Tuesday, September 18, 2018

US Support for Latin American Democracy

Luis L. Schenoni and Scott Mainwaring, "US Hegemony and Regime Change in Latin America," Democratization early view. Sorry, it's gated.


We contribute to the extensive literature on international influences on democratization and democratic breakdowns by conceptualizing hegemonic mechanisms of regime change and assessing them empirically. Our findings are based on a multi-methods approach and highlight the varying importance of hegemonic influences in post-1945 Latin America. We argue that US support for democratization was consistent in the wave of transitions to democracy that began in Latin America in 1978 and that it was decisive in many of these transitions. While past work has attributed responsibility to the US for the waves of democratic breakdowns from 1948 to 1956 and 1964 to 1976, an examination of the 27 breakdowns from 1945 to 2010 gives reason to doubt this interpretation. Future research could use these conceptual and methodological tools to explore the role of other powers in waves of democracy and authoritarianism.
This is a deeply researched and interesting study of how messy U.S. policy toward Latin American democracy has been. The thrust of the article is to show that the U.S. government has not been as anti-democracy as often portrayed. There are plenty of times, for example, that an embassy spoke out against democratic breakdown or in favor of democratization, which had an effect. This was especially true the series of democratic transitions in the 1978-1990 period.

The simplified summary is that the U.S. was less supportive of democracy from 1948-1977 and 1981-1985, and more supportive from 1944-1948, 1977-1981 and 1985 onward. The thing is, I think a lot of people already roughly agree with that assessment. The authors say they have an exhaustive list of cited works in an appendix but I was unable to find it online.

This would be a good article for a course--it combines methodological rigor and really good analysis.


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