“Migration, Remittances, and Authoritarianism” webinar explores Latin American countries

By Piper Sartison
Elm Staff Writer

On Sept. 24 at 7 p.m., Dr. Jesse Acevedo, an assistant professor of political science from the University of Denver, hosted a Zoom webinar on migration, remittances and authoritarianism at Washington College. He introduced many theories and rationalizations behind these topics and his explained his passion behind the subjects. 

 Migration is the study behind the movement of a group of people from one location to another. Remittances are the transitions of money to another party and authoritarianism is a forceful form of political authority over a society. 

Dr. Acevedo teaches courses on Latin American politics and comparative political economy data analysis and research methods. In particular, he is most interested in the political economy of immigration and remittances in developing countries. 

“Recently in the past year or so, we’ve been seeing a rise of Latin American migration out of the region,” Dr. Acevedo said. “In a nutshell, my work has really focused on the role of stability, perceptions of stability as a reason as why migration remittances [contribute to the rise of] authoritarianism, especially in Central America.”

In 2009, Dr. Acevedo began backpacking across Central America. It was after witnessing his family’s reactions and views on democracy in El Salvador that his interest in conducting his research began. 

According to Dr. Acevedo, watching a “peaceful transition of power” igniting such a celebration of democracy inspired him to tell the story of El Salvador and central American democratization.

Dr. Acevedo also traveled to Nicaragua, where he witnessed “a slow march to authoritarianism” and “large migration flows.”  

“I feel like we did not pay enough attention to Nicaragua… and [its] democratic backsliding,” he said. As a graduate student, he later began to further his research into authoritarianism. 

“I was excited to see this early research on migration remittances and democratization, but what always kind of stuck with me was Nicaragua,” he said.

According to Dr. Acevedo, Honduras was a nation like Nicaragua in the sense that they were both politically unstable states.

“It was politically stable for a long time and then you have this political instability that contributes to both migration flows, but remittances are also coming back,” he said.

Remittances, migration and politics have seemed to form some kind of interconnected triangle, according to Acevedo. 

Dr. Acevedo was curious to understand if remittance would cause “disengagement” or “political engagement,” and if it is primarily influenced by modern theories such as ideologies on political participation. 

“At the same time, it’s not just remittances that links households between Central America and the United States… there’s also diffusion,” Dr. Acevedo said.

“Remittance produces this political autonomy that decreases the cost of political participation.” He also acknowledged the wide variety of information that displays that communication between family members abroad should “produce democratic norms at home.” However, according to Dr. Acevedo, “if you’re economically sustained from abroad, your interest in local matters should decrease.”

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