Carlos Guevara Mann systematically examines the behavior of the members of Panamas Legislative Assembly between 1984 and 2009, an arena previously unexplored in studies of Panamanian politics. He challenges fundamental aspects of scholarly literature on democratic legislatures, with important consequences for understanding democratic politics in Latin America and other parts of the world. The current literature on legislatures assumes that legislators single-mindedly seek reelection or the advancement of their political careers, and that they pursue these goals through acceptable democratic means. Guevara Mann shows, however, that in Panama many legislators also pursue less laudable goals such as personal enrichment and freedom from prosecution, often reaching their goals through meanswidespread clientelism, party switching, and electoral manipulationthat undermine the quality of democracy.
On one level, Political Careers, Corruption, and Impunity contrasts the political behavior of individual legislators; on another, it compares the actions of legislators under various regimesmilitary and constitutional. Lastly, it engages in cross-national comparisons that contrast the behavior of Panamanian legislators with actions of representatives elsewhere. Guevara Mann's sophisticated analysis of the military period and the transition to democracy, with an emphasis on the history and functioning of legislative bodies, contains a wealth of new information about a neglected but intrinsically fascinating case.
Carlos Guevara Manns Political Careers, Corruption, and Impunity: Panamas Assembly, 1984-2009 is a significant contribution both substantively and theoretically. Beyond the importance of now having a study of Panamanian legislators and legislature, Guevara Manns book also contributes to theories of legislator behavior by underscoring other goals that legislators have and exploring how the tools often used by legislators in other societies are differently used in the Panamanian context. Well-structured and extraordinarily well-written, with an impressive research scope, his book provides a preliminary step in theory building that will be very useful to other scholars. Peter M. Siavelis, Wake Forest University