A Woman's Way for Bolivia
By Nora Boustany
Bolivian Ambassador Marlene Fernandez del Granado resigned Sunday and
announced her long-shot candidacy for vice president, signaling the determination
women to participate in the country's politics at the highest levels. Fernandez, a former television journalist, said Bolivia was at a turning point in its history and she
had certain issues she wanted to put on the national agenda.
One of Bolivia's small parties will nominate her -- as is required by
law for her to appear on the ballot -- but she said she was determined
to run as an independent in
the June 30 elections. She will become the first female politician in Bolivia to try her luck in the race for vice president.
During her 10-year career as a reporter with CNN in the United States,
Fernandez said, she listened to the complaints and demands of ordinary
people. "I want to
see if I can translate such demands into new policies in this century," she said in an interview. Living in the United States, she said, has given her "a vision that is
different and taught me to appreciate values that transcend any kind of prejudice, whether based on class, ethnicity or religion."
Fernandez said she intends not only to articulate the needs ofthe 52
percent of Bolivia's population who are women, but also to try to carve
out a more distinct and
strategic role for her country in Latin America.
"We want to develop a niche in which Bolivia matters," she said. "It
is a country that has tried to do the right thing at an incredible cost
to the ordinary man or woman
on the street." She was talking about her compatriots' fight against drugs.
Bolivia is poor and in some ways worse off because of the forces of
globalization, Fernandez said. "What we would like is to push for open
markets and to make
globalization work for us," she said.
The country's elections are always won by the major political parties,
which end up forming some kind of coalition, she explained. She was adamant
that she would
"not join any party," but would do what her experience has taught her: "I am just going to talk." She was offered -- and declined -- the chance to run for the senate or
the lower house. According to Fernandez, the standing excuse of politicians for notnominating women to senior office has always been, "If there was one that is
capable, we would."
"We do not want to negotiate about our abilities. We are doing it. Women
need to have their own voice," she insisted. "I would like to work as part
of a team of
concerned independent civilians, not as a caudillo [military strongman], which has been the practice," Fernandez said.
If she does not win election, she will probably return to her original
calling as a journalist, said the Boston University graduate, who began
her career with United
Press International in 1985. Fernandez is married to an American, Scott Bartlett, and they have a son. She leaves Washington in 10 days.