Latin American political dynasties
Kin selection

When family replaces party

KEIKO FUJIMORI'S unique selling point in Peru's presidential election (see article) is her surname. In 1990, when she was 15, her father, Alberto Fujimori, won the presidency and stayed for ten years. Despite his many faults, Mr Fujimori, who is now in jail for corruption and human-rights abuses, retains the support of some Peruvians, who credit him with defeating the Maoist terrorists of the Shining Path. The family political brand helped Ms Fujimori get more votes than any other candidate for Peru's Congress in 2006. Now she hopes it will take her to the presidency.

She is part of a growing Latin American trend for politics to become a family affair. In Argentina Cristina Fernández succeeded her husband, Néstor Kirchner, as president in 2007. Until his sudden death last October he had been expected to try to take back the presidential sash at an election this year. If Ms Fernández opts to run again, her son will be among her political advisers. Her opponents will probably include Ricardo Alfonsín, whose father was president in the 1980s.

Kinship may also be a feature of Guatemala's presidential vote in September. The first lady, Sandra Torres, has chosen an expedient divorce to try to sidestep a constitutional ban on the candidacy of presidential relatives. The same section of the constitution may raise problems for one of her possible opponents, Zury Ríos Montt, whose father was a military dictator.

Conjugal succession is also a threat in Nicaragua. Had Daniel Ortega not got himself illegally on to this year's ballot to seek a third term, his wife might have run in his stead. There is talk in the Dominican Republic that Leonel Fernández, who is nearing the end of his third term, may seek to be followed by his spouse.

In Costa Rica Rodrigo Arias, the brother of a two-term president, has declared his candidacy for 2014. After a fraternal fallout over unproven corruption claims in Ecuador, Fabricio Correa threatens to run in the next election against his brother Rafael, the president. Then there is Cuba, where Fidel Castro passed power to his brother Raúl in 2006. Some observers believe that Raúl in turn wants to use this month's congress of the ruling Communist Party to anoint his son-in-law, Colonel Luis Alberto Rodríguez, as his successor.

In Latin America's democracies presidential relatives benefit, in part, simply from name recognition at the polls. That job used to be done by political parties, but in many countries these have weakened. Less benign factors are at work as well. Presidential relatives may profit from the power of incumbency. And family businesses have long been the norm in Latin America, from mighty conglomerates to street stalls. In a few cases, it looks worryingly as if politics has become the latest such business.