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Lake coma


With visitors generating several billion euros a year in revenue for Peru, the South American nation can ill afford a prime tourist asset to fall sick. Alarm bells have been sounding then in the southeast of the country where Lake Titicaca – the highest navigable lake in the world at 3,800 metres – has been contaminated, reportedly by heavy industry and mining waste. The government has stepped in to clear up the lake with a pen1,350m (€390m) project expected to last six months. The tourism draw of the lakeside city of Puno is also a concern: its Virgin of Candalaria festival was recently added to Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. — ejs

Latin translation

Latin America — POLITICS

It might be known as a bastion of male chauvinism but something interesting is happening in the world of Latin American parliamentary politics. Only Scandinavia has a higher proportion of female lawmakers than the 26.6 per cent average in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to national legislatures umbrella group the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

How did this happen in a region traditionally controlled by dynastic elites? Irune Aguirrezabal, an adviser to UN Women, finds the answer rooted in Latin America’s struggle for democracy during the 1980s and 1990s, when women were at the forefront of the human rights movement. “In Chile, Guatemala, Argentina, Bolivia and Colombia, women workers organised themselves around labour rights and social issues and were active in opposition movements,” she says.

That generation’s activism also paved the way for quotas and other laws aimed at boosting female participation in politics. Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico and Nicaragua all now have either laws or constitutional clauses aiming for gender parity; three of the region’s most important economies – Argentina, Chile and Brazil – have female heads of state.

Yet hurdles remain in a region rife with domestic violence, sexual abuse, job-market inequality and casual sexism. “Women are still almost exclusively responsible for domestic chores and that is a huge brake on equality,” says Lilian Soto, a Paraguayan activist and former presidential candidate. Yet with more female politicians showing who’s boss even the region’s notorious machismo may one day be a thing of the past.

Three to watch

Nadine Heredia
Peru’s first lady is widely seen as both the brains and the backbone of her husband Ollanta Humala’s presidency and is expected to run for the top office in 2021.

María Ángela Holguín
A career diplomat, Colombia’s foreign minister is widely viewed as a safe pair of hands, who could make a future presidential run.

Camila Vallejo
The former youth leader of Chile’s Communist party was a media darling during student protests in 2011. She was elected to Congress last year.

Language, please


A targeted recruitment of Francophones has boosted bilingual service on Air Canada flights after a 2011 report suggested it needed to improve. But although the national flag-carrier has a “Linguistic Action Plan” to make sure services are available in both English and French the country’s commissioner of official languages, Graham Fraser, wants more.

Staff performance reviews don’t consider bilingualism and, in some airports, French-language gate announcements are rare (although flight attendants greet passengers with, “Hello, bonjour”).

Air Canada points out that more than 90 per cent of customers are satisfied with the service in their language, adding that both English and French speakers believe it is improving its bilingual efforts (the carrier was careful to issue its statements in both languages, bien sûr). However, in Canada it can be tough to stay on top of the language rules.

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