Monday, January 10, 2011

Women in Latin America and Guatemala

Earlier this month, much of the world turned its attention to Brazil for the inauguration of the country's first woman president, Dilma Rousseff .  Rousseff joined Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica and Cristina Kirchner of Argentina as one of the region's three female heads of state in Latin America.

Today, the region ranks second only to Nordic Europe in terms of the percentage of women elected to parliamentary-level positions as seen in the figure above.  While not democratic, Cuba counts an even larger share of female representatives with 43%.

It's possible that Sandra Colom de Torres or Zury Rios Montt will join the ranks of Latin American heads of state later this year, but even if neither of them does, Guatemala had made important strides in recent weeks as it relates to women occupying positions of power.  In the last few weeks, women were appointed to the critical positions of Public Prosecutor and Comptroller General.
Claudia Paz y Paz was named Public Prosecutor and head of the Public Ministry for four years and will be in charge of the agency for criminal investigation and prosecution, while Nora Segura is the new Comptroller General, with a five-year term and will be in charge of auditing government expenditures, beginning with the 2011 budget, of 6.8 billion dollars.
Paz y Paz and Segura join Blanca Stalling who President Colom reappointed as director of the Criminal Public Defense Institute, an institution that oversees the legal defense of accused criminals, and Heydi Gordillo, the secretary of the National Council for Migrant Services.

While these are important appointments, women unfortunately still comprise only 12% of Congress and 2% of the country's mayors (as of 2009).  In addition to the relative and absolute low number of female elected officials, Guatemala remains one of the most dangerous countries in in the world when it comes to violence against women. 

El Periodico has a followup on the death of Emilia Margarita Quan Staackmann, a young thirty-three year old anthropologist killed in Huehuetenango last month (see here).  Quan was one of 838 women killed under violent circumstances in Guatemala last year. According to CONAPREVI, violence against women has increased each of the last ten years in the country and they fear that the numbers will continue to rise.


  1. Colon de Torres? Shouldn't it be Torres de Colon?

  2. Sorry about that. You're right - it's Torres de Colom (Sandra Torres Casanova de Colom).

    Thanks for catching that typo.