“Debating Trade: The Legislative Politics of Free Trade Agreements in Latin America.” (2019). Government and Opposition 54(2):336-364.
Stereotypes of Latin American legislatures as either rubber stamps or obstructionist obscure important cross-national differences. This article argues that the ability and willingness of legislatures to serve as counterweights to presidents are functions of their capabilities, electoral rules and the president’s powers. These arguments are assessed by comparing the legislative debates of free trade agreements with the United States and accompanying legislation in Chile, Costa Rica and Peru. The cases reveal that legislatures with strong capabilities behave proactively, proposing their own policies that challenge the executive’s. If they challenge the president, congresses with weaker capabilities do so primarily through obstruction. Further, electoral rules shape the way legislators go about challenging the executive. Whereas legislators elected under personal vote systems take their cues from constituents, those elected under party-vote systems follow the party line. Worryingly, however, even a capable and motivated legislature may be sidelined by a powerful executive.
“Neoliberalism with a Human Face?: Ideology and the Diffusion of Latin America’s Conditional Cash Transfer Programs.” (2018). Comparative Politics 50(2):147-169.
What is the role of ideology and diffusion in social policy? This paper addresses this question through an analysis of conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs in Latin America. Counter to the conventional view that Latin America’s “left turn” was not associated with CCTs, this paper shows that ideology did impact the spread of CCTs. The left initially opposed CCTs, but changed its view after Brazil’s center-left President “Lula” da Silva reluctantly embraced and adapted the CCTs he inherited to emphasize poverty reduction over building human capital. Indeed, only once this new type of CCT had been invented did the left support CCTs. Thus, both ideology and diffusion affected the spread of CCTs, but the impact of ideology on CCTs was conditional on the type of CCT being considered, and the diffusion of CCTs was mediated through ideology. This argument is supported by research on the attitudes of left parties toward CCTs, the design of CCT programs in ten countries, and case studies of three countries.
“Costa Rica 2016: Third Time’s a Charm? Not for Luis Guillermo Solís’s Tax Reforms.” (2017). Revista de Ciencia Política 37(2): 389-412.
Costa Rican politics in 2016 were dominated by the debate and eventual failure of a tax reform proposed by the Solís administration. This failure is emblematic of a wider political crisis marked by growing levels of partisan fragmentation and polarization that have made it increasingly difficult to forge cross-partisan agreements on major national policy issues. Elections scheduled for February 2018 are expected to dominate politics during 2017.
“Rules of Procedure as a Cause of Legislative Paralysis: The Case of Costa Rica, 2002-2012.” (2014). Latin American Politics and Society 56(4): 119-142.
Research on executive-legislative relations in Latin America has focused on the impact of minority presidents and multi-party legislatures on legislative productivity. But an additional deadlock scenario, the blocking of a majority president by a minority through filibustering, has been understudied. This article analyzes filibustering in Costa Rica and explains the legislative paralysis in the wake of its transition to a multi-party system in 2002. Legislative paralysis is seen as a product of the interaction between increased legislative fragmentation and polarization and the legislature’s pre-existing rules of procedure, which enable legislators to easily block bills they oppose, even when those bills are supported by supermajorities. This argument is tested through a comparison of major economic reforms in the 2000s to the reforms tackled in the 1990s. In brief, the role of filibustering, well acknowledged in American politics, should also be studied in comparative politics.
“Best Practices in Scholar-Practitioner Relations: Insights from the Field of Inter-American Affairs.” 2014. International Studies Perspectives 51(1): 54–72. (with Mariano Bertucci and Claudia Fuentes-Julio)
This paper explores a number of success stories of scholar–practitioner interactions on issues such as democracy promotion, fostering economic development, reducing extreme income inequality, and foreign policymaking toward the United States, among others, to argue that the so-called scholar–practitioner gap in International Relations might not be as wide as it may seem. It also highlights some of the salient limits to effective relations between the worlds of ideas and policy, and it discusses the main transmission belts—both individual and institutional —through which scholarly outputs influence the different stages of policymaking. The paper closes by proposing a number of “best practices” to enhance effective scholar–practitioner relations in inter-American affairs and beyond, including tying research to significant world events, synthesizing research findings into digestible components, developing relations of trust with allies in government, providing concrete policy recommendations based on rigorous research and cost-effectiveness analyses, and integrating practitioners into academic departments, among others.