Latin American Politics and Government

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Description and Objectives:
One of the objectives of this course is to critically assess the main challenges for the
consolidation of democracy in Latin American countries. To fulfill this goal, students will draft a
short report in which they will identify a problem that affects democracy at the present time in
the country assigned at the beginning of the semester. In addition to describing the problem
and indicating how it affects democratic consolidation in their country, students are expected
to propose specific policy recommendations. The paper should be about 5 pages in length (12
point font, double spaced) and cite at least 10 credible sources. The intention of this
assignment is to train you in the writing of policy briefings; this skill will be particularly relevant
for those of you who plan to pursue a career in public policy or international development.
A myriad of problems affect democratic consolidation in Latin America. You are encouraged to
choose a salient problem in the country you are analyzing. Some of the most prominent
problems in the region include: poverty, economic inequality, lack of economic growth,
unemployment, drug-trafficking, youth gangs, violence, corruption, electoral fraud, vote buying
(clientelism), manipulation of electoral laws, lack of municipal development or weak local
governments, underrepresentation of indigenous populations, women, the youth or other
disadvantaged group. These are just some of the problems affecting Latin America today. Feel
free to analyze any salient problem that affects democracy in your country.
You are encouraged to share and discuss materials with other students who are doing research
on the same country. However, as stated in the syllabus, you are expected to write and submit
papers for this course individually.1
General Instructions
For the second assignment, you will be writing a “policy briefing” in which you will discuss how
a given problem has affected the consolidation of democracy in the Latin American country you
are doing research on. The policy briefing should describe the problem, indicate how it affects
democratic consolidation, and identify any past or current initiatives to solve the problem and
the effectiveness of those initiatives. You will end your policy briefing with a set of at least
1Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If evidence of plagiarism is found, the grade for this assignment will be
zero. See the home page for the Office of Academic Ombud Services for a definition of plagiarism, how
to avoid plagiarism, and UK’s new academic offense policy(
three policy recommendations to the national government and/or other influential domestic
or international actors. The paper should be formatted following the guideline provided below.
Paper Outline
I. Executive Summary
This should be a short summary (approx. 150 words) of the purpose of the
brief and its recommendations. The executive summary should be single-spaced and
appear on the cover of the brief (first page). The cover page does not count toward
the page count of the report.
II. Background (approx. 1 page)
In this section, you will describe the problem. Here you will provide evidence of the
magnitude of the problem and its evolution. You can rely on quantitative and/or
qualitative information.
III. Impact on Democracy (approx. 1 page)
Here you will discuss how the problem analyzed has affected the consolidation of
democracy in the country. In this section, you will review what the literature says
about the likely impact of the problem on democratic consolidation. For example, if
you are analyzing the effects of poverty, you can cite some of the predictions of the
modernization theory on how poverty affects the sustainability of democracy, and
cite any other relevant works.
IV. Pre-existing Policies (approx. 2 page)
In this section, you will describe any current or past initiatives by domestic or
international actors to mitigate the problem. You will also assess the effectiveness of
those initiatives. Depending on the problem you choose, you might find that there
are no current initiatives to deal with the problem; if that is the case, you can write
about the lack of action by policy makers to fight the problem despite internal or
external pressure to do something about it.

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V. Policy Recommendations (approx. 1 page)
Provide policy makers with at least three courses of action and briefly explain why
you consider each of those recommendations is the best policy strategy. Do not
provide more than five policy options (a “brief report” has to be “brief”).
Citation and bibliography style
You must cite all the materials that you use in your paper (including course readings) following
the format used by the American Political Science Association (APSA). A copy of the APSA’s
Style Manual for Political Science has been uploaded in Canvas. For in-text citations, please use
the format specified in the Style Manual on pages 17-21. Refer to pages 24-33 to format your3
references or bibliography. At the end of the paper, you should list in alphabetical order (by
author’s last name) the references you have cited in the text and only those references.
Grading Scheme
This assignment makes up 20% of your grade (a total of 20 points). I will grade your “Policy
Briefing Report” based on the following criteria:
1) Content (18 points)
• Focus: Does the paper meet the assignment requirements?
• Support: Is the problem analyzed effectively described? Does the author provide
evidence of the significance of the problem for the country? Does the author
discuss and cite relevant literature to indicate the likely impact of the problem
on democratic consolidation?
• Policies: Does the author describe effectively past and/or current initiatives to
solve the problem (or the lack of action by policy makers)? Does the author
provide clear and concise recommendations to tackle the problem and discuss
the relevance of those recommendations?
• Organization: Does the paper follow conventions of syntax and agreement so
that the ideas are clear?
2) Citation and Bibliography (2 points)
• Citations and Style: Were sources cited in APSA format? Was the citation style used
consistently throughout the paper? Were appropriate sources used and presented in
the bibliography? Was the bibliography presented in APSA format?

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