This month’s election in Costa Rica gave us another nominee in our Nine Women to Run the World contest, as Laura Chinchilla coasted to victory over her competitors with 46.8 percent of the votes in the country’s multi-party presidential elections. From the Christian Science Monitor:

“It’s a significant moment in Costa Rica’s history, to have a woman president,” Fernando Zeledón, political science professor at the University of Costa Rica, told the Christian Science Monitor. “It’s a new chapter in history.”

In her acceptance speech earlier this month, Chinchilla vowed to make Costa Rica the first developed country in Central America. She affirmed her commitment to making the country carbon-neutral by 2021, and pledged to improve health and citizen safety.

A former vice president and public security minister, Chinchilla gained considerable traction from the support of her predecessor, popular second-term president and Nobel prize-winner Oscar Arias. Costa Rica is notable among Central American nations for its stability and high standard of living, and Chinchilla’s election was widely seen as affirming the current political direction.

Chinchilla’s support among women voters was particularly strong. “Costa Rica is ready for a woman president,” one supporter told the Monitor. “We think she will do a better job with … issues of childcare, single motherhood, and housing.” But women were not alone in this thinking: according a CID-Gallup poll, published last year in La República newspaper, two out of three Costa Ricans stated that they were ready for a woman president.

Chinchilla joins two current women leaders in Latin America: Michelle Bachelet of Chile and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina. With three female heads of state, Latin America is now on par with Europe (whose honor roll includes Angela Merkel in Germany, Jadranka Kosor in Croatia, and Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir in Iceland). And with two women in Brazil—Dilma Rousseff, chief of staff to term-limited Lula da Silva, and Marina Silva, a former environment minister—as possible presidential contenders, there could soon be four women running governments in Latin America.

UN Dispatch cheered the trend, adding that the Council of Women World Leaders had set the region quite low—sixth out of eight—on its regional empowerment list. At, Alex Leff spotlighted another important trend:  Costa Rica’s already-progressive laws on women and politics. “By law, women must make up 40 percent of a party’s seats in the Legislative Assembly, and by 2014, the law mandates a 50-50 split. That’s well above the world average,” Leff wrote. “As of 2008, women occupied 18 percent of parliamentary seats worldwide, according to the International Women’s Democracy Center. Parties also are obligated to include at least one women on the ballot for their executive branch bids, whether for one of the two vice presidencies or the presidency.”

And what other country, far from Latin America, is also getting into the women’s leadership mix? Believe it or not, Bulgaria.

With Latin America catching up to Europe on women’s leadership and even Bulgaria scrambling to join the race, we hope to see some good news on the next fact sheet from the nonprofit White House Project , which works to create the same reality in the United States. Until that project succeeds and we have our own woman in the Oval Office, we’ll just have to settle for a pretty effective Secretary of State—one who includes women’s human rights at every opportunity.

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