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Explaining Military Responses to Protests in Latin American Democracies

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Social protests are a feature of democracy in Latin America. When the police cannot handle them, governments, facing threats to their tenure, are tempted to order the armed forces to step in. The military, when ordered to deploy in counter-protest operations, exhibits behaviors ranging from defiance to conditional and full compliance. The article investigates the sources of variation in military responses to mass protests, leveraging a small-n comparative analysis and a diverse case selection strategy. It draws on qualitative evidence from Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador, democracies with a history of protests. It finds that a combination of the judicial risks soldiers assume if they repress, professional mission preferences, and social identity between the military and the protesters are the most compelling explanations for military responses.

Keywords: CIVIL-MILITARY RELATIONS; LATIN AMERICA; MILITARY MISSIONS; SOCIAL PROTESTS

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2022

This article was made available online on May 12, 2021 as a Fast Track article with title: "Explaining Military Responses to Protests in Latin American Democracies".

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  • Comparative Politics is an international journal that publishes scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and behavior. It was founded in 1968 to further the development of comparative political theory and the application of comparative theoretical analysis to the empirical investigation of political issues. Comparative Politics communicates new ideas and research findings to social scientists, scholars, and students, and is valued by experts in research organizations, foundations, and consulates throughout the world.
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