Latin American Hyper-Presidentialism and the constitutional dimension of patronage

Studies on Latin American hyper-presidentialism typically stress the personalism that dominates the region’s executives. However, the literature does not discuss in depth the institutional settings or arrangements within the Executive that facilitate these personalist constitutional architectures to flourish. As a result, scholars overemphasize constitutional asymmetries between the different branches of government or extra-institutional aspects as the main causes of hyper-presidentialism.

Building on this gap in the literature, the thesis of this essay is simple, suggestive, and controversial: at the core of Latin American presidential systems lies a complex web of patronage networks. To borrow Gargarella’s famous image, the first step in understanding one of the most problematic aspects of Latin American constitutionalism is to recognize the constitutional dimension of government employment and the central role it plays in executive personalism.