Political Science 278

Seminar in Latin American Politics

Winter Quarter 2003


Professor Pion-Berlin

Tuesdays. 2:10-5 pm.

Tel  787-4606



Course Description

            This course is intended as an introduction to the field of Latin American Politics.  Like any introduction, this one cannot or should not explore all the issues with sufficient depth. However,  neither will the course be a superficial survey of the field where we sample readings for every country on every conceivable topic.  Instead it will focus on  three related themes:  regimes,  democracies,  and militaries.

             The military has been a part of  state building for centuries. It helped shape and was shaped by the perennial efforts of rulers to secure territory, resources and sovereign control over their nations.  In Latin America, some  standing armies were formed and strengthened  before nations and constitutions themselves came into being.  Others formed later, and  with different consequences for those polities.   By the twentieth century,   militaries  would  become formidable and persistent power contenders, often acting as  unruly interest groups,  evading civilian authority and  undermining democratic practices and regimes via the coup d’etat.  At the same time,  military power is not monolithic and has varied  considerably  across time and across nations. This course will  examine  the conditions  under which the armed forces do or do not challenge civilians for political power and political office.

  Two decades ago, nearly every country in Latin America was under the grip of dictatorship.  These were nasty regimes that were long on  the use of terror and short in their tolerance for dissent. Scholars have studied why  such regimes come into being,  how they are organized, why they conduct themselves as they do, and why they fall from grace.  We will  read some of the literature on military coups and the organization of power within dictatorships.  We hope to glean some insights  not only into how authoritarian regimes operate, but why some seem to better control the transitions to democracy that follow while others do not.

  By the early 1980’s  transitions to democratic rule were well underway. Newly elected governments faced a host of  military-related problems and we will consider one of these in detail: what to do about the human rights crimes of the recent past.  Most Latin American democracies have completed their periods of transition but it is not clear where they stand now in  their political evolution. To what extent have these democracies grown more stable over time?   Have they become consolidated, or have they simply endured for want of a reasonable alternative?   We will study  the question of consolidation in theory and then by way of a case study of Brazil, the practice of  democracy.  Finally the course comes back to the civil-military theme with theoretical considerations about how civilian control can be achieved,  and case studies of Argentina and Venezuela.



            There are five required books, four of which are available at the bookstore.  The Everything else that appears on the syllabus has been placed on reserve at Rivera Library. Ask for these materials according to call numbers which you can find by going online to  scotty.ucr.edu, clicking on course reserves by instructor, and bring up the call number. The books to be purchased, in order of use,  are as follows:


Fernando López-Alves, State Formation and Democracy in Latin America: 1810-1900. Duke University Press, 2000.

Craig Arceneaux, Bounded Missions: Military Regimes and Democratization  in the Southern Cone and Brazil. Penn State University Press, 2001.

  Peter Kingstone and Timothy Power, eds., Democratic Brazil: Actors, Institutions and Processes. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000.

  David Pion-Berlin, ed., Civil-Military Relations in Latin America: New Analytical Perspectives. University of North Carolina Press, 2001.

  David Pion-Berlin, Through Corridors of Power: Institutions and Civil-Military Relations in Argentina. Penn State University Press, 1997.



            Each student will be placed in charge of one class session. Where he/she will make a short presentation followed by a series of questions and points intended to generate an intellectual exchange in the class.  The student will be graded based on his/her understanding of the material, ability to organize the presentation, stimulate discussion and in general  take charge of the class for that day.   Some background readings  should be consulted to gain greater familiarity with the topic.  This assignment will comprise 30 % of your grade.  Then there will be take home midterm and final exams worth 25% each .  These exams will be passed out in class in week five, and  finals week,  and will be due back in  three days. The remaining 20% will be based on class participation.



Week One

Armies, Regimes,  and Democracy in 19th Century  Latin America

F. Lopez-Alves,  State Formation and Democracy.


Week Two

Armies, Regimes, and Democracy in 20th Century Latin American

Brian Loveman, “Foreign Military Missions and La Patria,” in For La Patria; S. Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies  read chapter "Praetorianism and Political Decay; " Lowenthal and Fitch, Armies and Politics in Latin America (Holmes and Meier, 1986): read Introduction by Fitch,  and Section II (4 chapters, pp. 59-166).


Week three-

Authoritarian Rule and Transitions to Democracy- Who has the influence?

C. Arceneaux, Bounded Missions


Week Four

Democratic Transitions and the Military

G. O'Donnell and P. Schmitter, Tentative Conclusions About Uncertain Democracies: Chapters 1,2,3; A. Stepan,  Rethinking Military Politics, Chapters 6 and 7; F. Agüero, "Institutions, Transitions, and Bargaining," in Pion-Berlin, ed. Civil-Military Relations: New Analytical Perspectives;  W. Hunter, "Politicians Against Soldiers: Contesting the Military in Post-authoritarian Brazil," Comparative Politics 27 (1995).


Week Five

Transitional Democracies and the Human Rights Question: the case of  Chile  D. Pion-Berlin and C. Arceneaux, Tipping the Civil-Military Balance: Institutions and Human Rights Policy in Argentina and Chile,”  Comparative Political Studies 31 (October 1998): 633-661; Nibaldo Galleguillos, “From Confrontation to Friendly Persuasion: An Analysis of Judicial Reform and Democratization in Post-Pinochet Chile,”  Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies  23 (September 1998):161-192; Jose Zalaquett, “The Pinochet Case: Why Chile moved further than expected;”  Susan Waltz, “Prosecuting Dictators: International Law and the Pinochet Case,” World Policy Journal 18 (2001):101-112; Jorge Correa Sutil,  “The Judiciary and the Political System in Chile,” in  Stotzky, ed. Transition to Democracy: The Role of the Judiciary, pp. 89-106;  

  Midterm exam, handed out in class due back in 72 hours.

  Week Six

  Between Transition and Consolidation: The Quality of Democracy in Latin America

Felipe Agüero, "Conflicting Assessments of Democratization;"   Larry Diamond, "Introduction: in Search of Consolidation;"  L. Diamond, "Is the Third Wave Over?";  G. O'Donnell, "Illusions About Consolidation" Journal of Democracy 7 (April 1996):34-51; Karen Remmer, "The Sustainability of Political Democracy: Lessons from South America," Comparative Political Studies 29 (December 1996). 611-634; A. Przeworski, et al. “What Makes Democracies Endure? Journal of Democracy 7 (January 1996):39-55.

  Week Seven

A case study of democracy: Brazil.

P. Kingstone and T. Power, Democratic Brazil: Actors, Institutions and Processes.


Week Eight

Civil-Military Relations in Democratic  Latin American Societies: the Theory

 Pion-Berlin, Civil-Military Relations in Latin America: New Analytical Perspectives


Week Nine

Civil-Military Relations and Democracy in  Argentina

Pion-Berlin, Through Corridors of Power: Institutions and Civil-Military Relations in Argentina


Week Ten (Finals Week)

Civil-Military Relations and Democracy in Venezuela

Daniel Levine and Brian Crisp, "Legitimacy, Governability and Reform in Venezuela,"  in Goodman et al. Lessons of the Venezuelan Experience; Moisés Naím, " The Real Story Behind Venezuela's Woes," Journal of Democracy 12 (April 2001): 17-31; Winfield Burggraaff and Richard Millett, The Crisis in Venezuelan Civil-Military Relations" in Goodman et al.;  Felipe Agüero, "Debilitating Democracy: Political Elites and Military Rebels," in Goodman et al;"  Deborah Norden, "Democracy and Military Control in Venezuela," Latin American Research Review 33 (2):143-165, 1998. Harold Trinkunas,  The Crisis in Venezuelan Civil-Military Relations: From Punto Fijo to the Fifth Republic,”  Latin American Research Review  37 (2002):41-76.

Final Exam  handed out and due back in 72 hours.