|Candidates Marina Silva and Dilma Rousseff, who appear headed toward a run-off for Brazil's next presidential term.|
|Chilean Pres. Michelle Bachelet, right, and conservative |
candidate Evelyn Matthei during this
year's presidential election, which Bachelet won.
And Argentina, the nation separating Brazil and Chile, is also ruled by a woman, altho Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is the political heir of her deceased husband, the former president Néstor Kirchner. (Is this the first-time ever that three contiguous nations were ruled by women?)
And, several Central American and Caribbean nations are also ruled by women.
While women leaders are still a marked minority in Latin America, their numbers seem dramatic for a region in which women have only been able to vote - much less run for office - for less than a century. In Chile and Brazil the first women obtained the vote in the early 1930s and in Argentina in 1949. Colombian women were only given the right to vote in 1954 - ironically, by a dictator.
The three female-headed nations make up 25% of South America's 12 nations - altho much more of
|Argentine Pres. Cristina |
For its part, Colombia has never had a female president. But several women have been seen as contenders in recent elections, and in this year's presidential vote two women - a leftist and a rightist - each won a respectable 15% of the vote.
Why has South America, whose macho, Catholic culture has not traditionally been seen as particularly progressive on women's issues, become something of a leader for female leaders? Part of the answer might just be chance. Three, after all, is a small sample size. And Argentina's Kirchner came to power on the coattails of her husband Nestor, who has since died.
As for Brazil's Rousseff and Chile's Bachelet, it's hard to ignore the fact that both were political dissidents persecuted by their nations' dictatorships. But what THAT means, I'm not sure. After all, most persecuted political dissidents were likely male.
As a minimum, these women's political victories make clear that Latin culture does not throw insurmountable obstacles in the way of women politicians. Now, it's up to these women leaders to leave behind real accomplishments to ease the path for future women politicians.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours