POL 385 C
Politics and Society in Latin America
Instructor: Mrs. Patricia Micolta
M W F, 10:10 - 11:00 AM
Dooly Memorial Classroom 102
Office Hours: 9:00-10:00AM & by Appointment.
Office: 312B Jenkins Building
This course studies the political and social transformations of Latin America—a geographical
area comprised of 20 countries and racially diverse population of about 550 million. Latin
America is a region that shares a common colonial legacy, legal system, language, culture, and
overall political patterns. The region has economic potential, but Latin America still suffers from
poverty, discrimination, economic inequality, authoritarian legacies, and weak democratic
regimes. Although historical legacies and common issues allow for a general examination of the
region, it is important to acknowledge that each country is different and that the region is also
very diverse. Globalization, economic and social change, and democratization are having an
impact on all countries to different degrees. Students of this course will get an appreciation of
historical legacies, societal actors, authoritarian institutions, democratic institutions, the region’s
economic trends, and contemporary debates currently taking place in the region.
The course will be divided in two parts. The first part examines the region’s history, political,
social, and economic institutions that allow for a general examination of the region. The second
part focuses on individual country cases, focusing on: Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela,
Mexico, Cuba, and Guatemala.
Wiarda, H. J., & Kline, H. F. (2011). Latin American Politics and Development. Boulder, CO:
2. Blackboard (BB) Readings. Required readings are also available on Blackboard and they are
marked with a (BB) next to them throughout the syllabus. I reserve the right to assign additional
readings and or material. I will notify the class, in class and via Blackboard (BB), when new
assigned readings have been posted and you will be responsible for reading these materials as
they become available. Some of the readings will be in the “course documents” (CD) section of
BB and other will be in “External Links” (EL) section, so make sure you check!
3. On Fridays I will ask you about current events in Latin America. During the semester, I
*highly recommend* you keep up either with the Miami Herald’s coverage of the region. The
newspaper usually dedicates an entire page daily to events in the region. See The Miami Herald at
Or better yet, if you have a smart phone, download the Associated Press (AP) mobile
application and set it for World: Americas.
Other online general news sources:
New York Times
You are expected to attend all classes and complete all readings and written/oral assignments.
You will be graded on the following abilities:
Participation = 5% (Attendance= 20pts /Discussion= 20pts) = 40pts
Map Quiz = 5% = 20pts
Debate Presentation = 10% = 40pts
Paper = 25% = 100pts
Midterm = 25% = 100pts
Final= 30% = 100pts
Grading will be assigned on the following scale: A+ 98-100% A 94-97.99%, A- 90-93.99% B+
88-89.99%, B 84-87.99%, B- 80-83.99%, C+ 78-79.99%, C 74-77.99%, C- 70-73.99%, D+ 68-
69.99%, D 64-67.99%, D- 60-63.99%, F 59.99% or below.
Make up exams for the Midterm exam will be given only under documented circumstances, no
make up exams will be given for the final exam, and no incompletes will be given for this course.
If extra-credit assignments are given, points earned will be added to the total points calculated
before a percentage for the final grade is given. In other words, extra credit points will not be
added to a student’s final percentage grade. See me if you have any questions about how the final
grade is calculated!!!
Class Discussion: You should be prepared to discuss class material or current news topics dealing
with Latin American politics. The purpose of an inter-active lecture/discussion format is to share
knowledge so that we can learn. Please ask questions and raise issues because, everyone benefits
from the discussion. If you feel uncomfortable raising questions during class, see me after class. I
keep tabs of who raises questions and topics. Do not ask off topic questions just to earn
participation points, I will not give participation points for these types of questions. Hint: Doing
assignments and reading current news on Latin America will give you discussion points
throughout the semester.
Political science classes study and raise controversial issues. Be prepared to have lively debates,
but be respectful of other’s point of view. If you do not agree with someone’s ideas that is
perfectly fine, but do not attack them personally, and provide factual evidence for your
Attendance: Each day you attend is worth half a point for a total of 20 points. Students are
required to attend all classes and arrive on time. You are allowed two undocumented “free
absences,” please use these wisely. Half a point will be deducted from your total participation
grade for every absence, from the third undocumented absence onward. Please bring
documentation for absences if you do not want to have points deducted. An attendance sheet will
be passed at the beginning of class to confirm attendance.
Tardiness: Come to class on time. Tardiness is disruptive to the concentration of your peers and
Cell Phones: Turn all cell phones off and put them away! Again, phones disrupt class attention
and are disrespectful. If you have an emergency situation on a particular day that requires
communicating with others outside the class, you should stay away from class that day. If your
cell phone rings and you get up and leave the class room to answer the phone, expect to
automatically lose 5 points from your participation grade. This is highly disruptive, so you
should deal with calls before or after class.
Note taking, laptops, smart phones, tablets, and the Internet: If, you choose to use a laptop I
expect you to refrain from all activities unrelated to the class (e.g. emailing, instant messaging,
surfing the internet). I do not deduct points for Internet use, but realize that using the Internet
while in class prevents you and your neighbors from absorbing information.
Debate presentation: 10%
In the beginning of the term a debate topic sign-up sheet will be made. Each topic will have two
debate teams, one team arguing in favor, and the other team arguing against. Each team may be
composed of 5 students (depending on class size). Students will choose (or will be assigned) a
debate team. The team will choose 3 students to present their team’s position on a debate topic.
Also, the team will choose 2 students, who will try to rebut the opposing team’s argument and/or
enhance their own team’s main argument. Those doing the rebuttal should be prepared to listen to
the opposing team’s argument and find weaknesses. Presentations should be one minute long, and
I will be timing the presentation. Finally the debate teams will have to answer any questions the
audience has on their positions. Debates will be done on Wednesdays of every week that a
debate is assigned.
There are no make-ups for debates missed. If you miss a debate you will get a zero for the
The debate paper will consist of a 5-page essay on a topic that you have chosen or have been
assigned in class. The theme for the debate paper/presentation will be an issue discussed in class.
It should be a double-spaced paper, typewritten in font-size 12 (preferably Times New Roman
font). You are to turn 2 copies of this essay assignment in on the day of your presentation. (I will
deduct ten points from papers received after the due date). I require a hard copy and a digital
Safe Assign copy.
You need to properly cite four sources (in MLA or APA style) in your essay. If you use
newspaper, magazine, and or Internet articles attach them to the paper. Be cautious of Internet
sources! I encourage you to use the Internet as a source-finder, but many Internet sites may
provide you with wrong factual information. Be aware of which entity or who maintains a
particular website. Just because a topic is on Wikipedia, it does not mean that the information is
accurate. In contrast, data or reports found in a site like the World Bank are more reliable sources.
Use books, documents, and/or find articles through the databases in the library’s Internet page
such as World Cat, Wilson Select, First Search, and others.
The paper will allow you to have a written foundation with which to base your debate
presentation. In the essay you should state your argument and its basic tenets. You should also
explain the opposing argument. Then you should evaluate both arguments on their persuasiveness
and demonstrate why your argument is more persuasive by giving supportive evidence.
Please proof read! Spelling and grammatical errors stunt the power of the arguments made in
Cheating or Plagiarism: Cheating or plagiarism on any assignment results in failure of the
course as a whole! This policy follows University of Miami code. Moreover, I use SafeAssign to
check for plagiarism.
Plagiarism- is the act of blatantly stealing somebody’s written work (from books, articles,
newspapers, web sources, etc.) or verbal ideas. You must CITE all ideas that are not your own. If
you have doubts of what constitutes plagiarism, consult the student code, and/or talk to me. “I did
not know” is not an acceptable defense after a final work has been handed in for a grade. Be
Other Debate and Research Paper guidelines will be provided throughout the course in class and
Map quiz: 5%. On Friday, January 27th, you will be handed a blank outline of Latin American
countries, and you will be required to write in the countries AND their capital cities. Spelling
counts. You will only be responsible for countries in Central and South America ONLY. The
Map that you can use to study from can be found on Blackboard in the assignment section.
Exams: Midterm 25%, and Final 30%
The Midterm is on March 9th and the Final Exam is on Friday May 4th at 11:00-1:30PM.
Exams will cover any material covered in the readings, in class lectures, and in debates. The
exams use a combination of multiple choice, short answer, and essay format. You will use “blue
books” in each exam. Make up exams will be given only in the case of a documented emergency.
Very Important!!! I will provide you with sets of review questions in Blackboard that you can
answer as you do the readings and go over class notes. These questions are sample questions that
I may use in the exams, so I encourage you to do the questions, but you will NOT be graded on
I reserve the right to make changes to the course schedule. All changes will be announced in class
and through Blackboard when necessary.
History, Economy, Democracy, & Political Institutions
Jan 18 Overview of the course and Introduction
Jan 20 History of Latin America, 1492-1820s
Wiarda, Chapter 1
Jan 23 History Post Independence 1820s-1930
& Jan 25 Wiarda, Chapter 2
Jan 27 MAP QUIZ!!!! Economic Transformations I: ISI
Kingstone, Chapter 3 (Introduction, Green)
***Map of Latin America Available on (BB/Assignments)
Jan 30 Dynamics of Political Transformation 1930-80
Paul Cammack, “Democracy and Dictatorship in Latin America, 1930-
Feb 1-6 Economic Transformations II: the Debt Crisis, Neo-Liberalism, and
Kingstone, Chapter 3 (Williamson, Mahon, and Vilas)
Feb 8 Democratization: Process
Walter Little, “Democratization in Latin America, 1980-95” (BB/CD)
Feb 10 & 15 Democratization: “What Democracy is… and is not” & Challenges
Wiarda, Chapter 5
UNDP, “The Challenge: From a Democracy of Voters to a Democracy of
Citizens.” Read pages 35-48 & 102-117 (BB/EL)
Federico Breve-Travieso, “The MARAS The Implication for Security
and Development in Central America.” (BB/EL)
Feb 17 Political Institutions I: Constitutions & President-Parliamentary
Feb 20 & 22 Political Institutions II: Political Parties and the “Turn to the Left”
Wiarda, Chapter 3
Ken Roberts, “Repoliticizing Latin America”, Woodrow Wilson
Center Update on the Americas, November 2007. (BB/EL)
Feb 24 Social Actors: Religious Groups, Economic Elites
Kingstone Chapter 4
Feb 27 & 29 New Social Actors: Women and LBTG Rights
Mala Htun (BB/EL)
Javier Corrales, “Latin American Gays: The Post-Left Leftists.” (BB/EL)
Alexei Barrionuevo, “Argentina Approves Gay Marriage, in a First for
March 2- 7 Illicit Interest Groups
Patricia Micolta, “The Political Rise, Development, and Fall Of Medellin
Drug Trafficking Organizations: An Illicit Interest Groups Analysis”,
Interest Groups and Lobbying in Latin America, Africa, The Middle
East, and Asia. 2009. (BB/CD)
Videos “Guatemala's drug gangs fuel political violence” & “Mexico
drug cartels hit Guatemala” (BB/EL)
March 9 Midterm Exam
March 19 Brazil
Wiarda, Chapter 7
March 21 Brazil
Juan Forero, “Booming Economy, Government Programs Help Brazil
Expand it’s Middle Class.” (BB/EL)
Video “Race & Racism in Latin America: Brazil” (BB/EL)
March 23 & 26 Argentina
Wiarda, Chapter 6
March 28 Argentina
Joseph Stiglitz, “Argentina, Shortchanged: Why the Nation That
Followed the Rules Fell to Pieces.” (BB/EL)
Alexei Barrionuevo, “Conflict Over Squatters Divides Argentina.”
Videos “Returning the Stolen” & Argentina’s Economic Collapse”
Mar 30 & Apr 2 Colombia (Last Day to Drop The Course)
Wiarda, Chapter 9
April 4 Colombia
Kingstone, Chapter 9 (Barón)
COHA, Manuel Trujillo, “Delegative Democracy the Case of Colombia”
(BB/EL). Video “Cocaine Coast” (BB/EL)
April 6 Venezuela
Wiarda, Chapter 11
April 9 & 11 Venezuela:
Ken Roberts, “Social Correlates of Party System Demise and Populist
Resurgence in Venezuela.” (BB/CD)
Javier Corrales, “Hugo Boss” (BB/CD)
April 13 Mexico
Wiarda, Chapter 16
Luis Rubio, “The Conundrum of Mexican Politics.” (BB/EL)
April 16 &18 Mexico
COHA, “The Nature of the US-Mexican Drug War: Equal
Responsibility, Unequal Costs.” (BB/EL)
Video “Drug Violence, Candidate Death, Overhang Mexican Vote”
April 20 & 23 Cuba
Wiarda, Chapter 17.
April 25 Guatemala
Wiarda, Chapter 21
April 27 Exam Review (Last day of Class)
May 4 Final Exam on Friday 11:00AM-1:30PM