Draining the Swamp? Partisan Bias in the Prosecution of Former Latin American Leaders


Tuesday, October 30, 2018, 12:00pm


CGIS South, S250, 1730 Cambridge Street

Speaker: Gretchen Helmke, Professor of Political Science, University of Rochester

This paper introduces and analyzes an original dataset, Latin American Leaders on Trial, which examines the extended post-tenure legal fates of 119 Latin American presidents over the last three and a half decades. Because we can only observe whether, when, and for what crimes former leaders are charged, but not whether such crimes were actually committed, our analysis of whether the rule of law is functioning or being manipulated in any given case is limited in important ways. Yet, guided by micro-level theory and careful analysis of what can observe about such trials, we uncover a series of robust correlations, which suggest that partisan bias shapes whether successor governments prosecute their predecessors. Taken together, our results provide new support for the old Latin American adage, “For my friends everything, for my enemies the law.”