Today’s allies, tomorrow’s enemies? The political dynamics of corruption scandals in Latin America
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In the last two decades, corruption has become a key concern throughout the world. Most of what we know about corruption comes from instances in which misdeeds become public, usually generating a scandal. Why do some acts of corruption become corruption scandals and others do not? This dissertation argues that scandals are not triggered by corruption per se, but are initially caused by the dynamics of political competition within the government. Government insiders leak information on misdeeds in order to increase their influence within the coalition/party in power. A powerful opposition, contrary to common beliefs, acts as a constraint for insiders, making corruption scandals less likely. In order to advance this central argument, this dissertation divides the temporal development of corruption scandals into four stages and proposes a formal model that analyzes the interactions of government insiders and the political opposition. The arguments and hypotheses generated are then evaluated using empirical evidence from two paradigmatic Latin American cases, Argentina and Chile, from 1989 to 2010. The findings support the notion that corruption scandals emerge as a consequence of political competition.