Two new books in the Kellogg Institute’s book series with the University of Notre Dame Press examine some of the most pertinent questions facing Latin America today: how the region can consolidate the relatively recent gains of representative democracy and how countries in the region can move towards greater economic integration.

In Democracy in Latin America: Between Hope and Despair, Ignacio Walker explores the possibilities and challenges of establishing stable democracies in Latin America. Available in English for the first time in a revised and updated edition, the book was originally published as La Democracia en America Latina (2009).

One of Latin America’s leading public intellectuals as well as a scholar and politician, Walker argues that the fragile state of democracy in Latin America is not the result of structural factors, but rather the product of choices made by both the people and the leaders of the region.

He suggests that democracy was merely one of several competing alternatives after the collapse of the oligarchic political order of Latin America in the early 20th century. Democracy appears to have emerged the victor of that contest in the early 21st century, but Walker warns that this victory has yet to be consolidated.

Former President of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso says of the book: “a very fruitful dialogue, one politically passionate in its commitment to democracy and intellectually acute in its inquiry about the vicissitudes of representative government in Latin America.”

Currently serving as a senator in Chile as well as the president of the Christian Democratic Party, Walker is a former Kellogg visiting fellow. He returns to the Institute to speak at the book’s launch, open to the public, on Thursday, September 26.

In Power and Regionalism in Latin America, Laura Gómez-Mera examines how the political dynamics between countries within Latin America have shaped their efforts at greater regional economic integration through MERCOSUR (Southern Common Market).

She argues that while the promise of economic cooperation has led to MERCOSUR’s enduring survival, tension between and within countries, particularly Brazil, has taken a toll on the effectiveness of the bloc.

“Gómez-Mera offers an extremely valuable contribution to our understanding of why the globe is fragmenting into regional blocs—and the implications for the future of international relations theory and practice,” writes Richard Fienberg of UC San Diego. “By masterfully integrating domestic interest groups and institutions, she brings life to the formation of foreign policy.”

An assistant professor of international studies at the University of Miami, Gómez-Mera will spend the spring 2014 semester as a Kellogg visiting fellow. Her new project investigates international cooperation in the fight against human trafficking.