SOURCES THAT ARE INCLUDED MUST BE USED NO OUTSIDE SOURCES A. Justification At the time of their founding

A. Justification
At the time of their founding, Latin American countries drew inspiration from
the United States and its system of government based on democratically elected
presidents subject to checks and balances from independent and co-equal branches of
government. Yet democracy proved to be little more than an aspiration during most
of the region’s independent history with countries fluctuating repeatedly, often in
quick succession, from popularly elected leaders to dictatorships. Democracy failed to
take root in even the wealthiest and most industrialized countries in the region as
exemplified by repressive military dictatorships that ruled the Southern Cone during
the 1970s.
However, starting in the late 1970s and gathering momentum during the
1980s, Latin American dictatorships were replaced by popularly elected
governments. This time really did prove different. Despite setbacks and persistent
(and often well-justified) concerns about tangible results of democracy (its
deliverables), today all but two Latin American countries qualify as functioning (if
somewhat flawed) democracies.
Democracy is, for now, to quote Linz and Stepan (1996, 15), “the only game in
town” in Latin America. With that problem resolved, social scientists have turned
their attention to a new problem: the quality of said democracies:
How far are today’s democratically elected governments from what was
promised to the electorate prior to transition?
Specifically, what are the main strengths and weaknesses of each of the
region’s democracies?
You will tackle these questions by conducting an audit of the quality of
democracy in a Latin American country of your choosing. This assignment combined
with class lectures on the larger political trends in the region’s recent history, will
provide you with a more detailed and nuanced picture of Latin American Politics.
B. Assignment
1) You are to research and write a policy memo evaluating the state of democracy Argentina. The memo should
be about 2,500 words or 10 pages long (double-spaced).
2) Begin by understanding the concept of democratic quality and the ways in which
it can assessed. Quality of democracy in the country you select should be assessed
following the framework developed by Levine and Molina (2011). Said framework
evaluates the quality of a country’s democracy based on five criteria:
1) Electoral Decision; 2) Participation; 3) Responsiveness; 4.) Accountability;
and 5) Sovereignty.
o Daniel M. Levine, and Jose Molina, editors. 2011. The Quality of
Democracy in Latin America. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers,
Chapters 1.
3) Get acquainted with the history of and the main political issues in your country.
For that, you are required to read your country’s chapter in:
Skidmore, Thomas E., Peter H. Smith, and James N. Green. 2010. Modern
Latin America, 7th Edition. New York: Oxford University Press.
The entire book will be posted to blackboard.
4) Once you have the background, get acquainted with the main contemporary issues
affecting your country. For that, you should, look for articles written on your country
over the last decade in Journal of Democracy and Current History (available through
the library’s website).
5) Once you have a feel for your country, it is time to get caught up on contemporary
events there by, at the very least, reading the last two years of news stories on your
country as reported in:
Latin American Weekly Report (, the premier source for
in-depth analysis on current events in the region.
The last three years of LAWR will be available in a compressed file on
blackboard. Additional back issues can be accessed through the library’s
6) Assessment Criteria:
Judge your country in terms of Green (good), Yellow (shows some dangers), Red
(serious problem) in terms of the following five criteria:
1) Electoral Decision: at its minimum democracies must have elections that are free
fair, frequent, and competitive, and lead to the designation of officials who have real
power to govern. For elections to be legitimate demonstrations of the majority’s
political will civil rights and political freedoms must be respected.
Possible Sources and Questions to Address:
o Freedom House
o Electoral Integrity Project
o News articles on fraud, electoral manipulation or attempts to tip the
playing field in the interests of the incumbent president or party.
2) Participation: includes both participation in formal political processes like voting
or access to government offices and membership in groups that exercise such
participation collectively, for example, political parties and civil society
organizations. It is through participation that citizens choose their government,
control it, and influence policymaking either directly or through representatives.
Possible Sources and Questions to Address:
o Americas Quarterly Social Inclusion Index
o Voter Turnout: how high is it and how has it evolved over time?
o News articles on protests and mass mobilization. What are the main
civil society and social organizations seeking to influence politics?
3) Responsiveness: the democratic process induces the government to enact and
implement policies citizens demand. It manifests itself through clear links between
citizens, leaders and policies.
Possible Sources and Questions to Address:
o LAPOP and/or Latinobarometro: surveys will demonstrate what issues
citizens are most concerned about. This will be your baseline in what the
population wants.
o News on elections: what were the main issues during the campaign?
What did the eventual winner promise? Are these issues being
addressed by the government?
o News articles on protests and mass mobilization: what are groups
demanding when they protest? And, more importantly, how does
government respond to these protests? Does it repress? Does it listen
and ignore? Does it listen and do something about it?
4) Accountability: extent to which public officials, whether elected or appointed, are
subject to control and possible sanction. It can be both formal and informal: formal
means of accountability are institutionalized in laws, administrative norms, and
independent or semi-independent offices specifically charged with ensuring
accountability, such as attorneys general, public defenders, and independent
electoral commissions. Accountability is also made possible informally through
protests and by the media. Extent of and responses to corruption also fall into this
Possible Sources and Questions to Address:
o News articles on the performance of agencies outside the executive: Do
the courts and the legislature challenge the executive?
o Freedom House Freedom of the Press Report
o Transparency International Corruption Perception Index
o News articles on major corruption scandals: what have been the main
scandals in recent years? How have governments responded?
5) Sovereignty: those elected must have real power to govern. They cannot be puppets,
and not be so constrained by nondemocratic forces, whether domestic (the military)
or foreign (the U.S. or other powers), that their independence is questioned.
Possible Sources and Questions to Address:
o News articles on economic threats to sovereignty:
uf0a7 What is the level of foreign debt and who is it owed to? Is it
considered sustainable?
uf0a7 Is the economy dependent on the price of one or a handful of
commodities? If so, how has it affected the government’s ability to
carry out its objectives?
o News articles on immigration: do a large share of the country’s citizens
live in another country? Is there a credible risk that they will be
massively deported back to the home country?
uf0a7 How dependent is the country’s economy on foreign remittances?
And are those remittances in danger of stopping?
o News article on the military: does it hold a veto over the government’s
o News articles on gangs and organized crime: do these groups prevent
the government from providing basic security in some parts of the
country? Do these groups have significant control over parts of the
D. Memo Structure
Before you start writing, it is recommended that you study the two memo
templates that have been e-mailed to you.
Introduction (1 Page): should be written last, once you have actually completed
the audit. It should provide a succinct overview of the state of democracy in
your country by summarizing the main findings presented in the body of your
Background/History (1/2 Page): brief analysis of the history of democracy since
its most recent transition and other notable events worth mentioning.
Audit (7 Pages): assess and rate the quality of democracy in your country. You
should assign your country score each of the five criteria defined by Levine and
o 1) Electoral Decision;
o 2) Participation;
o 3) Responsiveness;
o 4) Accountability; and
o 5) Sovereignty
o 6) Add up your scores to calculate an overall quality of democracy score.
The scale, approach to grading and weight you assign each component
are entirely up to you.
Recommendations (1 1/2 Pages): based on the audit of your country’s
democracy make and justify ONE AND ONLY ONE concrete policy
recommendations that you consider to be the most urgent and believe would
be the most impactful toward improving the quality of democracy in your
E. Deadlines
F. Citation
This is a research project and as such all sources should be cited. Use Chicago Style
author-date (NOT FOOTNOTES):
Follow the template carefully. Points will be deducted for bad citation.
Grading Rubric
Expectation Points
Title Paper should include a title. Titles should be concise and provide the reader with a general idea of the paper’s main
conclusion or contribution (i.e. Persistence Amid Adversity: Audit of Paraguay’s Democracy, not “Final Paper”)
Introduction You will be judged on how well your introduction accomplishes three goals:
1) State the purpose of the memo (i.e. provide an updated assessment of the quality of democracy in Bolivia).
2) Provide a brief recount of what your paper’s main findings and conclusions. Academic and professional writing is
not supposed to be like a mystery novel (with surprises jumping out as you as you advance and with the biggest
plot points reserved for the very end). Introductions introduce what will be discussed in the body of the paper and
entice readers to keep going. Someone who just reads the introduction should come out with a good general idea
of what the paper argues.
3) Provide a general overview of how your paper is organized. This serves as a roadmap for the reader (i.e. this memo
is divided into three main sections. After a brief review of the country’s history since transitioning to democracy,
it reviews the current state of democracy based on the five criteria laid out by Levine and Molina (2011). It
concludes by recommending XXX.
Background Keep it short and stick to the most important events. Democratization is the starting point for the background (i.e. don’t
write about the military dictatorship or when Columbus visited).
Electoral Decision In each section you will be judged on how well you accomplish two goals:
1) Demonstrate clear understanding of each concept. This requires that the supporting examples you provide really
do match the concept you are evaluating in that section (i.e. you really are assessing the state of participation in
the participation section and not any of the other categories).
2) Conduct thorough and high quality research. Each section will have a significant amount of relevant supporting
evidence both from general assessment sources (i.e. Transparency International’s Corruption Index or Freedom
House’s Freedom of the Press Report) and, in particular, specific events relative to each category as reported in
Latin American Weekly Report.
Participation 10
Responsiveness 10
Accountability 10
Sovereignty 10
Assessment Use clear criteria to:
1) Measure performance in each category,
2) Aggregate those scores into a single summary score
3) Briefly justify the main reasons for the summary score
Make and justify ONE AND ONLY ONE policy recommendation to improve democracy in your country. You will be evaluated
on how well you:
1) Define and develop a concrete, specific and realistic policy recommendation.
2) Justify (based on your earlier assessment) your recommendation. You must make the case as to why the specific
change you are recommending would be the most impactful measure for improving the quality of democracy in
your country.
Citation Cite sources in accordance to Chicago Manual of Style, author?date in?text citation style. Failure to follow instructions will
result in lost points. An exception is made for Latin American Weekly Report, which can be cited the following way: (LAWR
Meeting With Me As this is a major assignment, it is recommended that you meet with me to discuss your ideas during office hours. Students
who come to office hours with a well thought?out game plan will receive an extra five points.

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