Dr. John Polga-Hecimovich (U.S. Naval Academy)
Impeachment has become more prevalent across Latin America in recent years. This project maps the evolution and use of impeachment as a legislative tool, surveys the prevalence of impeachment trials and presidential interruptions in the region, and shows how the use of impeachment has increased significantly—but only within a subset of countries. It proposes two complementary explanations for these patterns: 1) the presence of acute governability crises in Latin America, especially since 2019; and 2) the existence of an impeachment trap, by which the presence of one impeachment process is likely to result in the appearance of a subsequent one. Like a ‘coup trap’, the impeachment trap occurs when a presidential interruption fails to provide relief from underlying political, economic, and social problems, thus resulting in its further use. An examination of the data provides evidence for the effect of governability crises as well as impeachment traps on Latin American presidential instability.