Dilma, Cristina, Michelle and Hillary

Women Presidents of the AmericasIf there are any contemporaries to whom Hillary Clinton can be compared, they would be Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina and Michelle Bachelet of Chile.

They all succeeded their immediate male partisan predecessors: in Dilma’s case, the hugely consequential Lula da Silva of Brazil, both of the Workers’ Party; in CFK’s case, her husband Nestor Kirchner, both of the Peronist Justicialist Party; in Michelle’s first case, her predecessor Ricardo Lagos, both from the Coalition of Parties for Democracy. Hillary is on course to do the same with Barack Obama, both of the Democratic Party.

Dilma, Michelle and CFK, all left-leaning but much too economically-neoliberal-leaning to those further to the left, led problematic administrations and made fateful decisions which have inspired free-market-liberal backlash, and were the first, first and second female heads of state for their countries, respectively.

The decisions of Dilma, a social progressive who tacks to the free market, happened during a steep economic decline for Brazil but also tamped down on World Cup-related working-class protest, which did not endear her to the Workers Party’s base or target demographic. She has now been suspended awaiting impeachment for unclarified, politicized charges of corruption (which also await the majority of the Brazilian Congress) and sits under house arrest, and her ambitious former VP from a different, further-right party (the PMDB) now faces his own protests for corruption, racism and the ongoing recession in the America’s “sleeping giant”.

Meanwhile CFK’s decisions tacked harder to the populist left, particularly on Argentina’s long-running default to foreign investors. She was socially progressive, especially on LGBT rights. She herself faced scrutiny for an ability to play political, Louisiana-style hardball with her opponents in very problematic, colorful ways. She saw many political enemies, and faced criticism for corruption, poor relations with the press, and a face off with the agricultural sector. She was also suspected of being “controlled” by her husband until he himself died from cancer in 2010. CFK’s administration lasted much longer than the first woman to hold such office, Isabel Peron; Isabel, who was Juan Peron’s third wife and was the first female republican head of state in the world from 1974 to 1976, inherited a very problematic, economically-undermined administration which resulted in the coup of 1976 and her ongoing exile to Spain.

And Michelle Bachelet, a social progressive who is currently serving her second non-consecutive term as president (as per the constitution), is currently facing a low popularity level due to both an ongoing economic recession as well as a corruption scandal involving her family members (but not herself). Pro-LGBT, pro-women’s equality, openly identifying herself as a socialist in a country which was once ran by Augusto Pinochet and, like Brazil and Argentina, subjected to the bloody Plan Condor/La Guerra Sucia, Michelle came into office with an equal number of women and men in her cabinet.

Dilma, CFK, Michelle. All the few or first women to hold a presidency in the Americas. All center-left and progressive. All complicated, consequential, recent republican heads of state in the Americas who eventually get blamed for recession and/or corruption. All partisan inheritors of their highly-popular immediate male predecessors in office who end up defining themselves and striking it big for women’s equality in government. All held up to standards which demand less of men than of women.

Hillary, as president, may find herself in company populated by recent presidents of the other large nations of the Americas.

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