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Missed Exits: Causal Mechanisms Influencing Militarized Interstate Dispute Escalation in Latin America

Research on militarized interstate disputes (MIDs) and the reasons for their escalation to interstate war is sparse at the global level and the regional level in Latin America. This thesis contributes new research on militarized interstate dispute escalation in Latin America. In this project, I ask: how do differences in conflict escalation indicators between states affect whether a Latin American country will participate in a Militarized Interstate Dispute that escalates to the use of force? To answer this question, I conduct a case study utilizing the most similar cases analysis approach to compare the cases of the 1995 MID between Ecuador and Peru as well as the 1997 MID between Nicaragua and Honduras. I also utilize process tracing to analyze the impact of the causal mechanisms of territorial contiguity, natural resource contention, development level, and issue salience on the escalation of MIDs in the former cases to one where actual force is used. From this process tracing, I find that a difference in issue salience, or the degree of importance attached to an issue by the actors involved, between the two cases contributed to a difference in MID escalation. Overall, this thesis fills a preexisting gap in the literature on militarized interstate disputes in the Latin American region while contributing new points of discussion to research on militarized interstate disputes, conflict escalation, and conflict early warning.