Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Rules That Bind Us

By Ludovico Feoli

The standoff presently underway in Venezuela regarding the treatment of constitutional precepts in light of President Chavez’ illness poses a larger question for regional democracy and the rule of law: how much do rules bind us? The credibility of our laws hinges on the certainty that they will take precedent over individual whims and that, failing this they will be enforced by third parties. However, events underway suggest that the authorities entrusted with this responsibility may lack the necessary autonomy to carry it through, making the separation and balance of powers questionable. And Venezuela is not the only example. Honduras, El Salvador, and even Costa Rica have had recent constitutional crises that raised similar questions, although their resolutions varied.

Hugo Chávez, democratically elected by a significant majority of Venezuelans, was set to take power on January 10, 2013 but he lies ill in Havana and is unable to appear at his inauguration. While the Constitution establishes that in such circumstances the head of Congress should take over temporarily and, if the absence is permanent, call new elections, the Venezuelan Supreme Court of Justice interpreted that Chavez’ reelection established the “administrative continuity” of the Executive, rendering a new inauguration “unnecessary”. Hence, the Court effectively reinterpreted the election as a renewal of the previous administration, rather than the start of a new constitutional period. This brushes aside the question of whether the president’s absence is temporary or permanent. It also obviates due process, which first calls for the investiture of the president and then for the appointment of the cabinet. Rules do not seem to bind.

Last December, the Honduran Congress fired four of the five magistrates on its Constitutional Court. The proximate cause was a vote by the magistrates, which a congressional investigative commission decided was extemporaneous. However, critics argue that the magistrates were purged for their decisions, which being contrary to the interests of the executive angered the President and generated a reprisal. The removal, en masse, of Supreme Court justices because of the content of their decisions is a gross violation of the principle of separation of powers. Without respect, on the part of the Executive, for the principle of judicial autonomy, there is little hope for the rule of law. Rules do not seem to bind.

El Salvador suffered its own constitutional crisis last summer. Similarly to the Honduran case, Constitutional Court decisions angered political actors due to their effects on their interests. In the case of the Executive, a Court decision limited the use of unsupervised discretionary funds. In the case of political parties, another decision allowed candidates to run independently, weakening the authority of party structures. Political jockeying to control the balance of power in the Court led to a spate of nominations late in the congressional period that ended in April 2012. The Constitutional Court ruled these appointments unconstitutional on the basis that the law only allows each Congress the approval of a single set of justices per term. Rather than accepting the ruling, the majority coalition in Congress challenged it before the Central American Court of Justice, a body whose authority has long been subject to debate. The justices in question also sought to retain their seats, so that two groups of magistrates claimed to be the legitimate representatives of the Court, creating a situation of institutional uncertainty. The crisis was eventually resolved, fortunately, through political means, but not without damaging the credibility of democratic institutions. Neither Congress nor the questioned appointees were bound by the rules that make the Constitutional Court the ultimate arbiter of the Constitution.

A short-lived conflict also took place in Costa Rica during 2012 when legislators voted not to renew a Constitutional Court magistrate in his post. The act was not outside the purview of the legislature’s competence, although some procedural aspects remain open to question. What generated the crisis were remarks by some deputies that starkly showed the political intent of their decision. The legislature was seeking to “discipline” the Court, renowned for its activism, by signaling that it would punish those magistrates that refused to be compliant. Congressional representatives were not bound by the rules of judicial autonomy and the separation of powers. However, the outcry that emerged and the prompt resolution of the crisis drove the heads of the executive, legislative, and judiciary powers to issue a joint proclamation reaffirming the relevance of those very rules, reminding everyone of the principle that rules should bind us.

These examples show that formal rules are not enough in our region’s progress towards democracy. They must be subject to credible enforcement and they must be accepted and internalized by political actors.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Ludovico Feoli

    Executive Director - Center for Inter-American Policy & Research

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La hora del Cuento: 'Twas Nochebuena

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Join the Pebbles Center at the Children’s Resource Center branch of the New Orleans Public Library for bilingual story time. We will be reading ‘Twas Nochebuena and celebrating Christmas in the summer! _’Twas Nochebuena’ is a 2015 Americas Book Award Commended Title.

Mexico in New Orleans: A Tale of Two Americas Exhibit

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MEXICO IN NEW ORLEANS: A Tale of Two Americas
May 5 through August 30, 2015
Opening reception on Cinco de Mayo (Tuesday, May 5)

From May 5 through August 30, 2015, the LSU Museum of Art in Baton Rouge, LA will present Mexico in New Orleans: A Tale of Two Americas. The exhibition explores the artistic exchange between Louisiana and Mexico from the 1920s through 1950s, a period of vibrant cultural and artistic connections between the two regions. The exhibition tells the story of a decades-long dialogue between Mexican and Louisianan artists that critically shaped the art of both countries, resulting in artistic affinities that continue to connect Louisiana and Mexico today.

During the 1920s and 1930s, a series of celebrated Mexican art exhibitions brought the art and culture of modern Mexico to Louisiana. By 1928, the New Orleans Times-Picayune had proclaimed Mexican artist Diego Rivera "the greatest painter on the North American continent," and encouraged Louisiana artists to take counsel from modern Mexican art. In 1930, a critic for the Times-Picayune urged Louisiana artists to turn their gaze from the art of Europe and towards the art of Mexico, writing that Mexican art was "more nearly related to us emotionally" than European art.

By the late 1920s, Louisianan artists like William Spratling, Caroline Durieux, Alberta Kinsey, and Conrad A. Albrizio began travelling to Mexico to learn from Mexican artists like Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, Ruffino Tamayo, and Carlos Orozco Romero. These artists became friends, colleagues, and frequent collaborators, organizing exhibitions in both Mexico City and New Orleans that celebrated their artistic alliance. Diego Rivera's portrait of Louisiana printmaker Caroline Durieux, for example, was shown at least three times in exhibitions at the Belles Arts in Mexico City, and also appeared at the New Orleans Arts and Crafts Club, paired with the work of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. By the early 1930s, the strength of this artistic interaction
between Mexico and Louisiana caused a writer for The New Orleanian to characterize Louisianan art as having a "distinct Mexican tinge." By 1933, the Times-Picayune cited an undeniably "strong Mexican trend" in Louisiana art.

Mexico in New Orleans: A Tale of Two Americas is the first major museum exhibition to explore this captivating international cultural exchange. features more than 80 works by both Mexican and Louisianan artists who were part of this captivating international cultural exchange and will be accompanied by a richly illustrated bilingual exhibition catalogue designed by the LSU School of Art. The exhibition features artwork drawn from the LSU Museum of Art's collection of works by Diego Rivera and Caroline Durieux, as well as artworks by other prominent artists like David Alfaro Siqueiros, Boyd Cruise, and Elizabeth Catlett borrowed from public and private collections including the Historic New Orleans Collection and the Latin American Library at Tulane University. In the exhibition, paintings, watercolors, drawings and prints by these artists will be supplemented with sculpture, furniture, decorative arts, and ephemera such as pamphlets and postcards which help tell the story of Mexico in New Orleans-and New Orleans in Mexico.

Mexico in New Orleans: A Tale of Two Americas is curated by Dr. Katie A. Pfohl, and organized by the LSU Museum of Art.

Call for Papers: Tropical Exposures Conference

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Tropical Exposures: Photography, Film, and Visual Culture in a Caribbean Frame
March 10-12, 2016
Tulane University
New Orleans, LA

The 2016 Tropical Exposures conference is now accepting abstracts through September 15, 2015. Click here to view or download the official Call for Papers.

Tropical Exposures welcomes proposals for papers that address any facet of Caribbean visual representation in photography, film, art, popular culture, and other media, as well as the interaction of word and image more generally. Scholars are also encouraged to present proposals that consider social and cultural shifts toward the increasing intermediality of representation in the Caribbean frame.

Papers may focus on one terrain, image-maker, or form of media, or employ comparative strategies. Papers may be in English, Spanish, French or Portuguese, though English is preferred. We anticipate creating an edited volume of expanded essays around the notion of Tropical Exposures, co-edited by Ana López and Marilyn Miller. We encourage participants to prepare abstracts and presentations with an eye to inclusion in a print publication. Papers might address some of the following tropics or questions in their myriad Caribbean contexts:

-Conditions of image production in the torrid zones
-Documentary film and the aims of full exposure
-Still life and the notion of static representation
-Visual literacy and lens-based scholarship
-Image and intellectual property
-Snapshots, clips, collages and other image fragments
-Icons of visual culture from Korda’s Che to Cabrera Infante’s Códac
-Ruins as sites of deterioration and inspiration
-Visual representation, race and post-race
-Caribbean images as ephemera
-Realisms, surrealisms, hyperrealisms
-Museums, biennales, and other sites of collective visual consumption
-Code-switching between media
-Virtual and interactive visual systems
-Word and Image studies in and on the Caribbean
-Facades
-Censorship and the Image
-Moving pictures and sentiment
-Patronage, connoisseurship, and institutional support
-Captions
-Image saturation and contamination
-Interiority and exteriority
-Fair use of the Caribbean image
-Tourism and other circuitous systems
-New languages and theories of visual technique and critique

Please send a proposal and 250-word abstract by September 15, 2015 to <ccsi@tulane.edu>, including the abstract as an attachment to the email. Please include the title of your paper, your name (and the names of any co-presenters), institutional affiliation, mailing address, phone number, and email address. We welcome pre-constituted panels. If submitting a panel for consideration, please include a top sheet with panel title, participant names and a brief abstract of the panel topic in addition to the individual paper proposals.

Notification of acceptance to the conference will be made by October 1, 2015.

For updated information on the conference, location and arrangements, visit the Tropical Exposures page on the Cuban & Caribbean Studies website.

Area Studies & Outreach in the Social Studies Classroom

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Area Studies & Outreach in the Social Studies Classroom
November 10-11, 2015

A working meeting sponsored by Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies and the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs. This meeting will highlight important themes of outreach across area studies while producing valuable insight into best strategies for engaging with the K-12 Social Studies community. The meeting will explore best practices and strategies for assessment, resource access, and travel and collaboration.

Themes Addressed:

Evaluation and Assessment

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Innovative Resource Design and Access
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Telling the Story
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Travel & Outreach
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Strategic Partnerships
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The meeting will take place before the annual National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) conference in New Orleans, LA November 13-15, 2015. Participants are encouraged to attend the working meeting and stay for the conference afterwards.

This meeting is funded through a Title VI U.S. Department of Education grant, the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs, and Tulane University's Stone Center for Latin American Studies. Sponsors also include The University of Maine Canadian-American Center, The University of Texas at Austin Center for Middle Eastern Studies, The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, The University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for South Asia, and the Boston University Africa Studies Center.

Travel Funding Opportunity
Funding for travel may be provided to those whose presentations are accepted. Applications for funding can be made by filling out this form and returning it to LARC by email (crcrts@tulane.edu), fax (504.865.6719) or mail (Stone Center for Latin American Studies 100 Jones Hall New Orleans, LA 70118).

For more information, please contact Denise Woltering at 504-862-3143 or dwolteri@tulane.edu

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Tropical Exposures: Photography, Film, and Visual Culture in a Caribbean Frame

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Tropical Exposures: Photography, Film, and Visual Culture in a Caribbean Frame
March 10-12, 2016
Tulane University
New Orleans, LA

We offer our conference as a forum in which to peruse and absorb the visual turn in contemporary inquiry from the unique vantage points of the Caribbean, circum-Caribbean and Caribbean diasporas. We conceive the tropical exposure as a frame for representing the region’s strengths and vulnerabilities and for questioning the interaction of Antillean sensibilities with a plethora of images and mediascapes. Our invited keynote speakers include photographer Virginia Beahan and artist Francisco Crespo, whose work appears on this page.

Tropical Exposures welcomes proposals for papers that address any facet of Caribbean visual representation in photography, film, art, popular culture, and other media, as well as the interaction of word and image more generally. Scholars are also encouraged to present proposals that consider social and cultural shifts toward the increasing intermediality of representation in the Caribbean frame.

Conference Updates:
Tropical Exposures is now accepting proposals. Please see the Call for Papers page for more information. Proposals are due by September 15, 2015.