Working Papers and Works in Progress

Survival and Resilience to Repression(Under Review)

Why do some groups survive government repression while others get eliminated? This paper develops a theory of underground organizing, which proposes that a group’s structure and information management practices predict survival. Compared to public and interconnected organizations, compartmentalized groups that have information tradecraft have fewer arrests and mitigate the cascading effects of captures. I test these propositions by examining the top targets of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. Cross-checking each individual on the Pinochet’s kill lists against the victims lists, the article shows that the Revolutionary Leftist Movement (MIR) had a significantly lower rate of victimization than the other top targets. Process tracing with interview and archival data demonstrates that MIR’s higher survival rate is due to their underground organizing capacity and that the origins of the organizing form are ideological. This study renders intended repression observable and offers implications for the survival of a wide range of non-state actors.

“Mobilizing under Repression: Opposition Groups and the Church in Pinochet’s Chile” (Under Review)

2019 APSA Ken Wald Best Graduate Student Paper Award, Religion and Politics Section

How can activists overcome the collective action problem and successfully protest when the state is killing and torturing the opposition? I argue that mobilization in highly repressive environments requires aggrieved citizens to forge alliances with third-party actors that can lend protection. These third-party actors, by virtue of being moderate and maintaining a relationship with the state, can increase the cost of state repression and reduce the cost of mobilization. Moderate Catholic priests and bishops, as opposed to conservative or leftist ones, played this unique role in Chile. They made anti-violence mobilization by the families of the victims possible during the Pinochet dictatorship. The paper provides support for these propositions with interview data from victimized communities in mobilized and demobilized localities, as well as with new data that geocodes all the Catholic churches in Chile. Catholic protectors contributed to the channeling of grievances against the state through nonviolent means. At the same time, these strategic protectors also restricted the nature of the opposition and therefore curbed more fundamental challenges to the status quo.

“Repression and the Onset of Nonviolent and Violent Movements” (with Alia Braley)

Do levels of government repression condition the strategy that opposition groups use to wagepolitical struggle? Conventional wisdom suggests that popular uprisings against repressive regimesare more likely to be violent than nonviolent. If a peaceful struggle were to emerge in such a difficultenvironment, it would be quickly put down or morph into an armed struggle. Recent studies, however,argue that nonviolent movements emerge in more difficult settings–and against more formidableopponents–than armed campaigns. This literature also argues that repression is generally not a goodpredictor of nonviolent uprisings. This paper seeks to clarify these disparate findings by explaining howhigh levels of targeted repression conditions the onset of large-scale nonviolent and armed movements.In particular, by compiling a country-year dataset of lagged targeted repression and the onset ofmajor violent and nonviolent campaigns between 1976-2013, we show that high levels of targetedrepression selects out mass nonviolent movements, and makes armed action significantly more likely.Our findings suggest that agency-based approaches have overclaimed the possibility of nonviolentactivists being able to overcome major obstacles for mass action.

“How Nonviolent Action Works: Evidence from a Meta Analysis of Field Experiments in Latin America and Africa” (with Jonathan Pinckney and Sergio Cabrales)

Field experiments in partnership with the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) are in progress in Nicaragua, Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, Tunisia and Sudan

Pre-Analysis Plan registered at EGAP on March 28, 2021 (Email me to request to see it. For security reasons we are not posting it publicly).

“Generalizing from Unequal Probability Sampling” (with Peter Aronow and Fredrik Sävje) (Research in progress)



“Chapter 3: Can We Live Together? Citizen Insecurity as a Threat to Democratic Coexistence,” in Kevin Casas Zamora, The Besieged Polis: Citizen Insecurity in Latin America, Brookings, July 8, 2013  (with Kevin Casas-Zamora).

Policy and Opinion

What is happening in Venezuela? Political Violence @ A Glance, February 2, 2019.

“Repression, Resilience, and Mass Movements: A Page from Chilean History” ICNC Minds of the Movement Blog, December 1, 2017.

“Conversations with Experts on the Future of Central America,” Latin America Initiative Report, Brookings, November 19, 2012 (with Diana Negroponte and Alma Caballero).

“Venezuela: What Future for Chavismo without Chavez?” Opinion Editorial, Brookings, July 25, 2012 (with Diana Negroponte).

“The 2012 Venezuelan Elections: Hopes for Legitimacy,” Opinion Editorial, Brookings, March 9, 2012 (with Diana Negroponte).