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Does party organization still matter? Much of the party literature suggests that politicians, who can use substitutes like mass media to win votes, lack incentives to invest in party organization. Yet it remains an electoral asset, especially at lower levels of government. Evidence from Brazil’s Workers’ Party (PT) indicates that party elites invest in organization when they prioritize lower-level elections and that this investment delivers electoral returns. In the mid-2000s, the PT strengthened its support across levels of government in the conservative, clientelistic Northeast. Drawing from underutilized data on party offices, this article shows that organizational expansion contributed substantially to the PT’s electoral advances in the Northeast. While President Lula da Silva’s (PT) 2006 electoral spike in the Northeast resulted from expanded conditional cash transfers, the PT’s improvement at lower levels followed from top-down organization building. The PT national leadership deliberately expanded the party’s local infrastructure to deliver electoral gains.
Why are some Latin American states plagued by persistent policy volatility while the policies of others remain relatively stable? This article explores the political economy of natural resource rents and policy volatility across Latin America. It argues that, all else equal, resource rents will create incentives for political leaders, which will result in repeated episodes of policy volatility. This effect, however, will depend on the structure of political institutions. Where political institutions fail to provide a forum for intertemporal exchange among political actors, natural resource rents will result in increased levels of policy volatility. Alternatively, where political institutions facilitate agreement among actors, resource rents will be conducive to policy stability. This argument is tested on a measure of policy volatility for 18 Latin American economies between 1993 and 2008. The statistical tests provide support for the argument.
The field of Latin American politics has undeniably achieved major advances in the last several decades. Nevertheless, one detects a growing intellectual unease and a sense that the excitement engendered by the pathbreaking work and heated debates of previous decades—focusing on authoritarianism, democratization, and market restructuring and related structural transformations—has waned and perhaps given way to a certain “normalization” of our intellectual enterprise.
Throughout Latin America, particular business conglomerates have begun to sponsor their own political parties, building those parties on their own corporate assets. These “corporation-based parties” represent a new wave of highly particularized conservative representation in the region. Indeed, corporation-based parties have become a regular—though largely unrecognized—feature of contemporary Latin American party systems. This article develops a theory of how and why particular business conglomerates sponsor their own parties, provides substantial evidence for the existence of corporation-based parties across much of Latin America, and uses a case study of a party built on a Panamanian supermarket chain to demonstrate how such parties are organized. In closing, it discusses the possible future for these parties in the region.
This article analyzes the evolution of the network of Brazilian federal accountability institutions over the course of the past generation, between the transition to democracy and the end of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s second term. Substantively, the article charts the significant gains that have been made in accountability institutions. Theoretically, it evaluates the evolution of these institutions as a consequence of the distribution of rules, routines, roles, and resources across a larger institutional network, demonstrating that changes in the various bureaucratic agencies have mutually reinforced each other and generated autocatalytic processes of reform.
This article shows how modified European power resources theories can be applied to Latin America to explain differences in the depth of policy reforms. It innovates on previous work on Latin American social policy by particularly examining the effect of unions and other civil society groups on the process of structural reforms (or lack thereof) in the health and pension sectors in Argentina and Brazil. Through a most similar system design, this analysis shows that the strength and support (or opposition) of organized civil society groups is a crucial condition to account for the enactment (or failure) of a given broad policy reform.
Party machines and brokers have been widely researched in political science since 1950, yet a full description of brokers' roles is still missing. This article contributes by describing in detail the many roles brokers perform for their parties and explaining why each broker performs all these roles. In particular, it shows that besides fulfilling clientelistic strategies, brokers perform important executive governability functions once their party is in power. Brokers multitask because they have the neighborhood knowledge required to successfully perform political activities at the local level. Moreover, performing nonclientelistic roles prepares brokers to perform clientelistic strategies. The article also presents a novel theoretical account for why voters abide by the clientelistic deal. Based on interviews with 120 brokers, it analyzes the complete set of brokers' strategies, and detailed narrative accounts show the clientelistic machine at work.
This brief article is designed to highlight an unfortunate discrepancy in the field of Latin American political economy. The field’s raison d’être has never been more compelling. Latin American societies have simultaneously been experiencing profound transformations—including democratic consolidation, demographic transition, and the growth of identity politics—and a palpable sense of déjà vu animated by the recovery of commodity prices and the return of populism. In a nutshell, the region is undergoing a deep economic transformation, which takes place in the context of unprecedented levels of political participation.
Many existing explanations of electoral volatility have been tested at the country level, but they are largely untested at the individual party level. This study reexamines theories of electoral volatility through the use of multilevel models on party-level data in the lower house elections of 18 Latin American countries from 1978 to 2012. Testing hypotheses at different levels, it finds that irregular institutional alteration increases electoral volatility for all the parties in a country, but the effect is more significant for the presidential party. At the party level, the results show that while a party that is more ideologically distinctive than other parties tends to experience lower electoral volatility, party age is not a statistically significant factor for explaining party volatility.
The government of Bolivia led by President Evo Morales and the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party claims to be constructing a new postliberal or plurinational state. However, this alleged experiment in plurinationalism conflicts with two central elements of government and MAS party strategy: the expansion of the economic development model based on the extraction of non-renewable natural resources, and the MAS's efforts to control political space, including indigenous territories. This article analyzes these contradictions by examining how Bolivia's constitution and legal framework appear to support indigenous autonomy while simultaneously constraining it. Specifically, it explores how political and bureaucratic processes have seriously limited opportunities to exercise indigenous rights to autonomy. The article makes a comparative analysis of the implications of Bolivia's experience for indigenous autonomy and plurinationalism for other resource extraction–dependent states.
Since President Hugo Chávez was first elected in 1998, the Venezuelan opposition seems to have alternated between institutional and extra-institutional power strategies at different junctures. To help explain this pattern, this article constructs a novel theoretical framework from critical readings of both general theory and accounts of the Venezuelan opposition. It proposes that the strategies should be viewed as dialectical rather than discrete. On this basis, it finds that while the Venezuelan opposition has undergone important changes toward institutionalization in its composition, discursive emphasis, and strategic direction, close readings of opposition texts, interviews with opposition actors, and observations of street demonstrations all reveal continuity with previous rupturist and extra-institutional tendencies. Both strategies therefore must be considered to achieve a fuller, more comprehensive vision of the Venezuelan opposition; this conclusion has important theoretical implications for the study of opposition in the wider region.
This article seeks to explain why electoral support for the Venezuelan opposition has increased substantially, using Venezuelan public opinion survey data from LAPOP and an opt-in sample collected through the online vote advice application Brújula Presidencial Venezuela. It analyzes why Venezuelans who had either voted for Chávez or abstained in 2006 defected and started to support the opposition in subsequent elections. It proposes several reasons: negative voter evaluations of the economy, concern for public safety, and dissatisfaction with Venezuelan democracy. While the finding that negative policy evaluations boost support for the opposition aligns with theoretical expectations, this study finds a strong relationship between having different evaluations of the quality of democracy and supporting Chávez, which shows that the advocacy of two competing visions of democracy by the incumbent and the opposition also affects voting patterns in Venezuela.
Contrary to the predictions of “power sharing” to mitigate ethnic conflicts, multicultural rights recognition can actually increase the frequency of local postelectoral mobilizations. This article demonstrates that the adoption of an ethnic rights regime for electing local government representatives may actually increase conflict if these multicultural laws are not carefully circumscribed to avoid violating human rights. Focusing on the 1995 multicultural rights reforms in Oaxaca, it presents evidence that legal changes purportedly implemented to recognize indigenous rights actually increased postelectoral disputes due to conflicts between county seat communities and peripheral population hamlets over access to funding by the central government. Based on this finding, the article addresses normative implications of “power-sharing” multiculturalism, recommending that multicultural laws be implemented only together with legal mechanisms to solve postelectoral disputes.
Murilllo, Schrank, and Luna opened up Pandora’s Box. From time to time, scholars need to be warned about what they are doing. They sounded the alarm, and we who study or live in Latin America should thank them for calling us to reason. They are right to call our attention to our past. We are heirs of Hirschman, O’Donnell, Cardoso, and others. Moreover, as the mere reference to these names makes clear, we are members of a community in which political engagement is a must. Latin Americanists are politically committed to the future of the region they were born in or professionally adopted. We study this region because we care about the future of those who live in it.
One of the most significant developments in Latin American democracies since the beginning of the Third Wave of democratization is the rise to power of political outsiders. However, the study of the political consequences of this phenomenon has been neglected. This article begins to fill that gap by examining whether the rise of outsiders in the region increases the level of executive-legislative confrontation. Using an original database of political outsiders in Latin America, it reports a series of logistic regressions showing that the risk of executive-legislative conflict significantly increases when the president is an outsider. The likelihood of institutional paralysis increases when an independent gets elected, due to the legislative body's lack of support for the president and the outsider's lack of political skills. The risk of an executive's attempted dissolution of Congress is also much higher when the president is an outsider.
The plea by Murillo, Shrank, and Luna (MSL) for a more “grounded” political economy approach to the study of Latin America is much welcome, and it merits a serious debate among scholars of the region. To help advance that debate, this essay raises several issues regarding the substance and methods of the political economy they advocate.
Why do politicians in Mexico switch parties? The party-switching literature suggests that politicians generally switch parties for office-seeking or policy-seeking motives, whereas literature on the Mexican party system suggests that switching may be related to party system realignment during the democratic transition. Using data on party switching across the political careers of politicians who served as federal deputies between 1997 and 2009, this study argues that party switching in Mexico can primarily be explained by the office-seeking behavior of ambitious politicians. Only in rare instances do politicians switch parties because of policy disagreements, and party system realignment fails to explain a large number of party switches. This article also suggests that the ban on consecutive re-election encourages party switching; after every term in office, Mexican politicians have the opportunity to re-evaluate their party affiliation to continue their careers.
Labor market dualism—the segmentation of workers between formal, legally protected employment and informal, unprotected status—has long drawn attention from scholars and policymakers in Latin America. This article argues that lasting patterns of economic and political segmentation of workers arose earlier in the region’s history than has previously been understood, well before the classic “incorporation” period. Late-nineteenth-century practices for the recruitment and retention of workers shaped Latin America’s first sets of labor laws, most notably those governing union organization and individual worker job stability. Subsequently, these first laws served as important templates for development, constraining and conditioning the labor codes adopted under mass-based politics. Using historical data drawn from Chile, Peru, and Argentina, this article shows how differing recruitment practices and variation in the extension of effective suffrage rights and electoral participation shaped early legal labor market segmentation and inequality in Latin America.
This article explores a missing link in the recent literature on the formation of social policies: that between democracy and universalism, one desirable yet elusive feature of these policies. We base our argument on a case study of Costa Rica, the most successful case of universalism in Latin America. We proceed by first depicting Costa Rica's peculiar policy architecture, based on the incremental expansion of benefits funded on payroll taxes. Then we reconstruct the policy process to stress the key role played by technopoliticians in a democratic context. Backed by political leadership and equipped with international ideas, technopoliticians drove social policy design from agenda setting to adoption and implementation. Third, we argue that key aspects of the policy architecture established in the early 1940s were fundamental building blocks for a distinctive and seldom explored road to universalism. We conclude considering contemporary implications.