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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Mesa Redonda/Round Table Discussion: U.S.-Cuba Relations

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¡Viva Cuba! Now what?

The Cuban and Caribbean Studies Institute presents a round table discussion on the restoration of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, and what it may mean for life on the island. Panelists include Tulane students and faculty.

PANELISTS:

  • Dr. Ana M. López, Associate Provost, Director of CCSI, Professor of Communication
  • Dr. Martin Dimitrov, Associate Professor, Political Science
  • Dr. Annie Gibson, Professor of Practice, CGS
  • Jimena Codina, M.A. Candidate, Latin American Studies
  • Boris Martin, Ph.D Candidate, History
  • Dr. Carolina Caballero (moderator), Lecturer, Spanish and Portuguese

All are welcome to attend. Q & A session to follow.
Friday, January 30th
4:30pm
100A Jones Hall
Greenleaf Conference Room

MARI Brown Bag: Christopher Rodning "Joara, Cuenca, and Fort San Juan: The Northern Borderlands of La Florida, 1566-1568"

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Dr. Christopher Rodning, Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology, will present on his research on Spanish contact with Native North Americans in the southeastern United States.

M.A.R.I.'s Brown Bag talk series is meant to provide a venue for students and faculty focusing on topics related to Mesoamerica to discuss their latest research in an informal and friendly setting. If you are interested in presenting, please email Marcello Canuto (mcanuto@tulane.edu) for more information. For the current speaker list of this talk series, please click here.

Please remember to bring your lunch!

Mobilizing at the Margins: Citizenship, Identity, and Democracy

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Tulane University's Latin American Graduate Organization invites your attendance at the 2015 Graduate Conference where you can meet graduate scholars, faculty, and community leaders interested in Latin America, explore the city, and experience the unique Mardi Gras season in New Orleans!

This year's conference encourages participants to engage with historical and emerging confrontations and reconfigurations of national identification, expressions of individual or communal identity, performances of citizenship, and re-imaginings of democracy within the context of Latin America. Latin America and the Caribbean encompass vast cultural, linguistic, and geographic diversity, making the region a subject of prolific scholarly study across disciplines. Within this complexity, conceptualizations of citizenship, identity, and democracy are constantly being negotiated, contested, and reframed in a multitude of contexts. These various encounters highlight the ways in which individuals interact with their communities, how communities define themselves within and/or beyond the framework of national borders, and how power and politics play out in an increasingly interconnected and decentralized global community.

Our keynote speaker this year will be Dr. Lara Putnam. Lara Putnam is Professor and Chair of the Department of History at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research has explored labor migration; state racism; and the ways kinship, gender, and sexuality both shape and are shaped by large-scale political and economic shifts. Publications include Radical Moves: Caribbean Migrants and the Politics of Race in the Jazz Age (UNC Press, 2013), The Company They Kept: Migrants and the Politics of Gender in Caribbean Costa Rica, 1870-1960 (UNC Press, 2002), and recent articles in Modernism/Modernities, International Labor and Working-Class History, the Journal of British Studies, and Small Axe. Work in progress uses examples from the history of Venezuela, Trinidad, and Grenada to explore methodological and theoretical dilemmas within history's transnational and digital "turns."

Photographic Exhibit: "Mexico, World Heritage Cities"

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The Consulate of Mexico in New Orleans is pleased to present the photographic exhibit “Mexico, World Heritage Cities” from January 22 to February 15, 2015. An opening reception will be held on January 22nd at 6 PM.

To date 721 sites worldwide have been listed as World Heritage sites including 167 cities. Of these cities, 10 of them are located in Mexico. The cities were chosen due to their historic, architectural, and urban importance. They include Campeche, Guanajuato, Morelia, Oaxaca, Puebla, Queretaro, San Miguel, Zacatecas, and Mexico City.

Summer in Argentina Program Info Session

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TULANE SUMMER IN ARGENTINA PROGRAM
JUNE 14 – JULY 17, 2015
FREE FOOD!

Summer in Argentina is a Tulane-run five-week program in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that offers six credits of courses in Spanish and Political Science. It’s ideal for students who want to have an experience abroad and strengthen their Spanish skills, but cannot commit to a semester-long program. It’s also an outstanding opportunity for anything who wants to have a rich experience in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.

Come meet the director of the program, talk to alumni of the 2014 program, and enjoy some Argentine food!

A representative from the Stone Center for Latin American Studies will also be present, so bring all of your questions.

Wednesday, February 25
5:00-6:00PM
100A Jones Hall, Greenleaf Conference Room

For more information about the program, contact Professor Marilyn Miller (mgmiller_at_tulane.edu), or Laura Wise (sclassum_at_tulane.edu).

Congreso internacional de literatura y cultura centroamericanas (CILCA XXIII)

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Tulane University, Loyola University New Orleans, y Purdue University Calumet tienen el gusto de invitar al CONGRESO DE LITERATURA y CULTURA CENTROAMERICANAS (CILCA XXIII) que se llevará a cabo en la ciudad de New Orleans, Louisiana, del 11 al 13 de marzo del 2015 en el campus de Tulane University y Loyola University New Orleans.

Desde el primer congreso realizado en Nicaragua 1993, CILCA se ha caracterizado por ser un espacio de intercambio intelectual y de amistad para académicas/os, escritoras/es y lectoras/es. El congreso se ha efectuado en todos los países centroamericanos y por primera vez en su historia, CILCA se realizará en los Estados Unidos. La ciudad escogida es Nueva Orleáns, puerta de entrada hacia el Caribe y los países de América Central. El intercambio cultural entre Nueva Orleáns y América Central ha sido intenso por muchísimos años, y la ciudad alberga una de las comunidades de origen hondureño más grandes de los Estados Unidos. Tulane University tiene estrechos lazos con la región a través del Stone Center for Latin American Studies, the Latin American Library, y the Middle American Research Institute. Loyola University New Orleans se ha distinguido por el trabajo con las comunidades hispanas que realizan varias de sus unidades académicas, incluyendo the Law School y el Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

La organización de CILCA XXIII la realizan la Dra. Maureen Shea y el Dr. Uriel Quesada, expertos en literatura y cultura centroamericanas, con el apoyo del Dr. Jorge Román Lagunas, creador y promotor de CILCA.

Ud. puede ver La convocatoria aquí

Tulane University, Loyola University New Orleans, and Purdue University Calumet invite you to the Congress on Literature and Culture of Central America (CILCA XXIII) which will take place in New Orleans, Louisiana March 11-13 2015 on the campuses of Tulane and Loyola New Orleans.

From the first conference, held in Nicaragua in 1993, CILCA has been a space for intellectual exchange and friendship for academics and writers. The conference has been held in all of the Central American countries and for the first time in its history will be held in the United States. New Orleans, the gateway to the Caribbean and Central America, has been chosen as the location. New Orleans and Central America have a longstanding cultural exchange and New Orleans has one of the largest Honduran communities in the United States. Tulane has long connections with the region through the Stone Center for Latin American Studies, the Latin American Library, and the Middle American Research Institute. Loyola New Orleans works closely with hispanic communities particularly through the Law school and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

CILCA XXIII is organized by Drs. Maureen Shea and Uriel Quesada, experts on the literature and culture of Central America, with the support of Dr. Jorge Román Lagunas, creator of CILCA.

  • CALL FOR PAPERS DEADLINE HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO JANUARY 15, 2015. Call for papers is available here
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Registration prices are listed below:

Early Registration (BEFORE January 15, 2015):

  • $150.00 U.S. academics
  • $125.00 U.S. Latin American academics traveling from Latin America; graduate students in the U.S.
  • $100.00 Latin American graduate students traveling from Latin America

Late registration (AFTER January 15, 2015):

  • $165.00 U.S. academics
  • $140.00 Latin American academics traveling from Latin America; graduate students in the U.S.
  • $115.00 Latin American graduate students traveling from Latin America