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  • Publication Date: 07-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The accelerating deterioration of Venezuela’s political crisis is cause for growing concern. The collapse in 2014 of an incipient dialogue between government and opposition ushered in growing political instability. With legislative elections due in December, there are fears of renewed violence. But there is a less widely appreciated side of the drama. A sharp fall in real incomes, major shortages of essential foods, medicines and other basic goods and breakdown of the health service are elements of a looming social crisis. If not tackled decisively and soon, it will become a humanitarian disaster with a seismic impact on domestic politics and society, and on Venezuela’s neighbours. This situation results from poor policy choices, incompetence and corruption; however, its gravest consequences can still be avoided. This will not happen unless the political deadlock is overcome and a fresh consensus forged, which in turn requires strong engagement of foreign governments and multilateral bodies.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, Health, Food, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Latin America
  • Author: Juan Andrés Moraes
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Kellogg Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Polarization has been always identified as a problem for Latin American democracies. Yet its determinants remain largely undertheorized and without systematic evidence. This paper tackles this shortcoming with a new explanation where polarization is conceptualized as a mobilizational tool used by parties to deliver unequivocal signals to voters about their location in the policy space. The explanation holds that Parties’ strategies depend on the electoral context in which they compete, making volatility a crucial indicator of their behavior. Low-volatility contexts inhibit parties from seeking polarization due to potential electoral punishments by voters and the internal costs of programmatic change within the party organization. High volatility, however, increases the risk of electoral survival, decreasing the costs of seeking polarization. Here, volatility makes polarization more likely. Using time-series cross-sectional regression analysis for eighteen Latin American countries for 1995–2010, this paper provides robust statistical results to support the causal link between electoral volatility and polarization.
  • Topic: Democratization, Demographics, Political Economy, Governance
  • Political Geography: Latin America
  • Author: Fabrice Lehoucq
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Kellogg Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: This paper analyzes the impact of civil war on regime change. It focuses on Central America, a region where several countries underwent transitions to democracy in the wake of civil war during the second half of the twentieth century. It argues that armed conflict, not increasing levels of economic development, led to political change. Violence liquidated stubbornly resilient autocracies in El Salvador and Nicaragua, catalyzed the democratization of Costa Rican politics, and was the backdrop to regime liberalization in Guatemala. Postwar negotiations, at a time when Cold War bipolarity was ending, led to the establishment of more open, civilian regimes on the isthmus. This paper also notes that the transition from autocracy was enormously costly in both lives and economic well-being, which helps to explain why political change has given birth to low-quality democracies or mixed regimes on the isthmus, ones that also have witnessed the explosion of criminal and drug-related violence.
  • Topic: Civil War, Crime, Democratization, Development, Regime Change, Narcotics Trafficking
  • Political Geography: Latin America
  • Author: Mariana Llanos, Alexander Stroh, Cordula Tibi Weber, Charlotte Heyl
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: German Institute of Global and Area Studies
  • Abstract: This paper assesses the extent to which elected power holders informally intervene in the judiciaries of new democracies, an acknowledged but under-researched topic in studies of judicial politics. The paper first develops an empirical strategy for the study of informal interference based on perceptions recorded in interviews, then applies the strategy to six third-wave democracies, three in Africa (Benin, Madagascar and Senegal) and three in Latin America (Argentina, Chile and Paraguay). It also examines how three conditioning factors affect the level of informal judicial interference: formal rules, previous democratic experience, and socioeconomic development. Our results show that countries with better performance in all these conditioning factors exhibit less informal interference than countries with poorer or mixed performance. The results stress the importance of systematically including informal politics in the study of judicial politics.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, Power Politics, Law
  • Political Geography: Africa, Argentina, Latin America, Tamil Nadu
  • Author: Roger F. Noriega
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: El Salvador will choose a new president in a runoff election on March 9. The nation's decision may prove critical to Salvadoran democracy and regional security, in light of substantial evidence linking the ruling party candidate to narcotraffickers, terrorist groups, and violent street gangs. Moreover, foreign interference in the form of billions of dollars in Venezuelan oil revenues has given the ruling party an advantage, despite the fact that its economic policies have increased poverty and stunted economic growth.
  • Topic: Corruption, Crime, Democratization, Narcotics Trafficking
  • Political Geography: Latin America
  • Author: Tiffany Barnes
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Kellogg Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Over the last two decades a large number of countries worldwide have adopted a gender quota to increase women's political representation in the legislature. While quotas are designed to achieve equality in legislative power and decision-making, it is unclear if electing more women to legislative office is sufficient to accomplish institutional incorporation. Once women are elected to office, are they being incorporated into the legislative body and gaining their own political power, or are they being marginalized? Using an original data set that tracks committee appointments in the twenty-two Argentine legislative chambers over an eighteen-year period, I evaluate the extent to which women have access to powerful committee appointments—beyond traditional women's domains committees—and how women's access to committee appointments changes over time. I hypothesize that while women may initially be sidelined, as they gain more experience in the legislature they may overcome institutional barriers and develop institutional knowledge that will better equip them to work within the system to gain access to valuable committee appointments.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, Gender Issues, Politics
  • Political Geography: Argentina, Latin America
  • Author: Sam Handlin
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Kellogg Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: What are the causes and implications of polarization in new democracies? During Latin America’s “Left Turn” period, highly polarized party systems emerged in some countries–Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and El Salvador–but not the rest of the region. This paper proposes a theory to explain variation, centered on the presence of electorally relevant parties of the left in the pre-Left Turn period and, most critically, the quality of governance in that period. Poor governance created opportunities for partisan actors on the left to politicize a second dimension of political contestation, anti-systemic versus systemic positions on the design and operation of the state, and thus chart alternative paths to electoral viability that required little left-right programmatic moderation. This dynamic empowered radical party factions and drove polarizing dynamics in party systems. High quality governance, in contrast, gave left parties little choice but to moderate their programs in search of electoral viability. This dynamic empowered moderate party factions and drove centripetal dynamics in party systems. Empirically, the paper tests these arguments through a broad overview of the case universe and in-depth case studies of Venezuela and Brazil.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Latin America
  • Author: Carl Meacham, Robert Funk
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: In the first round of Chile's presidential elections on November 17, Michelle Bachelet, of the progressive New Majority (Nueva Mayoría) coalition, commanded a resounding lead. Garnering 46.7 percent of the popular vote—and putting her 20 points ahead of Alliance for Chile (Alianza por Chile) candidate Evelyn Matthei, her nearest rival—the former president is the likely victor in the runoff elections scheduled for December 15.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, Economics, Politics
  • Political Geography: Latin America
  • Author: Roger F. Noriega, José Javier Lanza
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: As stepped-up counternarcotics policies in Colombia and Mexico have increased pressure on regional drug trafficking networks, organized crime syndicates have relocated operations to Central America, where law enforcement agencies and institutions are ill-equipped to withstand the onslaught. These multibillion-dollar gangs are making common cause with some local politicians who are following a playbook honed by Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. The result in Venezuela was the birth of a narcostate, and similar dramas are playing out in Central America. Like Chávez, caudillos are using the democratic process to seek power, weaken institutions, and undermine the rule of law—generating turmoil that accommodates narcotrafficking. Making matters worse for Honduras is that left-wing activists abroad, in support of ousted president and Chávez acolyte Manuel Zelaya, are waging a very public campaign of outlandish claims seeking to block any US assistance to help the Honduran government resist the drug cartels. It is imperative that US policymakers vigorously support democracy, the rule of law, and antidrug programs in Honduras.
  • Topic: Corruption, Crime, Democratization, War on Drugs, Narcotics Trafficking, Fragile/Failed State
  • Political Geography: America, Latin America, Mexico
  • Author: Benjamin Junge
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Kellogg Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: This paper analyzes Brazil's 2002 presidential and gubernatorial election-campaign discourse, identifying recurrent themes and modes of appeal within campaign discourses. In an introductory section, the conceptual and methodological framework is mapped out, drawing from "anthropology of politics" and media studies scholarship. In this context, a framework for analyzing campaign rhetoric's appeals to a gendered subject and a regional (gaucho) subject is presented. Historical background is provided for the political context and stakes of the 2002 elections, followed by an overview the different types of media used in the campaigns. The analysis proper examines the rhetoric of the presidential campaigns (principally that of leftist Workers Party candidate Luiz In á cio "Lula" da Silva), followed by analysis of the Rio Grande do Sul gubernatorial campaigns. In the concluding section, the argument is presented that the citizen-subject implicit in the official discourses of the Lula campaign is individualist for its concern over everyday-life struggles, nationalist for its concern over the country's well-being, and universalist for its concern with moral justice. For the gubernatorial campaigns, discursive appeal is constructed with heavy recourse to the "timeless tradition" of authentic (and symbolically masculine) gauchismo.
  • Topic: Democratization, Political Economy, Mass Media, Governance
  • Political Geography: Brazil, Latin America