By Libby Leyden-Sussler
There are more women in political office in Latin America than on any other continent. Yet the continent’s traditional patriarchal structure limits possibilities for further advances. Despite this, strides are being made as certain women are progressing in their respected fields. In the article from our Spring 2014 issue, “Latin American Women Take the Helm,” Silvia Viñas explains how Latin America can look to successful examples in the region to propel more women into the political sphere. In a follow up blog post, World Policy Journal features 10 Latin American women to watch in 2014.
Puente is a center-left politician in Peru, a former presidential candidate and in municipal elections in 2010 became the first woman to be elected Mayor of Lima. She is also vice-president of the Social Force Decentralization Party (FS). She boasts extensive experience in public administration and social work organizations. She was also a successful minister of Women in the Transitional Government.
Cuellar, a Colombian political scientist and diplomat, is currently serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Colombia that served as the 25th Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations and Colombia Ambassador to Venezuela during President Alvaro Uribe Velez’s first term. Other notable positions she has held include the Head of the Cabinet of the Vice-President of the Republic from 2006 to 2008, as well as Coordinator of the Committee of International Affairs in the Presidential Campaign of Alvaro Uribe-Velez (2001-2002).
Stolbizer is a prominent politician and lawyer in Argentina. She represented the Argentina Congress in the 2002 conference of Parliamentarians for Global Action in Stockholm and named VP of their international council. She also formed the Generation for a National Encounter (GEN). She led her GEN party into Carrio’s Civic Coalition, which grew into the largest opposition to Nestor and Cristina Kirchner’s ruling Front for Victory.
The CEO of Petrobra-Petroleo Brasil (Brazil’s state-controlled oil company), Foster became the first woman in the world to head a major oil-and-gas company. In 2012, she was listed as one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. A chemical engineer by training, she joined Petrobra and has been there for more than 30 years. Her tireless work habits earned her the nickname “Caveirao,” slang for the armored cars Brazilian police use to clear out slums.
Ibarra serves as the United Nations Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). Previously she served in the Government of Mexico as the first Vice-Minister of Ecology and as Director-General of the National Institute of Fisheries. She then went on to be Deputy Executive Secretary of ECLAC. She has focused on public policies for sustainable development with particular reference to the linkages between environment, economy and social issues.
The wife of former President Manuel Zelaya, Castro was a leader of the movement resisting the 2009 Honduran coup d’etat that would later oust her husband from power prematurely. She organized the women’s branch of the Liberal Party of Honduras in 2004. As First Lady of Honduras, Castro was in charge of social development programs and she worked with the UN in coalition with other first ladies to address issues faced by women with HIV/AIDS. She was most recently a candidate for the 2013 Honduran presidential election representing the left-wing Libre Party.
Miranda became the first female president of Costa Rica, making her the 6th woman to be elected president of a Latin American country. Prior to being elected as president, Chinchilla worked as an NGO consultant in Latin America and Africa specializing in judicial reform and public security issues. Chinchilla gained her first public office in 1994, when she became vice minister of public security under President Jose Maria Figueres Olsen of the National Liberation Party.
Dresser is a Mexican political analyst, writer, and university professor. She is currently a faculty member of the Department of Political Science at the Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico (ITAM) as well a member on the board of the Human Rights Commission for Mexico City. An author of numerous publications on Mexican politics and U.S.-Mexico relations, she has published articles in the Journal of Democracy, Current History, Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics and Foreign Policy.
Olivera is an Uruguayan professor and politician belonging to the Communist Party of Uruguay. She has served as Deputy Minister of Social Development during the government of Tabare Vazquez.
Fernández is the current president of Argentina. She is the second woman to serve as president of Argentina (after Isabel Martinez de Peron) and the first woman to be re-elected. Between 1995 and 2007, she was repeatedly elected to the Argentine National Congress, both as a National Deputy and as National Senator.