Search
  • juaren3

Women in Latin American Politics


It’s ironic that Americans borrow the word “macho” or “machista” from Spanish to put down hyper-masculine guys. Its use suggests that Latinos have an anti-feminist streak. But let’s look at whether this trait that we ascribe to them affects how they choose their leaders. With the 2019 U. S. elections concluded, the upcoming December 19th th Democratic Party debate is the next milestone in the U. S. presidential electoral cycle. With two women (Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar) already qualified to participate, the issues of the electability of a woman presidential candidate and the accompanying politics of gender discrimination are once again front and center. Notwithstanding Russian interference and voter suppression during Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful 2016 presidential campaign, recurring negative opinions about woman’s leadership qualities — too soft, too lacking in authority, too conciliatory, and too consensus driven — all conform to the “soft power” stereotype of female leaders. Given those issues about the unsuccessful Hilary Clinton candidacy, it is useful to briefly consider the electoral successes of women in the politics of the Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries in the Western Hemisphere. To begin, one of the greatest paradoxes of Latin American societies today is that in those countries which have the highest levels of violence against women and the greatest numbers of adolescent pregnancies, women have achieved the most extraordinary levels of political participation of any area of the world. While the United States has yet to elect a woman to the presidency, since 1974, ten women have been chosen by their electorates as presidents of their respective Latin American countries. Three of those presidents, María Cristina de Kirchner (Argentina), Dilma Rouseff (Brazil), and Michelle Bachelet (Chile), were re-elected to serve second terms to their nation’s highest office. Two of these women ran successful re-election campaigns against opposition candidates who were also women. It goes without saying that there is no parallel in the United States presidential politics of two women as the standard bearers of the leading political parties. Not only have women received the approbation of their nations’ electorate for the presidency of their countries, women have played and continue to play significant roles in prestige cabinet positions traditionally considered masculine domains. In twentieth and twenty-first century Latin American politics, women have exercised power as Ministers of Agriculture, Ministers of Commerce, Ministers of Defense, Foreign Ministers, and Finance Ministers; as well as leaders of their nations’ legislative bodies. One surprising and decidedly un-American explanation for the increasing presence of woman in positions of power in congressional bodies in the Americas south of the Rio Grande has been the adoption of gender quotas. These are statutory mechanisms — typically laws or constitutional amendments — that require women to make up a certain percentage of candidates put forth by the various political parties. Such quotas are now used in the majority of Latin American countries. This past October was also no exception for high profile elections of women in Latin American politics. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, forbidden by law from running for a third consecutive term as President, ran on a different party ticket, the Frente de Todos (All Parties Front) and was elected Argentina’s Vice President. In an even more attention getting election, Claudia López, candidate of the Alianza Verde (Green Alliance Party) was chosen mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, the second largest city in Spanish-speaking Latin America. López is not only the first woman mayor of this economically vibrant and socially conservative city, she is the first openly gay woman and environmentalist elected to that post, considered after the presidency of Colombia to be the second most important elected office in Colombia. López thus joins another Claudia, Claudia Sheinbaum, elected last July as the first woman mayor of Mexico City, the sprawling, largest city of the Spanish-speaking world, as having two of the most high level leadership roles in their respective countries. Women in the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking Americas have affected a societal sea change in the politics of their countries. If traditional male dominance of political norms regarding the highest political offices of power and authority can successfully be challenged in these historically patriarchal and authoritarian societies surely a new generation of the American electorate should be able to understand that exclusion of women from the presidency is inconsistent and incompatible with today’s globalized world


1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Haitian Refugees and the Darién Gap

It is hard, if not impossible for anyone who has not ventured into the southern border area between Panamá and Colombia to fully appreciate the audacity, fortitude and resourcefulness of the Haitian r

VERDOLAGA: A WEED BY ANOTHER NAME

David was standing next to his truck at the entrance of our gravel driveway. I waved and walked toward him to exchange our usual morning greetings and spend a few minutes talking. As I was approachin