SANTIAGO, Chile -- President-elect Michelle Bachelet, a socialist who was jailed and tortured by Chile's military junta, began putting together her administration yesterday while promising to give all Chileans a voice, and a better deal.
''Because I was the victim of hatred, I have dedicated my life to reverse that hatred and turn it into understanding, tolerance and -- why not say it -- into love," she said after her victory in Sunday's runoff election against a conservative businessman.
Bachelet, the first woman president in this socially conservative Roman Catholic country, promised ''a new Chile that we will all build," vowing a government that will listen to a broader range of voices and include a lot more women.
She has come to symbolize Chile's reconciliation after the brutal divisions spawned by a bloody 1973 military coup and 17 years of dictatorship under General Augusto Pinochet.
But she insisted yesterday that she is tough enough to deal with hard-charging male colleagues, rejecting suggestions that coalition party leaders would largely name her Cabinet.
''I will make the decisions. I was the one who was elected," she said.
Bachelet received 53 percent of the vote Sunday, against 46 percent for right-leaning Sebastian Pinera, who made a fortune in the credit card business.
As a 22-year-old medical student when Pinochet ousted socialist President Salvador Allende in 1973, Bachelet and her mother were arrested and forced into five years of exile. Her father, an air force officer, opposed the coup and died in prison.
Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz was part of a clerical delegation that met yesterday with Bachelet, a self-described agnostic, and praised her for ''overcoming hatred."
''The success of Mrs. Bachelet would be the success of the entire country," he said.
Bachelet, 54, is only the third woman directly elected president of a Latin American country and the first to do it without rising to prominence because of a husband.
She said she would not bring radical change the country of 16 million people, pledging to ''walk the same road" as the outgoing center-left administration, whose free-market polices helped turn Chile's economy into one of the region's strongest.
The Bush administration sent its congratulations.
''We have an excellent, longstanding relationship with Chile and look forward to working with the new president and her team," Christie Parell, a White House spokeswoman, said.
Bachelet will have a stronger hand than her predecessor because Dec. 11 legislative elections gave her center-left coalition control of a majority in both houses of Congress for the first time since it took power in 1990.
During the campaign, she promised to overhaul labor laws, improve public education, bolster health services, and raise pensions. She also said half of her Cabinet would consist of women.
Bachelet still will face challenges as a female leader, said Patricio Navia, a political scientist at the Universidad Diego Portales.
''People will be harder on her, precisely because she is a woman," he said.
Bachelet, who also campaigned on her reputation as a decisive defense minister, said Sunday that she is accustomed to adversity.
''I have not had an easy life," she told thousands of cheering supporters.