Nov. 9, 2022

Meet our Newest Graduate: Dr. Ricardo Vernet!

Convocating November 2022 with a Doctor of Philosophy degree from UCalgary Department of Political Science
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Meet Our Newest Graduate!

Ricardo Vernet’s Doctoral thesis was entitled “Peasants, Movements, and Survival of Democracy in Haiti and Nicaragua”. It was written under the supervision of Dr. Pablo Policzer


Tell us a bit about your thesis! What was it about and what were its main arguments?

My thesis is a comparative study that attempts to explain why political transitions in Haiti and Nicaragua in the late 1980s ended in divergent outcomes. The study emerged in the context of a consensus between some scholars of the class perspectives that large peasant movements tend to frustrate democratic development. I wanted to subject this proposition to more scrutiny. Why are large peasant movements so resistant to democracy? What explains this? In the study, I explore this question using two large peasant movements that contributed to the overthrow of dictatorships in Latin America. My findings reveal that the size of the peasantry matters for the likelihood of survival of transitions to democracy. Large peasant movements tend to seek pro-majority alternatives because they outnumber their opponents. In the study, I refer to this as the numbers problem. I argue that survival of transitions depended on whether movements overcome the numbers problem by forging an institutional compromise with opposition forces. Where they fail to do this, the result was a return to authoritarian rule.

Any favourite memories from your research or at UCalgary Political Science you’d like to share?

One of my favourite memories is the research trip in Haiti. I had the opportunity to travel to several cities to interview movement leaders and former public officials. It was fascinating to hear movement leaders recount their experiences before and after the fall of the of the Duvalier regime. It occurred to me that this may have been the last time we get a chance to

hear details about the transition directly from the actors. My participants are much older now. A few of them died after I left the country. I am now rushing to preserve the transcripts and documents I collected during this trip. I feel privileged for having participated in this.

 What your plans for the future?

I am exploring some options. Next Winter, I will teach POLI 201 Introduction to Government and Politics as a sessional instructor in the Department. I am currently working on two articles (“The Peasant Movement and the Failed Transition to Democracy in Haiti” and “The International Dimension of Nicaragua’s Transition to Democracy, 1979–1990”).

Any final words of advice?

My advice goes out to colleagues in the PhD program. The PhD program in the Department of Political Science is both challenging and rewarding. It requires discipline, hard-work, organization, and adaptation. It may bring extreme isolation at times. I recommend taking time to look after yourself (especially your mental health). It is okay to take a break from reading and writing sometimes. Don’t feel guilty if you do. Please take time to do the things you enjoy!


Congratulations Dr. Ricardo Vernet on your degree!


To find out more about our current and past graduate students, please visit the Political Science website.