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Political Careers, Corruption, and Impunity

Panama's Assembly, 1984-2009

Carlos Guevara Mann

Publication Year: 2011

In Political Careers, Corruption, and Impunity: Panama's Assembly, 1984-2009, Carlos Guevara Mann systematically examines the behavior of the members of Panama’s Legislative Assembly between 1984 and 2009, an arena previously unexplored in studies of Panamanian politics. He challenges fundamental aspects of scholarly literature on democratic legislatures, with important consequences for understanding democratic politics in Latin America and other parts of the world. The current literature on legislatures assumes that legislators single-mindedly seek reelection or the advancement of their political careers, and that they pursue these goals through acceptable democratic means. Guevara Mann shows, however, that in Panama many legislators also pursue less laudable goals such as personal enrichment and freedom from prosecution, often reaching their goals through means—widespread clientelism, party switching, and electoral manipulation—that undermine the quality of democracy.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press


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pp. v-viii


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pp. ix-xi


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pp. xiii-xvii

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pp. 1-14

The scene could have hardly been more illustrative of this book’s topic. On January 16, 2002, before a crowd of cameramen and reporters, Panamanian legislator Carlos Afú, then of Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD),1 extracted a stack of paper money from his jacket. ...

Part 1: Institutions

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p. 15

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1. Political Representation and Representative Assemblies

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pp. 17-35

The individuals on whose behavior we focus were elected to exercise political representation, a constitutional role of significant relevance in liberal democracies. These individuals exercised that role as members of representative assemblies. Accordingly, it is appropriate to give some theoretical...

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2. The Party System: Parties and Actors in Panama's Assembly

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pp. 36-64

Since the individuals sitting during the period under scrutiny (1984–2009) were selected through party nomination, and since party affiliation is a classification tool traditionally and broadly used in political analysis (and is extensively employed in this book), it is opportune to devote some space...

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3. Formal Institutional Incentives to Behavior

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pp. 65-90

Chapter 1 alluded to the role of institutions in shaping political behavior. This notion is captured by the New Institutionalist argument that “politics is structured by institutions”:...

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4. Informal Institutions and Assembly Members' Behavior

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pp. 91-114

Institutions do not require formal codification to be considered as such. Informal practices that guide action and create expectations—such as systemic corruption, impunity, and clientelism—might become institutionalized just like rules and procedures that are created according to...

Part 2: Assembly Members' Goals, Behaviors, and Activities

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p. 115

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5. Political Advancement through Reflection: Prospects and Possibilities in Panama

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pp. 117-130

Theories of legislators’ behavior, built primarily on the U.S. experience, portray representatives as self-interest maximizers whose main goal is to secure reelection (Fenno 1973; Mayhew 1974). Fenno (1973, 1) initially suggested that members of the U.S. Congress are motivated by...

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6. Political Advancement through Reelection: The Legal and Illegal Uses of Patronage

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pp. 131-152

Representatives in many democracies engage in patronage-related activities, such as securing the construction of public works in key localities and obtaining state funding for specific groups and projects in their constituencies. In this capacity, members of representative assemblies...

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7. Political Advancement through Reelection: Party Switching and Electoral Manipulation

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pp. 153-176

This chapter continues the focus on some activities Panamanian assembly members carry out to gain reelection that the literature on legislators’ behavior has not yet fully explored. The initial section deals with party switching. When a Panamanian political party fails to reach the mandated...

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8. Personal Enrichment through Legal Means: Assembly Members' Wages in Comparative Perspective

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pp. 177-191

The establishment of democracy gives rise to certain expectations among the members of the political community. One is that action by government leaders be oriented toward some version of the public good (O’Donnell 1996), given that an intrinsic quality of the democratic regime as a...

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9. Personal Enrichment through Legal Means: Expanding Emoluments and Privileges

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pp. 192-213

This chapter describes and classifies some attempts at personal enrichment through legal means by Panama’s assembly members. In the present context, personal enrichment is understood as a political actor’s efforts at enhancing his/her economic status directly through legal or illegal means. ...

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10. Personal Enrichment through Illegal Means

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pp. 214-235

Between 1984 and 2004, when the official name for members of Panama’s chamber was legisladores (“legislators”), the public often referred to them as legisladrones,1 a hybrid of the terms legislador and ladrón (“thief ”). This use is indicative of a popular perception that in addition...

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11. Preserving Immunity through Reelection

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pp. 236-253

In most countries, members of representative assemblies enjoy immunity, a “grant of exception from certain civil and criminal penalties accorded to parliamentarians for the duration of their service in the chamber, and sometimes beyond their service, in order to ensure their freedom to...

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pp. 254-266

This book argued that in some liberal democracies, informally institutionalized corruption, impunity, and clientelism, together with formal institutions such as the electoral system and the constitutional distribution of power among the executive and legislative branches, motivate assembly...

Appendices [Appendix A through Appendix T]

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pp. 267-373


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pp. 374-399

Works Cited

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pp. 400-436

Other Works Consulted

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pp. 437-439

Index [Includes About the Author and Back Cover]

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pp. 440-453

E-ISBN-13: 9780268080679
E-ISBN-10: 0268080674
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268029838
Print-ISBN-10: 0268029830

Page Count: 464
Illustrations: NA
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 793012614
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Political Careers, Corruption, and Impunity

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Political corruption -- Panama.
  • Legislators -- Panama -- History.
  • Legislative bodies -- Panama -- History.
  • Panama -- Politics and government -- 1981-.
  • Panama. Asamblea Legislativa.
  • Representative government and representation -- Panama.
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