Precarious Democracies

Understanding Regime Stability and Change in Colombia and Venezuela

Ana María Bejarano

From the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies

Why has democracy in Colombia and Venezuela evolved in very different directions? In Precarious Democracies, Ana María Bejarano provides a comparative historical analysis of how the democratic regimes in these two countries have diverged, following similar transitions from authoritarian rule to democracy in the late 1950s.

Rather than focusing on resource-driven explanations, such as the role of oil in Venezuela and coffee in Colombia, or on short-term elite choices and calculations, Bejarano argues that democratic development in Colombia and Venezuela is best understood from a vantage point that privileges political history, especially the history of institutional evolution. The book makes the case that a comparative historical institutional framework—focused both on institutional legacies from the distant past (such as the state and political parties) and on those from more recent critical junctures (the foundational pacts)—provides the best way to account for the divergent trajectories followed by democratic regimes in Colombia and Venezuela in the second half of the twentieth century.

Ana María Bejarano is associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto.

“This book provides the first sustained, theoretically-guided comparison and explanation of the evolution of these two increasingly troubled democracies in South America. The strength of the book lies in its careful deployment of analysis in an historical-institutionalist tradition.” — Jonathan Hartlyn, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“Ana María Bejarano’s book, Precarious Democracies: Understanding Regime Stability and Change in Colombia and Venezuela, is an excellent contribution to the literatures on Colombia, Venezuela, democratization, path dependence and critical junctures, and political regimes. Based on many years of research, the book offers rich theoretical and empirical contributions. It will become an indispensable and enduring reference point in the literature on Colombia and Venezuela.” — Scott P. Mainwaring, University of Notre Dame


“Bejarano’s book does an admirable job of comparing these two political regimes and tracing their path-dependent histories. . . . We should look forward to Bejarano’s next book analysing the next stages in Venezuelan and Colombian ‘precarious democracies.’” — Journal of Latin American Studies

“Precarious Democracies provides a well-researched and much-needed comparison of Venezuela and Colombia’s political evolutions.” — Journal of International Law and Politics