We will not be quiet: clientelism, keystone organizations, and the dynamics of protest in indigenous Southern Mexico
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This dissertation examines how local people organize, despite poverty and ethnic discrimination, and use public protest to gain a voice in politics. The municipalities of Chiapas and Oaxaca, Mexico, provide a vantage point to observe the forces that drive public protest in ethnically-diverse new democracies. How frequently people protest varies among residents of different counties, as does whether or not local people include ethnic rights demands in their protest repertoires. I develop a new theory about how protest networks spread at the local level to explain this variation. I theorize that political clientelism inhibits the growth of protest networks. By contrast, keystone organizations, which are organizations that have a disproportionate effect on the political environment relative to their actual abundance, facilitate protest. The growth of keystone organizations provokes changes in the local political environment that encourage local people to adopt public protest as part of their political repertoires. I argue that the partisan left and ethnic minority organizations are the most important keystone organizations for protest in ethnically-diverse new democracies. These organizations build political efficacy among poor people and ethnic minorities. Local people internalize the moral narratives that keystone organizations forward, which portray public protest as justified and appropriate, and they become more likely to protest. If these moral narratives rely on rights claims, people who internalize these narratives become more likely to demand rights. The government also encourages local people to shift their protest demands to include group rights through the implementation of ethnic rights regimes. I evaluate this theory using comparative case studies of five Mexican municipalities and a statistical analysis of protest events. I rely on an original dataset of protest events that I coded from local newspapers that covers the period surrounding each Mexican federal election from 2000 through 2012 and includes 1,103 protest events. I conclude with a discussion of the strengths and weakness of protest as an accountability mechanism.