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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Upcoming Events

Art Exhibit "Dualities"

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The Consulate of Mexico in New Orleans presents the art exhibition "DUALITIES " by Mexican artist Juan Pablo Hurtado from May 21st to June 15th, 2015. An opening reception will be held on May 28th at 6:00 pm.

Heroes of Brazil Story Hour and Capoeira Demonstration

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The Stone Center for Latin American Studies and the Pebbles Center Westbank, based at the Algiers Regional Library, are sponsoring a story time and Capoeira Demonstration on June 17th. The NOPL summer reading program theme is heroes, so the storytime will discuss heroes of Brazil.

The program is free and open to the public. Please join us to celebrate heroes and learn about Capoeira!

Explore Brazil in the K-12 Classroom: Summer 2015 Teacher Institute

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The Latin American Resource Center, the Center for Latin American Studies at Vanderbilt University, and the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute and the Portuguese Flagship Program at the University of Georgia are presenting a K-12 teacher workshop exploring Brazil in the classroom. The workshop will take place on the Tulane University Uptown Campus.

K-12 educators of any discipline and grade-level are welcome to apply to attend this 5 day institute. The focus of the institute is on the language, culture, and performance of Brazil. The workshop will include exposure to the Portuguese language, discussions with scholars of Brazilian culture and performance, viewings of Brazilian films, and performances by Brazilian groups. Throughout the week, educators will work to develop interdisciplinary curricula, which they can bring back to their schools to teach and share with colleagues. There is a specialized track to this institute in order to better support participants. There is a Portuguese Language track which consists of intensive morning language sessions for those interested in receiving a crash course in basic Portuguese. This track is open to participants with Spanish language background and little to no Portuguese training. While this track is meeting every morning, sessions for those interested in cultures of Brazil will take place. Please make sure to identify if you would like to be in the language track in your application form at the bottom of this page.

Registration Information
Participants have the option of registering under three affordable rates:

  • Basic Registration – $50 [includes all materials, parking permit for 5 days, internet access and registration to entire program with no lodging or meals.]
  • Full Registration – $250 [includes all above plus includes lodging (with linens) in a Tulane residence hall 4 nights, with 2 meals a day, and access to Tulane Reilly Fitness Center.]
  • Deluxe Registration – $300 [includes everything above plus guarantees a single room in the residence hall.]

The 2015 Summer K-12 Teacher Institute, Somos Nós: Teaching Afro-Brazilian Identity is a 20-hour program designed for K-12 teachers, librarians, or administrative staff. K-12 educators will benefit from this timely, interactive program on one of the world's strongest and most influential economies in the world, Brazil. The program is sponsored by Tulane University, the University of Georgia, and Vanderbilt University through a U.S. Department of Education Title VI National Resource Center grant.

A detailed schedule will be posted shortly. For more information visit the institute webpage

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

Summer K-12 Teacher Institute in Cuba

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Teaching Cuban Culture and Society: A Summer K-12 Teacher Institute in Cuba
Havana, Cuba | June 20 – July 4, 2015

The Application Deadline has passed.

The Stone Center for Latin American Studies is offering a unique summer study abroad program for K-12 teachers in Havana, Cuba in 2015. This two-week program provides the unique opportunity to work on developing lesson plans while exploring the sights and sounds of a nation and people that remain obscured behind political rhetoric and misinformation. Recent economic changes on the island have provoked a series of social and cultural transformations that have left Cubans and the entire world wondering what could be next for the island and the Revolution. Don't miss the chance to witness some of these challenges and triumphs firsthand and get the opportunity to bring your experience back to your students in the classroom.

PLEASE VIEW THE WEBSITE FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO APPLY.

ITINERARY – 15 DAYS

  • Day 1 – U.S./HAVANA, CUBA
    Depart from Tampa, FL, Upon arrival, enjoy dinner and a welcome reception followed by an informal walk and people watching on the Malecón.
  • Day 2 – HAVANA
    Havana Vieja Tour with local preservation experts to discuss in depth the history of local landmarks, historical preservation efforts, and future plans. Visit "Arte Corte" – a barber shop and hair-dressing school in the Santo Angel neighborhood developed to promote skills in the community and support the local economy – and meet with local community leaders., students and elderly folks at the community center Visit the Callejón de Hamel for rumba music and meet with Centro Habana residents. Presentation on AfroCuban dance with musical expert Cari Diez; opportunity to interact with the musicians and staff.
  • Day 3 – HAVANA
    Lecture with Professor Alfredo Prieto on "Cuba Since the Special Period." Curriculum development workshop. Visit the Cuba Council of Churches to meet local people and participate in a seminar about the organization's work in the areas of youth, agriculture, social welfare, and international communications.
  • Day 4 – HAVANA
    Walking tour of Calle Obispo in the morning with Professor Rafael Hernández. Meet the instructors and students of La Colmenita, an after-school program that uses song and dance performance as a social development tool.
  • Day 5 – HAVANA
    Presentation by Professor Isabel Rigol on "Current Challenges Facing Havana's Effort to Preserve its Architecture and Heritage." Visit to the Escuelas Nacional de Arte and meet with students and faculty. Evening walk and visit to the Cañonazo at the Morro.
  • Day 6 – VINALES
    Day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage site, Viñales for landscape and village exploration. Explore the mountainous magotes and visit and meet local tobacco farmers working in their fields and storehouses. At the Casa del Veguero we'll have an introduction to tobacco farming and tobacco production. Visit with locals in the town of Viñales; lunch will be a community event shared with local families, followed by a visit to a children's art center.
  • Day 7 – ALAMAR
    Visit to an Organipónico (urban agrarian farm) in Alamar to explore sustainable farming in Cuba and learn about Cuban cuisine from local gardeners and Noel Pina, the manager of the garden. After lunch explore the community project Muraleando, where local artists have been changing a downtrodden neighborhood into a living work of art.
  • Day 8 – HAVANA/JAIMANITAS
    Visit to Cementerio Colón and interact with the dozens of pilgrims who line up daily at the tomb of Amelia Goyri, said to grant miracles. Continue on to the Plaza de la Revolución. Lunch and afternoon visit to workshop of ceramic artist, José Fuster, who has turned his neighborhood into a unique, whimsical work of public art. Curriculum development in the evening.
  • Day 9 – SANTA CLARA, TRINIDAD
    Travel to Trinidad via Santa Clara, a town founded by 175 people on July 15, 1689. It is the site of the last battle in the Cuban Revolution in 1958. Visit to the Che Mausoleum in Santa Clara. Also visit the historic sugar plantation of Manaca Iznaga before arriving in Trinidad.
  • Day 10 – TRINIDAD
    Explore this UNESCO World Heritage site, founded on December 23, 1514 by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar. Trinidad was a central piece of Cuba's sugar-based economy. Guided city tour with the city historian. Visit the Trinidad library to learn about the importance of libraries and debate questions of intellectual freedom with the staff. Meet with local entrepreneur David Alamar, owner of a private paladar (Davimart) to discuss cuentaproprismo in Cuba.
  • Day 11 – CIENFUEGOS
    We will head to Cienfuegos, a town known for its architectural beauty which reveals its French colonial roots. Visit the Beny More School of Art that trains students in the visual and musical arts and is one of the top ten middle-level art schools in Cuba.
  • Day 12 – HAVANA
    We will hear from children's book author Olga Marta Pérez about the children's/ youth Literacy Scene in Cuba today. In the afternoon, we will visit the Cuban Collection of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes accompanied by a curator.
  • Day 13 – PLAYA GIRON (Site of Bay of Pigs), Ciénega de Zapata, Playa Larga
    Day excursion to the historic site of the Bay of Pigs, one of the landing sites for the 1961 US-backed invasion. Visit the Finca Fiesta Campesina farm, the Playa Girón museum, the Parque Ciénaga de Zapata, the Laguna del Tesoro, and the Taino Indian village.
  • Day 14 – HAVANA
    Wrap-up curriculum workshop followed by a free afternoon ending in a celebratory dinner.
  • Day 15 – HAVANA/U.S.
    Morning departure for the U.S.

For questions, contact Denise Woltering Vargas at 504.862.3143, or at crcrts@tulane.edu. Visit the Summer 2015 Institute webpage.

REPAL Second Annual Conference

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The second annual meeting of REPAL (Red para el Estudio de la Economía Política de América Latina) will be held July 7-8, 2015 in Montevideo, Uruguay, hosted by the The Department of Social and Political Sciences at the Universidad Católica del Uruguay (UCU, Montevideo).

The conference discusses important puzzles and problems, both theoretical and practical, in the political economy of Latin America. Papers, and presentations are presented in English, Spanish, or Portuguese.

The conference is sponsored by CIPR. For more information visit the REPAL website.

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.