Thursday, November 15, 2007

LASA 2009 blogs panel

Greg Weeks (University of North Carolina at Charlotte) is interested in putting together a LASA 2009 panel or roundtable discussion on blogs. Follow the link if you’re interested.

Monday, November 5, 2007

LASA 2009 gender & politics panel

Adriana Ortiz-Ortega (El Colegio de México) is interested in putting together a panel on gender issues and the role they play in Latin American politics. She is working on a paper on the role that abortion politics and same-sex marriage has played in Mexican politics—specifically in Mexico City in the last ten years, but also addressing other states/regions. Please contact her ( if you're interested in helping her form a panel.

Friday, November 2, 2007

LASA 2009 political parties panel

Is anyone interested in helping me put together a panel on political parties in Latin America for the 2009 LASA Congress? I’m currently working on a project on the “migratory patterns” political actors within Bolivian political parties. I’d love to put together a comparative panel based on cases studies of similar (or dissimilar) phenomenon in other countries.

The panel would look at some common themes: Why do political actors migrate (i.e. “cambio de camisetas” or “tranfugios”) to different parties? And what does this say about party systems in Latin America? Are these migrations policy-driven (i.e. do leftist move within the left, centrists within the center, etc.)? Or do they reflect clientelistic wheeling and dealing? How do institutional rules (e.g. electoral systems) and historical legacies affect these migratory patterns?

I’m hoping to draw together a panel that looks at a broad range of countries, using different methods, and from different academic perspectives. Please let me know ( if you’re interested.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Constitutional Engineering 101

Last semester I designed a little “constitutional engineering” exercise for comparative politics. It’s probably better for a special topics course. Fortunately, I’m teaching just such a course this semester: Democracy & Democratization.

The simulation is rather simple. I designed a “Country Report” about a country (the Land of Oz). Students are then assigned into teams and asked to jointly write a 5-6 page policy brief recommending a constitutional design for a democratic Oz. After spending several weeks discussing issues of democratic theory, democratization, and constitutional design (presidentialism vs. parliamentarism, different kinds of electoral systems, issues of federalism, etc.) they should have enough from which to formulate a basic framework. The purpose is to test their ability to apply their readings to a “real” case (in this case, an imaginary one).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Voting simulation

This is not technically about Latin America, but it is related to political institutions.

Last semester, I conducted a voting simulation in several political science classes at Dickinson College. This year, I hope to expand that to a much broader cross-section of the student body. In addition, I’m hoping to rope in a few other US colleges & universities, if possible. I’ll be running the simulation at Dickinson from October 22 through November 2.

The simulation is pretty simple, and shouldn’t take more than five minutes of class. Basically, I hand out three different kinds of ballots. Each ballot is handed out, explained, and then collected (after students vote), before handing out the next ballot.

I am using the same three ballots types from last semester: simple plurality, alternative vote, and ley de lemas. Additionally, though not requiring another ballot, I may count the plurality votes by “district” (each class) and use them to calculate a winner based on which candidate wins the most districts (a modified form of an electoral college).

If you would like to participate, please let me know. I want to collect as much data as possible and am curious to see the results from a broader sample. Here are the ballots, as well as the instructions (both are in Word format).

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Hsieh et al. on how Venezuala's government punishes the opposition (and how the opposition punishes government supporters)

Abstract: Do individuals who join the political opposition pay an economic price? We study this question using unique information on individual political activity from Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela, the Maisanta database. The names of millions of pro-opposition supporters who signed recall petitions (seeking to remove Chávez from office) during 2002-2003, and the names of progovernment supporters who signed counter-petitions, were made public. Media accounts detail how this information has been utilized by both sides: by the Government to punish opposition supporters and firms, and by the overwhelmingly pro-opposition private sector to discriminate against government supporters in hiring. After linking this political database to both national household survey and manufacturing firm data, we find that pro-opposition individuals experience significant drops in total earnings after 2003. There is extensive churning in the labor market: pro-opposition individuals disproportionately leave public sector employment and pro-government individuals leave private sector employment. Pro-opposition firms have falling total employment, less access to foreign exchange, and rising tax burdens (possibly due to selective audits). The misallocation of resources associated with political polarization between 1999-2004 contributed to a decline of 5% in TFP in our sample. To the extent other regimes can identify and punish the political opposition, these findings may help explain why dislodging authoritarian regimes often proves difficult in less developed countries.

Chang-Tai Hsieh, Edward Miguel, Daniel Ortega and Francisco Rodriguez (2007), “The Price of Political Opposition: Evidence from Venezuela’s Maisanta,” unpublished paper. Available here (from Political Science Weblog).

Friday, October 5, 2007

MPSA - Judicial Politics in Latin America

As you know, the MPSA proposal submission deadline is very close. I plan to present a paper on the strategic behavior of the Colombian Constitutional Court (which is part of my dissertation project) and I wonder if anyone knows of, or is interested in a panel on judicial politics in Latin America.
Juan Carlos Rodríguez-Raga
University of Pittsburgh

MPSA call for papers

The MPSA (Midwest Political Science Association) deadline for proposal abstracts is October 10th. If you are thinking about submitting a proposal, please do so. LAPIS members have a good track record of presenting papers at the MPSA (held each year in Chicago). MPSA has a number of tracks of potential interest to LAPIS members. The conference in scheduled for April 2-6, 2008.

LASA Survey on Congress

As you know, LASA is conducting a survey about the Congress organization. Apparently they are interested in new ideas to improve the organization of the conference and to offer grants for paper presenters.

I wonder if we have any ideas that we could promote using the survey. A consistent message may capture the attention of the Executive Committee.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Klesner on social capital in Latin America

Abstract: Scholars have argued that social capital—understood to mean those social networks, norms, and trust that allow citizens to act together more successfully to pursue shared goals—encourages political participation and a more robust democratic experience. Consequently, international development agencies have made promotion of social capital a major emphasis in recent years. Using data from the 1999-2001 wave of the World Values Survey, I show that in Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Peru this relationship holds true. Greater involvement in nonpolitical organizations does lead to more participation in explicitly political activities. Higher levels of interpersonal trust also promote political participation. However, despite encouraging results from studies of popular participation in the region, Latin American levels of organizational involvement and political participation are moderate by the standards of more mature democracies, and levels of trust are relatively low.

Joseph L. Klesner (2007), “Social Capital and Political Participation in Latin America: Evidence from Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Peru,” Latin American Research Review 42 (2): 1-32. Available here.

LAPS & Blackwell Publishing

Latin American Politics & Society (LAPS) has announced a partnership with Wiley-Blackwell, to distribute the journal beginning with the Spring 2008 issue. LAPS is based at the University of Miami’s Center for Latin American Studies and publishes peer reviewed articles on a range of topics such as: political institutions, regime change, and democratic governance; civil-military relations and national and regional security agendas; U.S.-Latin American relations in a globalizing world; civil society and social movements; social differences and hierarchies (race, class, gender); economic development and the political economy of market reforms; environmental politics and sustainable development; and hemispheric integration and the relationship between domestic and global economies. LAPS has an international Editorial Board comprised of two dozen leading scholars from the U.S., Latin America and Europe. William C. Smith (University of Miami) serves as the journal's Editor.

Friday, September 28, 2007

TLA & Blackwell Publishing

The journal The Latin Americanist (TLA) has entered a partnership with Wiley-Blackwell, which goes into effect with the Spring 2008 issue. TLA is the journal of the South Eastern Council on Latin American Studies (SECOLAS) and publishes peer review articles on Latin American topics from different disciplines. Gregory Weeks (University of North Carolina at Charlotte) serves as the journal’s Editor.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Heiss & Navia on constitutional reforms in Chile

Abstract: Chile’s 1989 constitutional reforms constituted a trade-off: the military gave up protected democracy provisions but acquired greater autonomy. The democratic opposition could accept or reject, but not modify, constitutional changes proposed by the outgoing dictatorship. This study addresses a very limited time period in the transition to democracy: the moment after the transition has been secured and transitional rules have been established. The dynamics of this period differ markedly from those in the larger democratic transition. The approach in this study complements alternative explanations of why the 1989 reforms benefited the outgoing dictatorship more than the incoming democratic government. Although the outgoing regime granted several opposition demands by reducing restrictions on political pluralism and eliminating barriers to political party activity, it also secured provisions that made the military more independent of civilian authorities than originally conceived in the 1980 Constitution.

Claudio Hess and Patricio Navia (2007), “You Win Some, You Lose Some: Constitutional Reforms in Chile's Transition to Democracy,” Latin American Politics & Society 49 (3): 163-190.

Baldez on effects of gender quotas on candidate nomination in Mexico

Abstract: Parties throughout Latin America have recently addressed two distinct kinds of electoral reforms: primary elections and national-level gender quota laws. This study examines how these reforms interact, their mutual compatibility, and their effect on the nomination of men compared to that of women. It develops a series of hypotheses about this relationship by analyzing the 2003 legislative elections in Mexico, a case in which the three main parties relied on both gender quotas and primaries to select their candidates. Although the percentage of women elected to the Mexican Chamber of Deputies rose, the Federal Electoral Institute interpreted the gender quota law in a way that weakened its effect on women and limited the degree of openness in the primaries that were held.

Lisa Baldez (2007), “Primaries vs. Quotas: Gender and Candidate Nominations in Mexico, 2003,” Latin American Politics & Society 49 (3): 69-96.

Zamosc on Indian movements in Ecuador

Abstract: This article examines the implications of the Ecuadorian Indian movement for democratic politics. During the 1990s, the movement successfully fostered indigenous and popular participation in public life, influenced government policies, and became a contender in power struggles. But in the institutional domain, the participatory breakthrough had mixed effects. While the movement fulfilled functions of interest representation and control of state power, its involvement in a coup attempt demonstrated that its political socialization had not nurtured a sense of commitment to democracy. The evidence is discussed by reference to the proposition that civil society actors may or may not contribute to democracy. The article argues that the study of the democratic spinoffs of civil activism requires a context-specific approach that considers the particularistic orientations of civil associations and pays attention to their definition of means and ends, the institutional responses evoked by their initiatives, and the unintended consequences of their actions.

León Zamosc (2007), “The Indian Movement and Political Democracy in Ecuador,” Latin American Politics & Society 49 (3): 1-34.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

LAPIS paper award winner: Rebecca Weitz-Shapiro

Rebecca Weitz-Shapiro is the winner of the LAPIS paper award for best paper presented by a section member at the 2006 LASA Congress in Puerto Rico. The award was presented at the LAPIS section meeting during the 2007 LASA Congress in Montréal. Thanks also to Maria Escobar-Lemmon, Bonnie Field, and Steve Wuhs for all their hard work on the paper award committee.

Abstract: In light of extensive decentralization in much of the world, analyses of citizen satisfaction with democracy that treat citizens as subjects of their national governments alone are incomplete. In this article, the author uses regression analysis of unique survey data from Argentina to explore the relationship between local government performance and citizen satisfaction with democracy. She demonstrates that there is indeed an important link between local government performance and citizen system support but also that citizens distinguish between qualitatively different types of government performance. Certain measures of local government performance, such as corruption, have ramifications for citizens' evaluations of the functioning of their democracy and even for citizens' faith in democracy per se. At the same time, other types of local government performance, such as local bureaucratic inefficiency, do not reverberate beyond the local sphere. These results suggest mixed implications for future democratic stability in Latin America.

Rebecca Weitz-Shapiro, “The Local Connection: Local Government Performance and Satisfaction with Democracy in Argentina,” Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming. Available here.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Moreno & Méndez on party ID in Mexican presidential elections

Resumen: En este artículo analizamos los patrones de cambio en la identificación partidista de los mexicanos en las elecciones presidenciales de 2000 y 2006. Apartir de la información recopilada en encuestas nacionales de salida realizadas a los votantes, nuestro análisis se enfoca en tres fenómenos observados e interrelacionados relativos al partidismo: primero, una leve disminución del partidismo no sólo entre quienes salieron a votar, sino entre el electorado en general. Segundo, a pesar de que la identificación partidista se mantiene como una de las variables explicativas más importantes del voto en México, se observa un debilitamiento en el voto partidario de una elección a otra, como lo evidencian los niveles de voto cruzado y voto dividido registrados en cada elección. Y tercero, un análisis multivariado con datos de ambos años muestra cambios significativos en la composición social e ideológica del partidismo, señalando una realineación partidaria importante entre ciertos segmentos del electorado mexicano. De 2000 a 2006, el PRI perdió identificados en nichos históricos, como las mujeres y los votantes rurales, muchos de los cuales se trasladaron al PAN y al PRD. Por otra parte, nuestro análisis documenta un traslado de votantes de izquierda del PANal PRD, y una desalineación de votantes de escolaridad superior.

Alejandro Moreno y Patricia Méndez (2007), “La identificación partidista en las elecciones presidenciales de 2000 y 2006 en México,” Política y Gobierno 14 (1): 43-75.

Salazar & Temkin on education & voter turnout in Mexico

Resumen: En las elecciones federales de 2003 en México, los municipios con mayores niveles de escolaridad presentan menores niveles de participación electoral, contradiciendo una regularidad empírica detectada tanto en México como en las democracias en general. Para explicar este fenómeno, los autores recurren a datos individuales de Latinobarómetro (ediciones 2000 y 2003), así como del panel 2001-2003 de la Encuesta Nacional sobre Cultura Política y Prácticas Ciudadanas (ENCUP). En este trabajo se sostiene que los resultados agregados se deben a que los individuos con mayor grado de educación redujeron sus niveles de confianza en las instituciones políticas debido a menores niveles de aprobación del desempeño de estas instituciones, entendiendo el desempeño en sus dimensiones relativas al comportamiento de la clase política y los resultados de sus acciones.

Rodrigo Salazar Elena y Benjamín Temkin Yedwab (2007), “Abstencionismo, escolaridad y confianza en las instituciones: Las elecciones federales de 2003 en México,” Política y Gobierno 14 (1): 5-42.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Tilly on the Bolivarian Revolution

The most recent APSA Comparative Politics section newsletter (in my mailbox this morning) has an interesting piece by Charles Tilly on Venezuela’s “Bolivarian” revolution. In it, he criticizes whether Bolívar was a “democrat” at all & goes on to provide a sociological critique from democratic theory. It’s worth a look.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Cleary on Government Responsiveness in Mexico

Abstract: In this article I test two competing visions about how democracy produces responsive government. Electoral theories of democracy posit that elected governments are responsive to public demands because citizens are able to sanction bad politicians and select good ones. Participatory theories attribute responsiveness to a citizenry’s ability to articulate demands and pressure government through a wider range of political action. I test hypotheses derived from these two approaches, using an original dataset that combines electoral, socioeconomic, and public-financial indicators for Mexico’s 2,400 municipalities, from 1989 to 2000. The data show that electoral competition has no effect on municipal government performance. But the results are consistent with the hypothesis that nonelectoral participation causes improved performance. Thus, I suggest that the quality of municipal government in Mexico depends on an engaged citizenry and cooperation between political leaders and their constituents, rather than the threat of electoral punishment. I recommend that scholars broaden the study of government responsiveness to account for participatory strategies of political influence and critically assess the claims of those who would promote elections as a cure-all for poor democratic performance.

Matthew R. Cleary (2007), “Electoral Competition, Participation, and Government Responsiveness in Mexico,” American Journal of Political Science 51 (2): 283-299.

New Resources for Researchers

At the recent LASA Montréal conference, we were introduced to a number of useful resources compiled by members of LASA’s Scholarly Research & Resources Section.

LAPTOC (Latin American Periodicals Table-of-Contents)
Free online tables of contents of lesser-known journals from Latin America.

LAOAP (Latin American Open Archives Portal)
A portal for social sciences grey literature produced in Latin America that includes free, full-text working documents, pre-prints, research papers, and statistical documents published since 1964.

LAGDA (Latin American Government Documents Archive)
Access to wide ranging materials & presidential documents from 18 Latin American & Caribbean countries, collected since 2005. The Archive contains full-text copies of web sites from approximately 300 government ministries & presidencies.

LAMP (Latin American Microform Project)
Collections of rare, unique, scarce and/or bulky research materials.

LARRP (Latin Amercanist Research Resources Project)
A cooperative initiative between US, Latin America, and Caribbean libraries that seeks to improve access to research resources.

Holzner on Neoliberalism & Political Participation in Mexico

Abstract: Twenty years after governments across Latin America began implementing neoliberal reforms in earnest, concern is growing about their impact on the quality of democracy in the region. This article examines this issue in the case of Mexico by exploring how patterns of political participation, especially among the rural and urban poor, have changed since the implementation of free market reforms. It asks whether the institutional innovations associated with free market reforms make it easier or more difficult for the poor to participate in Mexico’s political process. The answer is not encouraging. Despite democratic openings, the new linkages between the state and citizens established as a result of the transition to a free market development model stifle the voice of the poor not through the threat of force or coercion, but by creating obstacles and disincentives for political mobilization that affect the poor more severely than other groups.

Claudio A. Holzner (2007), “The Poverty of Democracy: Neoliberal Reforms and Political Participation of the Poor in Mexico,” Latin American Politics & Society 49 (2): 87-122.

Dietz & Myers on Party System Collapse in Venezuela and Peru

Abstract: What conditions facilitate party system collapse, the farthest-reaching variant of party system change? How does collapse occur? Numerous studies of lesser types of party system change exist, but studies of party system collapse are rare. This study draws on the existing literature and the cases of party system collapse in Venezuela (1988–2000) and Peru (1985–95) to advance some answers to the important questions about the phenomenon. The study posits three conditions that predispose political party systems to collapse: the presence of an acute or sustained crisis that questions the ability of system-sustaining political parties to govern; extremely low or extremely high levels of party system institutionalization; and the emergence of an anti-establishment figure with the desire and personal authority to generate a viable alternative to the established party system. The study also posits a three-election sequential process during which collapse takes place.

Henry A. Dietz and David J. Myers (2007), “From Thaw to Deluge: Party System Collapse in Venezuela and Peru,” Latin American Politics & Society 49 (2): 59-86.

Monday, September 10, 2007


This will soon be the official blog of the Political Institutions Section (LAPIS) of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA). Please comment if you have ideas for specific content you think we should add.