Argentina’s First Woman President-Elect Heralds Changing Attitudes in Latin America

November 02, 2007 04:03 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
As Argentina’s new president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner joins the ranks of women leaders around the world, taking control of an economy still recovering from its 2001 collapse.

30-Second Summary

On Oct. 29, 2007, Cristina Kirchner became the first woman to win an Argentine presidential election.

Technically, Isabel Peron was Argentina’s first woman president, but she was never elected. As vice president to her husband, Juan Peron, Isabel took office in June 1974 after he fell mortally ill.

Kirchner is the second woman in two years to be elected president of a South American nation. The first was the current Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet, who came to power in 2006.

In a region where traditional attitudes toward women are more likely to put them in the kitchen than on the Senate floor, Kirchner’s election underscores Latin America’s changing mores.

The Miami Herald reports that prominent politicians Blanca Ovelar of Paraguay and Dilma Roussef of Brazil are poised to enter their respective countries’ next presidential races.

In addition, the average wages of Latin American women living in urban areas have increased, rising from 70 percent of those of their male counterparts in 1990 to 90 percent in 2007.

And while Kirchner’s election has inevitably drawn comparisons between South America’s rising female politicians and the possibility of a Hillary Clinton White House, the United States lags behind much of the world when it comes to incorporating women in government.

Women only constitute 16.3 percent of the U.S. Congress, compared to 45 percent in Sweden and 49 percent in Rwanda. Fifty-eight women have served as elected prime ministers or presidents worldwide, but only one of those has come from the Northern Hemisphere—Kim Campbell was prime minister of Canada for less than six months in 1993.

Kirchner’s historic presidency faces a number of fiscal hurdles stemming from Argentina’s 2001 economic collapse.

Inflation is on the rise, and the government’s electricity price controls have discouraged utility investments, leading to widespread shortages.

Although Kirchner’s election is a significant step for female politicians worldwide, some analysts believe that her true test will be avoiding another economic crisis in Argentina.

Headline Links: President Kirchner faces economic concerns

Background: Kirchner interviewed, Argentina’s economic collapse, and Isabel Peron’s brief presidency

The Collapse of Argentina’s economy
The presidency of Isabel Peron

Reactions: Argentine media reactions and the status of women in the Americas

The status of women in the Americas

Historical Context: Argentina from colony to nation and the story of Eva Peron

Opinion & Analysis: The implications of Kirchner’s election

The effect on Argentine-U.S. relations
Doubts about Kirchner
Comparing Cristina and Hillary

Related Topics: Powerful women around the world

Michelle Bachelet
Benazir Bhutto
Angela Merkel
Tarja Kaarina Halonen

Reference Material: Cristina Kirchner and the Peronists


Most Recent Beyond The Headlines