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Lifelong Learners Lecture: Can Peasants Foster Democracies?

Date & Time:
February 12, 2019 | 1:30 pm
cSPACE (formerly King Edward High School) 1721 29 Ave. SW, Room 310
Ricardo Vernet

This presentation examines the factors that explain the divergence of regime change in Haiti and Nicaragua. In the early 1980s, peasants led a popular movement that overthrew dictatorial regimes in both countries yet transitions to democracy resulted in two different outcomes. In Haiti, pressure from below led to the electoral victory of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. However, Aristide was overthrown by a military coup only seven months after ascending to the presidency. In Nicaragua, a popular movement overthrew the Somoza dictatorship. Movement leaders took power but made institutional concessions that led to the survival of democracy. The study argues that the variation of regime change in the two cases is explained by a unique problem that peasants faced, referred to as the numbers problem. The survival of democracy depended on whether peasants overcame the numbers problem by seeking an institutional compromise.