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Politics of Latin America

The Power Game

Fifth Edition

Harry E. Vanden and Gary Prevost

Publication Date - July 2014

ISBN: 9780199340255

646 pages
6-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

Retail Price to Students: $65.95

An ideal combination of thematic coverage and country case studies, this unique text analyzes the impact of race, class, gender, and political economy on politics in Latin America


Now in its fifth edition, Politics of Latin America explores both the evolution and the current state of politics in Latin America. Distinguishing itself from more traditional works on the subject, this unique text demonstrates a nuanced sensitivity to the use and abuse of power and the importance of social conditions, gender, race, globalization, class, and political economy throughout Latin America.

The first part of the text features thematic chapters that outline the region's geographic setting, history, economics, society, gender, race, and religion, setting the stage for a more detailed analysis of the politics, democratization, political culture, political movements, and revolution in Latin America, along with U.S.-Latin American relations. The second part of the book consists of carefully constructed case studies of ten representative Latin American nations: Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Each case study traces the historical and political development of key actors and institutions, analyzing contemporary power configurations.

New to this Edition

  • Completely updated throughout in order to incorporate coverage of recent events, including presidential and legislative elections in Argentina, Venezuela, Chile, El Salvador, Paraguay, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Mexico
  • Updated tables and charts reflecting the latest census and economic data and analysis of key legislative developments
  • An expanded chapter (8) on democracy and authoritarianism, featuring new tables showing the amount of public support in various countries for democracy, military coups, and violent overthrow of elected governments
  • A revised chapter on political economy that includes a new section on environmental issues
  • A revised chapter on gender and family featuring new information on women's movements in Brazil
  • The country chapters are now organized by geographic region to better fit the structure of most courses

About the Author(s)

Harry E. Vanden is Professor of Latin American Studies, Political Science, and International Studies at the University of South Florida.

Gary Prevost is Professor of Political Science at St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict.


"This outstanding overview balances major comparative themes with selected Latin American case studies written by country experts. Analysis of the region's historical context, social structure (highlighting class, race, gender, religion and family), political economy, regime transitions, social/political movements, and global context make this an ideal text for undergraduate courses in Latin American politics, sociology, and history. Students will appreciate the accessible writing and updated tables and charts."--Richard Stahler-Sholk, Eastern Michigan University

"Politics of Latin America has many excellent features and is probably the single best hybrid of thematic and country approaches."--Philip Meeks, Creighton University

Table of Contents

    *=New to this Edition
    Maps and Frequently Cited Acronyms
    List of Tables and Figures
    Introduction: Notes on Studying Politics in Latin America
    1. An Introduction to Twenty-First Century Latin America
    Once There Were Rain Forests
    The People
    The Land
    The Cities Explode: Urbanization
    2. Early History
    People in the Americas before the Conquest
    Indigenous Civilization
    The Conquest
    How Could They Do It?
    Early Colony
    Establishing a New Social Structure: The Castas
    Women and Power
    Slavery and Other Forms of Organization
    Production, Trade, and Extraction of Riches
    The Church
    Colonial State Organization
    Governmental Organization
    The Bourbon Reforms
    3. Democracy and Dictators: A Historical Overview from Independence to the Present Day
    The French Revolution, Local Uprisings, and Independence
    Argentina, 1806-1810
    Early Drive for Independence in Hispanic America
    Brazilian Independence
    Early Years of Independence
    The Aftermath of Independence and the Monroe Doctrine
    The Mexican Revolution
    Democratic Reformism in Uruguay
    Democracy and Dictatorship in Argentina
    Authoritarianism, Aprismo, Marxismo, and Democracy in Peru
    Democracy, Socialism, Intervention, and Dictatorship in Chile
    Cuba, Colonialism, and Communism
    Earlier Attempts at Change: Bolivia and Colombia
    Brazil, U.S. Foreign Policy, and the National Security State
    The Cold War and Change
    The Dominican Case
    Central America and U.S. Hegemony
    The Post-Cold War Period and U.S. Hegemony
    Venezuela: Dictatorship, Democracy, and the Post-Cold War Bolivarian Republic
    The Pink Tide
    Growth, Persistent Poverty, and Immigration to the United States
    4. The Other Americans
    People of Color Under Colonialism
    European Justification
    The Role of Sugar and Slavery
    Resistance to Slavery
    Concept of Race
    Contemporary Struggle of the Indigenous People
    5. Society, Family, and Gender
    Family and Gender Roles
    Women and Patriarchy
    Class, Gender, Race, and Mobility
    Classism Challenged: Mass Organizations
    Homosexuality and Transgenderism
    6. Religion in Latin America
    Indigenous Religious Practice
    Colonial Catholic Church
    The Church in Modern Latin America
    A New Political Role
    Impact of Liberation Theology
    Protestantism and Pentecostalism
    African-Inspired Religions
    7. The Political Economy of Latin America
    On Economics and Political Economy
    The Latin American Economy
    Agrarian Production
    Foreign Investment and Enclave Production
    Dependency and Underdevelopment
    Raúl Prebisch and the ECLA
    Dependency Theory
    Import Substitution Industrialization
    Export Orientation
    Increasing Foreign Debt and the Debt Crisis
    Structural Adjustment and the Move to Neoliberalism
    Privatization and Neoliberalism
    Regional Integration, NAFTA, and the Globalization Process
    Economic Legacy
    Twenty-First-Century Prospects
    8. Democracy and Authoritarianism: Latin American Political Culture
    Authoritarian Legacy and Weak Democratic Tradition
    The Caudillo Tradition
    Democratic Deficit
    Democracy Grows
    Military Rule and Bureaucratic Authoritarianism
    Conflictual Attitudes
    Elitism and Pacted Democracy
    Strong-Man Rule: Caudillo, Cacique and Coronel
    Cuartel, Cuartelazo, Golpe de Estado, and the Junta
    Políticos and Políticas
    Corporate Values and Corporatism
    Patron-Client, Clientelism, and Other Special Relations
    Improvisation and Jeto
    9. Politics, Power, Institutions, and Actors
    State of Siege
    Code Law
    The President
    Government Structure and Local Government
    Centralization, Decentralization, and Federalism
    Electoral Tribunals
    The Bureaucracy
    New Directions: Democracy and Democratization
    Political Actors
    Traditional Large Landowners: Latifundistas
    Business and Industrial Elites
    The Middle or Intermediate Sectors
    Organized Labor
    Rural Poor
    The Military
    Government Bureaucrats
    Political Parties
    10. Struggling for Change: Revolution, Social and Political Movements in Latin America
    Other Revolutionary Endeavors
    El Salvador
    New Social Movements
    Argentine Manifestation
    Chiapas: Regional Victory
    New Social Movements and New Politics
    The MST
    * Bolivia
    11. U.S.-Latin American Relations
    Territorial Expansion: Confrontation with Mexico
    Dreams of Cuba
    Economic Transformation
    Gunboat Diplomacy, the Big Stick, and Dollar Diplomacy
    The Roosevelt Corollary
    Dollar Diplomacy
    Latin American Reaction
    Good Neighbor Policy
    Democracy and World War II
    The Rio Treaty and the Organization of American States
    Guatemalan Case
    Alliance for Progress
    National Security Doctrine
    September 11 Coup in Chile
    Cold War in Central America
    Latin America and the Post-Cold War World
    Latin American Initiatives
    Prospects for the Future
    12. Mexico, Nora Hamilton
    Historical Trajectory
    Early History
    Independence and the Mexican Republic (1810-1910)
    The Mexican Revolution (1910-1940)
    Mexico's Political Economy
    The "Perfect Dictatorship": 1940-1982
    The "Mexican Miracle"
    Economic Liberalization
    Uneven Progress Toward Democracy
    Government Structures and Political Organizations
    Interest Groups, NGOS, and Dissidents
    Business Groups
    Labor and Peasant Groups
    Indigenous Groups
    Women and Gender Issues
    Drug Cartels
    Human Rights, Civic, and Environmental Organizations
    Foreign and International Groups
    Other Groups and Organizations
    13. Argentina, Aldo C. Vacs
    Political Evolution
    From Colony to Oligarchic Republic
    The Ascent and Fall of Mass Democracy
    The Rise and Decline of Peronism
    Authoritarianism and Limited Democracy
    Military Regime and State Terror
    The Return to Democracy
    Liberal Democracy and Free Markets
    Economic Crisis, Political Upheaval, and the Return of Populism
    Politics and Power
    Constitutional Framework and Political Institutions
    Main Political Parties
    Interest Groups
    Women's Roles
    Looking Forward: Argentina's Political Prospects
    14. Brazil, Wilber Albert Chaffee
    A Brief Political History
    Democratic Interlude
    Military Rule
    The "New Republic"
    Political Economy
    Foreign Policy
    Geography of Inequality
    A Culture of Discrimination
    The Political System
    The President
    The Legislature
    The Courts
    Political Parties
    Interest Groups
    Public Employees
    Agrarian Reform
    Organized Religion
    The Amazon
    Brazil Today
    15. Chile, Eduardo Silva
    Political Economy
    Political History
    Military Government
    Power and Politics
    Chilean Government Structures
    Political Institutions
    Main Political Parties
    Interest Groups
    Indigenous Peoples
    Environmental Movement
    Organized Business
    Organized Labor
    Catholic Church and University Students
    16. Colombia, John C. Dugas
    Economic and Social Context
    Economic Development
    Peasants and Urban Workers
    Dominant Economic Classes
    Demographic and Socioeconomic Changes
    Political History
    Nineteenth-Century Political Development
    Early Twentieth Century Political Development
    La Violencia
    The National Front Regime (1958-1974)
    The Post-National Front Period (1974-1990)
    The 1991 Constitution and Beyond
    The Colombian Political Regime
    Constitutional Structure
    Limitations On Democratic Governance
    17. Venezuela, Daniel Hellinger
    Geography and People
    Venezuela's History and Its Uses Today
    Oil Changes Everything
    The Rise and Fall of the Punto Fijo Regime
    Corruption and Rise of Chavismo
    Rise of Chavismo
    Survival Politics
    Venezuela's "Bolivarian" Constitution and Institutional Framework
    Political Actors in Bolivarian Venezuela
    The Opposition
    Economic and Development Strategies in Bolivarian Venezuela
    Challenges after Chávez
    18. Bolivia, Waltraud Q. Morales
    Geopolitical Overview
    Early History
    Colonial Rule (1532-1809)
    Independence and Caudillo Rule (1809-1879)
    The War of the Pacific (1879-1884)
    Republican Government (1880-1932)
    The Chaco War and the Coming of Revolution (1932-1951)
    From Revolution to Military Dictatorship (1952-1982)
    Transition to Democratic Rule
    Indigenous Resurgence and Populist Democracy
    * Refounding Bolivia
    * Consolidating Reform
    * Prospects for a Third Term
    19. Cuba, Gary Prevost
    Revolution in Power
    Decade of the 1970s--Economic Changes
    Political Process
    International Relations
    Cuban Response to the Collapse of the Soviet Union
    * U.S.-Cuban Relations
    20. Guatemala, Susanne Jonas
    Precolonial, Colonial, and Neocolonial History
    The Revolution of 1944-1954 and the 1954 CIA Intervention
    Aftermath: Chronic Crisis
    Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in the 1970s-1980s
    Transition to Restricted Civilian Rule
    Social Crisis and Reemergence of Social Movements
    Guatemala's Peace Process (1990-1996)
    Postwar Guatemala (1997-2013)
    21. Nicaragua, Gary Prevost and Harry E. Vanden
    The Modern Era
    Carlos Fonseca and the Roots of the FSLN
    Turning Point for Revolution
    The FSLN in Power
    Consolidating Political Institutions
    The 1990 Election and After
    The 1996 Elections and the Evolving Party System
    The Sandanistas Return to Power
    Nicaragua's Economy
    Social Conditions
    Nicaraguan Government Structures
    Interest Groups
    Rural Groups
    Armed Forces
    Indigenous People
    Political Parties
    Liberal Parties
    Appendix 1. Presidential Elections
    Appendix 2. Recent Legislative Elections
    Authors and Contributors