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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MARI Brown Bag: "Examining Wari Influence in the Callejón de Huaylas."- A Talk by Rachel Witt

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M.A.R.I is happy to present the sixteenth talk of the 2014-15 Brown Bag talk Series.
Rachel Witt, Anthropology Graduate student, will present on her recent research in a talk titled:
“Examining Wari Influence in the Callejón de Huaylas: A Bioarchaeological Study of a Skeletal Sample from Hualcayán.”

Friday, March 6 at 12:00 PM in Dinwiddie Hall, room 305.

See you on Friday and remember to bring your lunch.

Geoglyphs and Landscape in the Pampas of Nasca, South Coast of Peru

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Masato Sakai, an Associate Professor at Yamagata University in Japan, will present a talk entitled “Geoglyphs and Landscape in the Pampas of Nasca, South Coast of Peru.”

Sakai’s research involves using aerial photographs to better understand the geoglyphs at Nasca and re-dating the formations using radiocarbon dates.

For more information, please visit the MARI website.

Congreso internacional de literatura y cultura centroamericanas (CILCA XXIII)

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CONGRESO DE LITERATURA y CULTURA CENTROAMERICANAS (CILCA XXIII)
March 11 – 13, 2015
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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.

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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.

  • MAKE RESERVATIONS AT THE HOTEL HERE.

Registration prices are listed below:

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

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International Food and Music Festival

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Cultural Performances, cultural booths, cultural fashion and cuisine from various restaurants and organizations on campus and around New Orleans! This festival provides a great way for American and International students, faculty, staff and ethnic/language student organizations to share a taste of their home culture and cuisine with the Tulane and New Orleans community. This is an event that spotlights our diverse international community at Tulane.

In keeping with New Orleans’ tradition of spring festivals, this festival is meant to bring Tulane’s international community together and showcase your food and culture to each other and the community of New Orleans! International students and scholars bring so much life and diversity to this area – this festival is our big chance to come together and celebrate this contribution. Food and music from around the world will be showcased along with cultural displays and acivities.

Doors open at 5:00PM. Performances start at 5:30PM.

Sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Office of International Students and Scholars, Stone Center for Latin American Studies, Tulane Black Student Union.

Free and open to the public.

For more information contact Desirée Anderson (danders7@tulane.edu) or 504.865.5181

34K FT: Photographs from 34,000 feet

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The Consulate of Mexico in New Orleans is pleased to present the photographic exhibition "34K FT:Photographs from 34,000 feet" by Mexican Ambassador José A. Zabalgoitia.

An opening reception will be held on February 19th, at 6:00 PM.

A Lecture by Michael Shifter: "Shift in U.S.-Cuba Policy: Implications for Hemispheric Relations."

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RSVP required for lecture and luncheon.
Please join us for a lecture by Michael Shifter, President of the Inter-American Dialogue, the premier think-tank on Western Hemisphere affairs in Washington, D.C.

The announcement, last December 17th, that the United States would move towards normalization of its diplomatic relations with Cuba, generated questions about the move's potential impact. Some observers have interpreted the move as a harbinger of better times for ordinary Cubans, while others have expressed doubts about its potential for improving human rights and political freedoms. All agree, however, that the shift in policy is historic, and that it is bound to have profound implications for hemispheric relations. As a long-time observer of inter-American affairs, Michael Shifter is in a privileged position to assess those implications, and the likely scenarios in which they might unfold.

Michael Shifter is president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based forum on Western Hemisphere affairs. Since 1993, Mr. Shifter has been adjunct professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, where he teaches Latin American politics. Mr. Shifter writes and talks widely on U.S.-Latin American relations and hemispheric affairs. His recent articles have appeared in major U.S. and Latin American publications such as The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Journal of Democracy, Harvard International Review, Clarin, O Estado de S. Paulo, and Cambio, and he is co-editor, along with Jorge Domínguez, of Constructing Democratic Governance in Latin America, published by Johns Hopkins University Press. He is also a contributing editor to Current History. Since 1996, he has frequently testified before Congress about U.S. policy towards Latin America. Prior to joining the Inter-American Dialogue, Mr. Shifter directed the Latin American and Caribbean program at the National Endowment for Democracy and, before that, the Ford Foundation's governance and human rights program in the Andean region and Southern Cone where he was based in Lima, Peru, and subsequently, in Santiago, Chile.

To reserve a spot or for more information please contact cipr@tulane.edu or visit the cipr website