The first round of the Chilean presidential elections will happen two weeks from now and you can be sure of one thing: the president will be female. This is a remarkable achievement for a continent known for its macho attitudes. Brazil, Argentina and Costa Rica already have female leaders and Chile is about to join the club – the most likely new addition will be the centre-left’s Michelle Bachelet, who left office in 2006 with record popularity rating (they don’t allow re-elections in Chile). And there are other important female figures on the scene including student leader Camila Vallejo, who is most likely to be elected MP for the Chilean Communist Youth Party. It must be said, all of these female South American leaders are leading largely progressive governments. In Brazil and Argentina for example, gay marriage was approved during Cristina Kirchner and Dilma Rousseff’s terms.
It seems Latin American voters prefer to be governed by women. The continent is no stranger to this: the world’s first female president came from Argentina. I wouldn’t say Isabel Peron was a success or even in charge of a good government but it still counts as some sort of landmark for the continent. Of course there is still a lot to change – the number of female politicians in these countries is still risible, for example – but a formidable standard is set by those at the top. In fact, it seems the trend is continuing: Dilma is still the favourite to win next year’s election in Brazil and according to the polls, the only person who could threaten her is environmentalist Marina Silva, who most likely will not run for president but will still be a very influential figure in the dispute.
I recently interviewed Magda Chambriard, director of the Brazilian Oil agency, and asked how she felt to have female president, a female chief of staff and a woman at the helm of Brazil’s largest company, Petrobras. Her answer: “This is just the beginning.” Oh yes indeed.
While there’s been much discussion in the press over the years concerning what the role of a first lady is, Latin America should start thinking hard about the role of the many first husbands to come.
Fernando Augusto Pacheco is a researcher for Monocle 24