The objective of this book is to uncover the degree of programmatic structure in Latin American legislative party systems. To this purpose, we primarily analyze data from the 1997 Parliamentary Elites of Latin America (PELA) project (see Chapter 4 for discussion and use of a second data source, the 1998 Latinobarometer survey). The 1997 PELA survey was directed by Manuel Alcántara (Universidad de Salamanca) and financed by Spain's Comisión Interministerial de Ciencia y Tecnología. The Salamanca questionnaire was administered in eighteen countries, including almost all of continental Latin America, and codes responses to 104 questions in 257 variables. A total of 1,197 Latin American legislators participated in the surveys, all of them national representatives to their country's lower chamber at the time of the interview (or to the unicameral legislature in the case of Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and Peru).
Because of their coverage and substantive contents, the Salamanca surveys represent a quantum leap in our knowledge of Latin American legislatures. Not only do they allow the chance to explore the idiosyncrasies of legislators in different countries, but their common design permits systematic, cross-national comparisons among legislative bodies. In exploring the programmatic structure of party systems in the region, we thoroughly exploit the wealth of information contained in the Salamanca surveys regarding attitudes, opinions, beliefs, values, party membership, policy preferences, and left-right placement of Latin American legislators.