South America News


Women in Latin America are more at risk than men of losing their jobs and not returning to work due to the coronavirus crisis, experts said on Tuesday, calling on governments to adopt measures to assist women in low-paid jobs.

Women dominate the low-paid and informal sectors hardest hit by weeks of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, with massive job losses as the pandemic rages through Latin America, experts said in a webinar hosted by the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington-based think tank.

Latina candidates are being left behind as California boardrooms add more women, even though Hispanics are the largest and fastest-growing ethnic group in the state.

Latina directors were appointed to only 3.3% of new board seats over the last 17 months as the companies scrambled to add women to meet a new state requirement that public boards have at least one female director by the end of last year, according to an analysis released Monday by the Latino Corporate Directors Association. White women gained the largest share, at 78%, the data showed.

“When you’re sitting in a boardroom, sometimes they’ll say, we need to have some minorities, but sometimes that doesn’t mean Hispanics, and when they say women, sometimes that doesn’t mean Hispanic,” said Maria Contreras-Sweet, a director at Sempra Energy and Regional Management Corp. and former head of the Small Business Administration under President Barack Obama. “It has to be intentional because it’s easy to still make diversity goals and leave Latinas out.”

California lawmakers passed the bill in 2018 requiring all public companies based in the state to have at least one female director by the end of 2019. On Monday, the state is expected to publish the first official list of companies that failed to comply. They each face a fine of $100,000 and will have to pay three times that amount if they’re still in violation by the end of this year. At the end of 2021, the requirement rises to three women on most boards for California public companies.

Companies based in California have added 511 women since the state passed the new quota law, with only 17 Latina women among the group, the data found. White women gained 398 seats, Asian women were selected for 59 and black women picked up 27 seats, Latino Corporate Directors found.

The percentage of women added who are black was about the same as the percentage of black residents in California; the percentage of women added who are Asian was slightly below Asians’ share of the state population. Latinas’ 3.3% share of the new seats for women lags far behind Hispanics’ 39% share of California. By 2060, Hispanics are projected to make up about half the state’s population.

As big investors such as BlackRock and State Street Global Advisors have been pushing companies to add more women to boards, fewer initiatives have focused specifically on people of color. There are no regulatory requirements in Europe or the U.S. to add people of color in the boardroom or the C-suite. Five European companies have gender quotas for boards. Women of color made up only 4.6% of directors of Fortune 500 boards, with white woman holding 17.9%, a January study by researcher Catalyst found.

Three-quarters of the 116 Fortune 1000 companies in the state have no Latino directors, the study found. Among those 116 companies, 98.9% have no Latina directors. A big factor is that Hispanics lack access to capital to start businesses, and that reduces their power in the market, said Contreras-Sweet, who also was California’s secretary of business, transportation and housing from 1999 to 2003.

“When one in two high school graduates in California is Hispanic, you have to include Hispanics, or you’re not really reflecting your marketplace,” Contreras-Sweet said. “You can’t rely on the idea that, over time, we will get there. You have to be very intentional and remind people about this.”

Source: Bloomberg

Bolivian opposition senator Jeanine Áñez has declared herself interim president of the South American country following Evo Morales’ resignation.

Ms Áñez said she was next in line under the constitution and vowed to hold elections soon.

Her appointment was endorsed by Bolivia’s Constitutional Court.

Lawmakers from Mr Morales’ party boycotted the session, and the former president branded Ms Áñez “a coup-mongering right-wing senator”.

Mr Morales has fled to Mexico, saying he asked for asylum there because his life was in danger.

He resigned on Sunday after weeks of protests over a disputed presidential election result. He has said he had been forced to stand down but had done so willingly “so there would be no more bloodshed”.

How did the senator become interim president?

Ms Áñez, 52, is a qualified lawyer and a fierce critic of Mr Morales. She was previously director of the Totalvision TV station, and has been a senator since 2010, representing the region of Beni in the National Assembly.

As the deputy Senate leader, Ms Áñez took temporary control of the body on Tuesday after Bolivia’s vice-president and the leaders of the senate and lower house resigned.

That put her next in line for the presidency under the constitution.

The parliamentary session to appoint Ms Áñez was boycotted by lawmakers from Mr Morales’ leftist Movement for Socialism party, who said it was illegitimate.

“Before the definitive absence of the president and vice president… as the president of the Chamber of Senators, I immediately assume the presidency as foreseen in the constitutional order,” Ms Áñez said to applause from opposition lawmakers.

Bolivia’s highest constitutional court backed her assumption of power.

Writing on Twitter from Mexico, Mr Morales condemned the “sneakiest, most nefarious coup in history”.

How did we get here?

Mr Morales, a former coca farmer, was first elected in 2006, the country’s first leader from the indigenous community.

He won plaudits for fighting poverty and improving Bolivia’s economy but drew controversy by defying constitutional limits to run for a fourth term in October’s election.

Pressure had been growing on him since contested election results suggested he had won outright in the first round. The result was called into question by the Organization of American States, a regional body, which had found “clear manipulation” and called for the result to be annulled.

In response, Mr Morales agreed to hold fresh elections. But his main rival, Carlos Mesa – who came second in the vote – said Mr Morales should not stand in any new vote.

The chief of the armed forces, Gen Williams Kaliman, then urged Mr Morales to step down in the interests of peace and stability.

Announcing his resignation, Mr Morales said he had taken the decision in order to stop fellow socialist leaders from being “harassed, persecuted and threatened”.

He fled to Mexico as unrest erupted on the streets of the Bolivian administrative capital, La Paz, with angry supporters of the socialist leader clashing with security forces.

After arriving in Mexico City on Tuesday, he thanked Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, whom he credited with saving his life.

“While I have life I’ll stay in politics, the fight continues. All the people of the world have the right to free themselves from discrimination and humiliation,” he said.

Source: BBC

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) welcomed a contribution of US$4.5 million from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), which will support rural women in areas affected by the conflict in Colombia.

The funds will help to promote rural women’s economic independence and boost crop productivity. In collaboration with the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, WFP will support 45 associations of smallholder farmers affected by the internal conflict. WFP aims to assist 1,860 families or 7,440 people in the departments of Cauca, Chocó, Nariño and Valle del Cauca.

“The Republic of Korea’s support will have a positive and transformative impact on the lives of women, helping them to achieve food security in a sustainable manner,” said WFP Country Director in Colombia, Carlo Scaramella. “Korea is a key partner of WFP’s work on the triple nexus of humanitarian assistance, development and peacebuilding.”

The project contributes to the broader implementation of the Peace Agreement, which prioritizes sustainable rural reform. It is aligned with WFP’s Strategic Plan, supporting the Colombian Government’s development and peacebuilding efforts by assisting those most vulnerable.

In Colombia, family and community agriculture accounts for 74 percent of rural workers, generates 50 percent of agricultural employment and produces 70 percent of the national agricultural output.

In 2018, WFP carried out technical assistance activities among 105 farmers associations, linking more than 11,000 smallholder farmers to markets in eight departments.

Source: relief web

Not long ago, in 2014, Latin America had four female presidents: Laura Chinchilla in Costa Rica, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in Argentina, Dilma Rousseff in Brazil and Michelle Bachelet in Chile. Today, there are none, and leaders in the region are pushing for more women to secure top leadership positions so that gains in the political arena are not lost.

Three female Latin American leaders — Peruvian Vice President Mercedes Aráoz, Honduran Vice President Olga Alvarado and Bogota Councilwoman Angela Garzón — spoke on the issue Friday at Ana. G. Mendez University in Miami. They shared their experiences as women in politics and analyzed advances and setbacks of gender in leadership roles throughout international organizations, and national and local governments.

Though there are currently no female heads of state in Latin America, there are several vice presidents and there is an increase of women in parliamentary bodies.

“The empowerment of women must be permanent. It is everyone’s responsibility to achieve that true equity that our peoples are claiming, because that hope is required in Latin America and women have come to stay and mark a different story, bring hope,” Alvarado said.

Aráoz and Garzón highlighted the need for more women leaders so that gains in the political arena are not lost.

“There is a setback, but I think there is also a process of reform of political systems, because political systems exclude women a lot. There has also been a contamination by corruption issues. We have to work on a paradigmatic change in the political structures and in how the political parties participate so that they help train women in politics, representing society,” Aráoz said.

“Women should educate themselves as leaders, this is how we will avoid setbacks. Participation must continue to grow, we must continue to break paradigms,” Garzón added.

Over the past two decades there has been the implementation of policies in the region that has influenced a growing support and acceptance of women in leadership positions.

“Women entered national congresses thanks to gender quotas. Quotas have stimulated an increase of women’s participation in national leadership. I think there this is a good mechanism, although adjustments have to be done in order to get more participation and gender equality,” Aráoz said.

Aráoz explained that the region has developed laws and social policies to address vulnerable sectors of the population which include women. She sees an improvement in some areas but recognizes that the gender gap persists.

“Women’s progress still needs more mechanisms to sustain and expand female representation. There is still a significant gap in terms of salary and responsibilities. Today a woman has access to better jobs, but because there is inequality in the domestic front, in terms of housework and taking care of the children, now she has much more to do, like two jobs,”Aráoz said.

Garzón said there must be an increase in women’s role in politics and their success in seeking leadership positions at the highest levels.

“In Colombia, we have already many good laws. It is necessary to take action. Women are struggling to conquer and advance to achieve parity. In terms of laws, we have made progress, but moving from paper to reality is a challenge at this time”, said Garzón, who also aspires to the be the first female mayor of Bogota.

Garzón highlighted the importance of equal education for boys and girls as a way to transform the region.

“It worries how some girls in our region do not go to school, they are taught to do housework since they are very little. Empowerment starts from when you are a child, you must become familiar with concepts of respect and equality from a young age”, the councilwoman said.

Political Crisis in Venezuela

Aráoz said Venezuelan women play an important role in the struggle for democracy in their country.

“María Corina Machado and Lilian Tintori, are examples of very brave women. There are also many Venezuelan women leaders in our countries, leading movements and marches of Venezuelans. I believe that women have played an important role, many have seen their partners taken as prisoners and have taken the lead. That equates men and women in the struggle for freedom and democracy. It is a very great legacy that these women are going to leave to the future Venezuelan generations,” she said.

She reiterated Peru’s support for National Assembly President Juan Guaidó, an opposition leader who declared himself president of Venezuela in place of President Nicolas Maduro.

“We have recognized President Guaidó. We support him in his efforts to restore democracy in that country. In Venezuela there is a humanitarian catastrophe. In just one year, Peru received 600,000 Venezuelans escaping from a situation where there is hunger, lack of medicines and huge inflation,” Aráoz said.

“We support the restoration of true democracy. Not to a usurper as is the case of Mr. Maduro. He has made fraudulent elections, without observers, without clear mechanisms, ” she added.

Garzón also opted for the reestablishment of democracy in Venezuela.

“Colombia has received thousands and thousands of Venezuelans. We have been in solidarity with them and we will continue to be, but the first thing is to fight for the restoration of democracy in that country. We recognized Guaidó as the legitimate president in charge of Venezuela and we will continue to support him.

Source: UPI