Student Op-Eds Week in Review

Week in Review: Female Representation in Latin America – An Analysis of Chile and Argentina

Julia Scacchitti, ’15

In its recent history, Latin America has experienced varying levels of female representation within its political systems, with drastically different outcomes occurring among its individual nations. Two countries which have accomplished successful feats of female political empowerment include Chile, and Argentina, who have both elected their first female presidential candidates very recently in their history. An article from this week’s BBC news discussed Chile’s former president Michelle Bachelet’s intention to run for another presidential term in a November poll. She was Chile’s first female president, elected into office in 2006, and served her term until 2010. Since it is mandated within Chilean law that presidents are not able to hold two consecutive terms, Michele Bachelet has come back to campaign for the upcoming presidential term. Since her previous term ended, she has served as head of the United Nation’s gender equality agency, where she continues to promote the equality and independence of women within the United Nations.

Michelle Bachelet left office with a generally optimistic and high approval rating; yet she had received negative approval from her dealings with the earthquake and tsunami in February 2010, where 500 people died and where she was accused of not providing the proper and necessary assistance for the victims of this disaster.

Despite some criticisms, Ms. Bachelet is still considered a strong center-left candidate in the next presidential campaign, in which she will compete against center-right candidate Laurence Golborne, backed by current president Sebastian Pinera. Ms. Bachelet has said that she will announce her official decision to once again run for president by the end of March, demonstrating the increasing influence of women within Latin American politics.

President Cristina Fernandez of Argentina also presents another strong example of the rising trend of female representation and  influence within Latin American politics.  Elected for her second term in October 2011, President Cristina Fernandez has been a strong example of women in leadership within a constantly-changing economy. When elected, polls suggested that the president held a strong 70% approval rating from the general public, and she still garners strong support from the Argentine population.

Unfortunately, economic downturns have resulted in high inflation and increasing unemployment, affecting the previously high levels of support for President Cristina Fernandez. Currently, the president and her economic team have created a proposed payment plan towards Argentina’s defaulting debt, which is estimated at 11 billion dollars. The proposed payment plan is a combination of cash and bonds towards the goal of reducing and managing Argentina’s current debt.

Under President Fernandez and her team of economic experts, Argentina’s foreign debt has been reduced from 166 percent of GDP in 2002 to 46 percent recently, showing signs of improvement, but with much progress still needed. While the president has received various complaints and concerns over the current economic state in Argentina, she still holds an overall high approval rating among the Argentine people.

Both of these women demonstrate positive and meaningful strides towards female independence and equality throughout the political system. These women are strong, influential individuals in Latin American politics who demonstrate key representations of women in successful leadership positions. While they have dealt with various hardships and criticisms throughout their presidencies, they continue to fight for the interests of their people and portray core examples of leadership and understanding within national politics. Their experiences leading dynamic Latin American nations will hopefully contribute to a more positive outlook on women’s representation and equality in developing countries.