Backing Despots? Foreign Aid and the Survival of Autocratic Regimes

33 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2018

See all articles by Camilo Nieto-Matiz

Camilo Nieto-Matiz

University of Notre Dame - Department of Political Science

Luis Schenoni

University of Notre Dame - Kellogg Institute for International Studies; University of Notre Dame, College of Arts & Letters, Department of Political Science, Students

Date Written: October 23, 2017

Abstract

What is the effect of foreign aid on the survival of autocratic regimes? Extant work about the effect of foreign aid on the recipient’s political regime has come to contradictory conclusions. Current findings display the full spectrum of possibilities from a democratizing effect to the enhancement of authoritarian survival. While some studies suggest that foreign aid strengthen autocrats and their incentives to cling to power, others have focused on specific periods and donors, thus finding a democratizing effect of foreign aid. In this paper, we argue that the effect of foreign aid on autocratic survival does not operate in a direct way, but it is conditional on the levels of political leverage exerted by democratic donors vis-à-vis the autocratic leaders. This leverage, we find, is defined by the capability of democratic donors to back conditionality with effective political pressure. More specifically, we find that autocratic recipients that are highly dependent on the United States — a quintessential example of a democratic leverage in the past decades — have a shorter survival rate than those autocratic recipients with weak ties to the United States.

Keywords: Foreign Aid, Autocratic Survival, Democratic Leverage

Suggested Citation

Nieto-Matiz, Camilo and Schenoni, Luis, Backing Despots? Foreign Aid and the Survival of Autocratic Regimes (October 23, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3106475 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3106475

Camilo Nieto-Matiz (Contact Author)

University of Notre Dame - Department of Political Science ( email )

2003 Jenkins-Nanovic Halls
Notre Dame, IN 46556
United States

Luis Schenoni

University of Notre Dame - Kellogg Institute for International Studies ( email )

130 Hesburgh Center
Notre Dame, IN 46556
United States

University of Notre Dame, College of Arts & Letters, Department of Political Science, Students ( email )

217 O'Shaughnessy Hall
Notre Dame, IN 46556
United States

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