Newspaper article International New York Times

A Gender Trend in South America

Newspaper article International New York Times

A Gender Trend in South America

Article excerpt

Analysts say the collective decline of several current and former female leaders in South America points to a persistence of macho attitudes in the region.

In Argentina, former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has been indicted, accused of endangering the nation's finances. In Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, suspended as president, is facing an impeachment trial, and her interim successor has appointed only male ministers. In Chile, President Michelle Bachelet has seen her approval ratings plunge.

What has happened to the powerful women of South America?

Mrs. Kirchner was indicted on Friday, and Ms. Rousseff was suspended by Congress a day earlier, potentially sidelining two of the region's most influential women. With Ms. Bachelet's government also deeply unpopular, some might be tempted to question how advances by women could seemingly be reversed.

The fates of all three leaders contrast sharply with their standing five years ago. In 2011, Ms. Rousseff began her presidency; Mrs. Kirchner won a second consecutive term; and Ms. Bachelet, after completing her first presidential term with approval ratings of more than 80 percent, led a United Nations agency.

Gender, analysts say, is not the cause of the leaders' current problems. But, they add, the collective decline of the three women points to a persistence of macho attitudes in the region, especially within the political establishment.

"There are powerful forces at play that resist these changes," said Sergio Berensztein, a prominent Argentine political commentator, referring to how women had gained and were now losing ground in Latin America's corridors of power.

Mr. Berensztein said the plight of the three leaders should also be considered in the broader context of the crises being endured by incumbent presidents -- both men and women -- across the region. Corruption scandals and a failure to take full advantage of the revenues from commodities like oil, copper and soybeans have led to increased dissatisfaction with those in power. …

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