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In 1990, less than 5 percent of Latin America’s lawmakers were women. That figure nearly tripled by 2003, according to the Inter-American Development Bank. The numbers of Latinas are also increasing in presidential cabinets, where women occupy 17 percent of ministerial positions, according to the Americas Society. In addition to the three current presidents, a female candidate, Keiko Fujimori, narrowly lost a runoff election for president of Peru in 2011, and a woman may run for president in Mexico in 2012.
Experts say the rise in female lawmakers was fueled by the adoption of quota laws in 12 Latin American countries — including Argentina, Costa Rica, Brazil, Uruguay and the Dominican Republic — that require political parties to field a certain number of female candidates.
Latin America’s women are also becoming better educated and entering the workforce in greater numbers, creating a growing pool of qualified political candidates, says Vivian Roza, coordinator of the Program for the Support of Women’s Leadership and Representation at the Inter-American Development Bank.
Roza attributes Latinas’ success to the quota laws and to Latin America’s aging population: “Older women will likely become a significant voting bloc in Latin American elections, as women live longer than men,” says Roza. “Women are also more likely to vote for female candidates and give more weight to women’s issues in elections.”