Date of Award

Winter 2-1-2019

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Elsa Natalia Mendoza Rockwell, Ph.D.


Latin America is the locus of various policy experiments and social movements, where political and economic leaders have vacillated between prioritizing neoliberalism and social security since the 1960s. Scholars have observed Latin American leftist governments for viable alternatives to neoliberal economics, but such projects have effectively failed to truly change the course of economic development in Latin America (Weyland, 2010; Escobar, 2010). One of the most salient contemporary instances of this ideological conflict has been the issue of land use rights and neo-extractivism, particularly in mining conflicts in the Andes of South America. This thesis posits that so-called leftist political leaders of Ecuador and Bolivia have directly supported the durability of the neoliberal economic order in the mining industry, by molding political institutions that appear to prioritize social rights, while in practice subscribing to the neoliberal idea that prioritizing economic development over social and cultural rights will lead people to be materially better off. As such, only by threatening the economic interests of the states can community leaders advance indigenous and environmental causes. By examining the left-wing Correa and Morales governments of Ecuador and Bolivia, this thesis demonstrates how leftist Latin American nation-states, even those nominally committed to socialism and pluralism, deepen their rhetorical acknowledgement of diverse cultures, and increase participation in the political process, while at the same time maintaining the economic and material systems of neoliberalism in the form of neo-extractivism.