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Democratization Research Cluster

The Puzzle of Panamanian Exceptionalism


James Loxton
Senior Lecturer in Comparative Politics
University of Sydney

In the three decades since the US invasion that overthrew the dictatorship of General Manuel Noriega, Panama has undergone a remarkable transformation. It has remained a stable democracy in an age of democratic backsliding, and its economy has grown faster than that of any other country in Latin America. It is today one of the richest countries in the region and is considered by the UN to be a case of “very high” human development. These accomplishments have not only received little outside attention, but have also occurred in ways that defy conventional wisdom about democratization and economic development in startling ways. This talk examines Panama’s rise and highlights four especially puzzling features: 1) it is a rare case of democratization by military invasion; 2) it is home to an extremely unlikely case of authoritarian successor party regeneration; 3) it is a standout instance of effective resource management by a state-owned enterprise; and 4) it has achieved rapid economic development despite very high levels of corruption.

Presented by the Kellogg Institute Research Cluster on Democratization.

Speakers / Related People
James Loxton

Former Kellogg Visiting Fellow James Loxton (2014-15), a political scientist specializing in political parties, regimes, and the comparative politics of Latin America, is a senior lecturer in comparative politics in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. His research focuses on two main subjects: conservative parties in Latin America and authoritarian successor parties worldwide...
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