the failures of the past."

"The UN has failed to adequately address major human rights crises in Iran, North Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and elsewhere, or stop its chronic, disproportionate obsession with Israel," she said in a statement. "It is up to Ms. Bachelet to speak out against these failures rather than accept the status quo. We hope that she does. The United States will."

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Bachelet ended her first term as president with high approval ratings and a strong economy. But her second term was marred by allegations of corruption and a sluggish economy -- sending her approval ratings plummeting.

A Wall Street Journal op-ed this year described her as leaving behind “a legacy of economic malaise.”

Former Obama-era U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power reacted to initial reports of Bachelet’s pick with approval, calling her a “strong choice” and noting that she and her family were persecuted under dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Strong choice. In addition to being a successful two-term president and experienced w/in @UN, Bachelet has a lifelong commitment to the cause of human rights. Her father was tortured under Pinochet & died in custody. She and her mom were also arrested and beaten. She’s a fighter https://t.co/aWhCtWmpgF

— Samantha Power (@SamanthaJPower) August 8, 2018

“In addition to being a successful two-term president and experienced w/in @UN, Bachelet has a lifelong commitment to the cause of human rights. Her father was tortured under Pinochet & died in custody. She and her mom were also arrested and beaten,” she said. “She’s a fighter.”

But U.N. Watch, an independent monitoring group based in Switzerland, expressed “serious concerns” about what it called her “spotty” record on supporting human rights in countries such as Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

"There's no question that the former Chilean president is a highly educated and intelligent politician, who also brings important negotiating skills," said Executive Director Hillel Neuer in a statement. "But she has a controversial record when it comes to her support for the human rights abusing governments who rule Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, and we need to know how she plans to address these urgent situations before her nomination is voted upon."

U.N. Watch cited a controversial visit by Bachelet to Cuba this year, where she met Raul Castro without also meeting any members of the opposition.

The organization also said that she praised deceased Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez for “his most profound love for his people and the challenges of our region to eradicate poverty and generate a better life for everyone and his profound love for Latin America.”

Bachelet’s nomination will now go to the U.N. General Assembly for approval.

Fox News' Ben Evansky contributed to this report.

Adam Shaw is a reporter covering U.S. and European politics for Fox News.. He can be reached here.

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