CIPR | Center For Inter-American Policy & Research

Tulane University

The Once and Future Brazilian Presidency: Lecture by Alfred Montero

Dr. Alfred Montero, chair of the political science department at Carleton College, visited Tulane University on November 21 to give a lecture on the recent presidential elections in Brazil. Dr. Montero’s lecture focused on explaining how Brazil, a country known to have an electorate with very low levels of partisan identification, has had enough political stability to re-elect three incumbents in a row in the last twenty years.

In the period immediately following the military dictatorship, Brazil’s first few presidencies were characterized by mismanagement, corruption, impeachment, and economic ills. Beginning with the first administration of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Brazil entered into a period of more political stability and security. Dr. Montero attributes this at least in part to Cardoso’s stronger assertion of executive power through alliances with various different parties in the Brazilian congress. Brazilian scholars have described this strategy as “coalitional presidency.” The president is able to create such alliances primarily through the executive influence on the distribution of the national budget.

Cardoso was re-elected, and after his second term Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was elected and also served for two terms. Lula was followed by Dilma Roussef (of the same party as Lula), who was just re-elected in Brazil’s October 2014 elections. This feat, the re-election of three presidents in a row, has never happened in Brazil and indeed is rare in the rest of the world as well and indicates a high level of political stability. Another indication of stability is the fact that in most of Brazil’s elections in the last several decades, two main parties, the PT (Worker’s Party) and the PSDB (Social Democrat Party) have been the major contenders for power although Brazil has at least a couple dozen other political parties. The puzzle, as Dr. Montero presents it, is how to explain the stability in this system of coalitional presidentialism, with its high electoral volatility and low partisanship but consistency in two main parties competing for power.
Dr Montero argues that an important piece to answering this puzzle lies in the program “Bolsa Familia,” a cash transfer program that is administered directly by the federal government and targets low-income families, who receive a cash benefit based on certain conditions such as meeting health care requirements and keeping children enrolled in school. There is a strong correlation between the distribution of Bolsa Familia and votes for the incumbent. Dr. Montero argues that this is because people who may not identify with broader parties do in fact identify with the personality of individual presidents, who are associated with the success of the Bolsa program.

In this most recent election, the three main contenders were Dilma, PSDB candidate Aecio Neves, and Socialist Party candidate Marina Silva, who entered the race at the last minute when the original Socialist Candidate, Eduardo Campos, was killed in a plane crash in August.

In first round of the election, Dilma received 42% of the vote and Neves and Marina together got 55%. But Dilma defeated Neves in the second round. Dr. Montero’s question is, Why did voters who selected Marina in the first round transfer their votes to Dilma rather than Neves?

Dr. Montero argues that although Bolsa predicts votes in the second round, it does not predict the shifting of votes between the first and second round. This is because all three presidential candidates were committed to Bolsa. What really made an impact is that Neves and Dilma differed on other questions of social and economic policy. Neves, for example, said that the minimum wage would have to be lowered, while Dilma’s message was more nuanced. She admitted that the economy was facing challenges and that hard decisions would have to be made, and asked voters to consider the entire panorama of each party’s social policy when deciding who they would trust more.

Under the PSDB, inflation was brought under control and growth was achieved, but even as poverty declined, inequality increased. On the other hand, under the PT administrations of Lula and Dilma, the minimum wage was increased which led to many families moving above the threshold of poverty. Also many more workers were brought into the formal sector, with a corresponding increase in access to social security and pension benefits. This increased formalization occurred primarily in the northeast, where Dilma received 70-75% of the vote.
In short, Dr. Montero argues that structural changes are important in explaining the outcome of this election as well as the wider trend of political stability. For the first time, the majority of Brazilians are now in the middle class, even as the rich have become richer. That is, everyone has done better in the last decade, and this can help explain why voters who do not identify with a particular party continue to vote for the same parties.




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Chantalle Verna to Present Research on U.S. and Haitian Relationships in Post-Occupation Haiti

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Join us at the Stone Center for Latin American Studies in welcoming Dr. Chantalle Verna for a talk on her book Haiti and the Uses of America: Post- U.S. Occupation Promises on April 26, 2018, at 6:00 PM.

In her book, Dr. Verna makes evident that there have been key moments of cooperation that contributed to nation-building in both countries. Dr. Verna emphasizes the importance of examining the post-occupation period: the decades that followed the U.S. military occupation of Haiti (1915-34) and considering how Haiti’s public officials and privileged citizens rationalized nurturing ties with the United States at the very moment when the two nations began negotiating the reinstatement of Haitian sovereignty in 1930. Their efforts, Dr. Verna shows, helped favorable ideas about the United States, once held by a small segment of Haitian society, circulate more widely. In this way, Haitians contributed to and capitalized upon the spread of internationalism in the Americas and the larger world.

Dr. Verna received her Ph.D. from Michigan State University and is currently a professor in the History Department in Florida International University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Dr. Verna focuses on the culture of foreign relations, specifically concerning Haiti and the United States during the mid-twentieth century.

Apply for the Teaching Cuban Culture & Society: A Summer Educator Institute in Cuba

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Teaching Cuban Culture & Society: A Summer Educator Institute in Cuba
Havana, Cuba | June 23 – July 7, 2018
Program Application
Application Deadline: March 2, 2018

Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies and the Cuban and Caribbean Studies Institute at Tulane University join forces with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies to take K-16 educators to Cuba. This is our fourth year running the Cuban Culture & Society K-16 Educator Institute and we are excited about this year’s itinerary. The institute will approach Cuban society and culture form a multidisciplinary perspective focused on the arts, the geography, and history of the country. Innovative programming and annual summer teacher institutes over the past three years provide the benefits of an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and studying the region. Taking advantage of Tulane’s relationship with the University of Havana and Cuba’s National Union of Writers and Artists, the institute equips teachers with multidisciplinary content, curricular resources, and methods of inquiry for developing that approach in their K-16 classrooms. Conducted in English by Professor Carolina Caballero, the institute will explore current trends and issues in Cuban culture and society through readings, films, and lectures. The program includes a series of talks by prominent Cuban intellectuals and local field trips to important political and cultural sights throughout Havana.

This two-week program provides the unique opportunity to work on developing lesson plans while exploring the sights and sounds of a nation and country that remain obscured behind political rhetoric and misinformation. Recent economic changes on the island have provoked a series of social and cultural transformations that have left Cubans and the entire world wondering what could be next for the island and the Revolution. Don’t miss the chance to witness some of these challenges and triumphs firsthand and get the opportunity to bring your experience back to your students in the classroom.

The trip will include a pre-departure orientation and two weeks in Cuba. The institute incorporates visits to local museums and exposes participants to arts organizations, schools, and teachers from the country’s national literacy campaign. Participants will stay within walking distance of the Malecón, the university, and many cultural venues. There will be group excursions to the historic Che Guevara monument, a visit to the site of the Bay of Pigs invasion, and a special visit to the town of Hershey, the town developed by Milton Hershey to begin his chocolate enterprise with the sugar from Cuba’s plantations. There will also be group excursions to the historic cities of Trinidad and Cienfuegos, Playa Girón, and Viñales, focusing on their role in the development of the economy and culture of the country

The cost will include a shared room and two meals a day, medical insurance, airfare to/from Havana from Tampa, Florida*, airport transportation in Havana to/from residence, OFAC-licensed academic visa, and specialized tours and outings.

*Airfare to/from Tampa, Florida, a one-night hotel stay in Tampa, incidental costs, and extra meals and expenses are not included in the program cost. You are responsible for your own air flight to/from Tampa, FL.

Those interested in applying must be a K-16 educator or librarian. There is no Spanish language requirement for this program. The application deadline is March 2, 2018, at 5:00 PM.

Please note: This program is only open to K-16 educators who are currently teaching, are pre-service teachers or are serving in a school or public library.

Please be advised that this itinerary is subject to change based on availability in Cuba. The itinerary below is the schedule from the 2017 institute.

  • Day 1 – U.S./HAVANA, CUBA
    Depart from Tampa, FL, Upon arrival, enjoy dinner and a welcome reception followed by an informal walk and people watching on the Malecón.
  • Day 2 – HAVANA
    Habana Vieja (Old Havana) Tour with local preservation experts to discuss in depth the history of local landmarks, historical preservation efforts, and future plans. Visit Muraleando Lawton, a community art project in the Lawton neighborhood of Havana. Hear from the founders of this project on how the neighborhood developed to promote skills in the community and support the local economy and meet with local community leaders, students and elderly folks at the community center.
  • Day 3 – HAVANA
    Lecture with Professor Carlos Alzugaray on Cuba Since the Special Period. Visit the elementary school Sergio Luis Ferriol in Habana Vieja. Connect with teachers and administrators about their experiences in the classroom.
  • Day 4 – HAVANA
    Visit the Museo Nacional de la Alfabetización (National Museum of the Literacy Campaign) and connect with members of the literacy brigade, teachers from the literacy campaign.
  • Day 5 – HAVANA
    Visit and explore Ernest Hemingway’s house. Have lunch in the infamous fishing village of Cojimar. In the afternoon, explore art by taking a tour of the Cuban Collection of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes accompanied by a curator then visit with artists at the Taller de Gráfica.
  • Day 6 – HERSHEY
    Day trip to the Hershey, Cuba and nature park. The site where famous chocolatier Milton Hershey developed his chocolate business by setting up sugar mills in the early 1900’s. Explore the natural side of Cuba in this country town.
  • Day 7 – HAVANA
    Learn about children’s literature and the book publishing business in Cuba by visiting Cuba’s national publisher UNEAC and hear first hand from children’s book authors. We will hear from children’s book author Olga Marta Pérez about the children’s/ youth Literacy Scene in Cuba today.
  • Day 8 – HAVANA/REGLA
    Take the ferry across the bay in Havana to the town of Regla to learn about Afro-Cuban dance and music from musicologist Cari Diez and an Afro-Cuban dance performance group.
    Travel to Trinidad via Santa Clara, a town founded by 175 people on July 15, 1689. It is the site of the last battle in the Cuban Revolution in 1958. Visit to the Che Mausoleum in Santa Clara. Also visit the historic sugar plantation of Manaca Iznaga before arriving in Trinidad.
  • Day 10 – TRINIDAD
    Explore this UNESCO World Heritage site, founded on December 23, 1514 by Diego Velázquez de Cuellar. Trinidad was a central piece of Cuba’s sugar-based economy. Guided city tour with the city historian. Visit the Trinidad library to learn about the importance of libraries and debate questions of intellectual freedom with the staff.
  • Day 11 – PLAYA GIRON (SITE OF BAY OF PIGS) Ciénega de Zapata, Playa Larga
    Day excursion to the historic site of the Bay of Pigs, one of the landing sites for the 1961 US-backed invasion. Visit the Finca Fiesta Campesina farm, the Playa Girón museum, the Parque Ciénaga de Zapata, the Laguna del Tesoro, and the Taino Indian village. Snorkel in the Bay of Pigs!
  • Day 12 – HAVANA
    Visit the U.S. Embassy and hear first-hand about the state of current relations between the U.S. and Cuba. In the afternoon, we head over to meet up with the famous hip-hop group, Obsesión to hear about their music and experience as hip-hop artists in Cuba.
    Take a day trip to Matanzas, the capital of the Cuban province of Matanzas. Known for its poets, culture, and Afro-Cuban folklore, we will explore the Triunvirato Plantation and the Castillo San Severino where we will hear about the history of slavery in Cuba. The rest of the afternoon we relax and explore the beautiful beaches of Varadero, a popular resort town covering Cuba’s narrow Hicacos Peninsula.
  • Day 14 – HAVANA
    Wrap-up curriculum workshop followed by a free afternoon ending in a celebratory dinner.
  • Day 15 – HAVANA/U.S.
    Morning departure for the U.S.

Explore our past trips through these photos and curricula:

Program Application

For more information, please contact Denise Woltering-Vargas at or call the Stone Center for Latin American Studies at 504-862-3143.