Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Mahendra Lawoti

Second Advisor

Dr. Kevin Corder

Third Advisor

Dr. Laura Hastings

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Susan Pozo


Corruption, Latin America, executive power, judiciary, institutions, democracy


Corruption has remained resilient in Latin America. In just two decades, six Latin American executives from five distinct countries have faced impeachment processes resulting in removals from office due to issues surrounding corruption. Certainly, corruption has been a longstanding challenge to Latin American democracy and good governance. This study analyzes this phenomenon while discerning between grand and petty corruption. By focusing on executive corruption specifically, this study creates a more nuanced understanding of what affects corruption at high-levels of government in Latin America.

Why have political corruption levels in Latin America remained stagnant in spite of significant gains in political and economic liberalization? In answering this question, I examine the institutional conditions that lead to differences in levels of executive corruption. A quantitative analysis of 17 countries over 20 years (1996-2016) finds that constraints imposed by the judiciary on the executive are a key element in explaining differences in executive corruption levels. Next, a qualitative analysis of two cases, Uruguay and the Dominican Republic, seeks to shed light on the causal mechanism(s) through which judicial constraints lower executive corruption. An in-depth examination of individual components of judicial independence revealed the importance of judicial selection procedures and how constraints imposed on executive power are effective in curtailing executive corruption.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access