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

Day of the Dead with the LPO: Pan American Life Fiesta Sinfonica: La Triste Historia

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The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO), in association with Pan American Life, will celebrate Day of the Dead through a multimedia concert experience entitled “La Triste Historia.” Renowned Mexican composer Juan Trigos, director Ben Young Mason, and executive producer Duncan Copp have paired Juan Trigos' evocative Symphony No. 3 with an artistic and fantastical animated film. Follow the tragic, dream-like tale of two young lovers, set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution, culminating in the celebration of The Day of the Dead.

Featured Musical Pieces:
Juan Trigos: Symphony No. 3
Carlos Chavez: Symphony No. 2 “Sinfonia India”
Alberto Ginastera: Four Dances from Estancia
Jose Pablo Moncayo: Huapango

For more information or to purchase tickets please visit the LPO Website.

Day of the Dead - New Orleans 2014

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Celebrate Day of the Dead across New Orleans with family activities, altars, K-12 teacher workshops, and musical performances.

K-12 Teacher Workshops and Resources

Exploring the Tradition of Day of the Dead in the Art Classroom
Tuesday October 7, 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St.
Pre-registration required: Registration Page
A Stone Center co-sponsored event

Altars

Algiers Regional Public Library
3014 Holiday Drive
www.neworleanspubliclibrary.org
A Stone Center co-sponsored event

Casa Borrega
1719 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.
www.casaborrega.com

Mahalia Jackson Theater
1419 Basin St.
www.lpomusic.com

New Orleans Healing Center
2372 St. Claude Avenue
www.neworleanshealingcenter.org

Ogden Museum of Southern Art
925 Camp Street
www.ogdenmuseum.org

Public Events

Day of the Dead Family Workshop
Saturday, October 11, 10 AM – 12 PM
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
925 Camp Street
Registration Required

Ogden After Hours
Thursday, October 30, 6 – 8 PM
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
925 Camp Street
Tickets Required

Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra presents La Triste Historia
Saturday, November 1, 7:30 PM
Mahalia Jackson Theater
419 Basin Street
Tickets Required
Pre-concert activities begin at 6 PM; the concert begins at 7:30 PM
A Stone Center co-sponsored event

2014 Day of the Dead programs across New Orleans are sponsored by the following organizations and businesses: Consulate of Mexico in New Orleans, Casa Borrega, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Pan American Life, the Foundation for Entertainment, Development, and Education, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the New Orleans Healing Center, and Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies.

An Evening With Two Francophone-Creolophone Authors

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From 1492 when Christopher Columbus landed on Quisqueya Island, to the period 1791-1804,which marked the emergence and manifestation of self-consciousness by African bondsmen who revolted against their subjugation by the colonial empires, the Caribbean region has not only been the theater of a power struggle among European countries but also an arena where African and European languages and cultures intersect, entice, and repel each other, producing heteroglossic speech communities that have become more or less diglossic speech communities.

Modern-day Caribbean islanders, particularly those who use Creole as their native tongue and French as their lingua franca, still deal with the language issue in different spheres of social practice as well as in literature. Such linguistic heritage is a direct manifestation of colonialism.

The manner in which francophone/creolophone Caribbean writers take up the issue of language in their writings remains a topic that endures as we think about languages in that region.

It is in this context that Mr. Anderson Dovilas and Ms. Fabienne Kanor, two francophone Caribbean authors, respectively from Haiti and Martinique/France, will help us further address this question as they discuss their works produced in Haitian Creole and in French.

Born in Orléans, France, of Martinican parents, Fabienne Kanor is an award-winning writer and the author of four novels, including Les Chiens ne font pas des chats (2008) and Anticorps (2010), as well as the children's novel Le Jour où la mer a disparu (2008). She received the Fetkann Award for her novel D'Eaux Douces (2004), and and the RFO Literary Award for Humus (2006).

Anderson Dovilas was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, July 02, 1985. This young author has published in France, in the US, and in Canada. He has attended the State University of Haiti where he studied Linguistic and a minor in Ethnology. He is a Poet-activist, a cultural Journalist, a playwright, and an actor. Dovilas, has participated, collaborated, and organized several cultural events; and often organized street performances to rein-act the history of his battered country, to create social activities, to educate and entertain.

REFRESHMENTS WILL FOLLOW

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Marky Jean-Pierre
Béatrice Germaine

Sponsored by
Department of French & Italian at Tulane University
Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University
Consulate General of France in New Orleans

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Tempo Transfigurado: A talk by Graciela Speranza

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Tempo Transfigurado
by Graciela Speranza

Arturo Sotomayor: The Myth of the Democratic Peacekeeper, Lecture on November 7 at 4pm

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Please join us for a lecture by Dr. Arturo Sotomayor, assistant professor at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS). Sotomayor will present his newest book The Myth of the Democratic Peacekeeper: Civil-Military Relations and the United Nations (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013).

The Myth of the Democratic Peacekeeper reevaluates how United Nations peacekeeping missions reform (or fail to reform) their participating members. It investigates how such missions affect military organizations and civil-military relations as countries transition to a more democratic system. Sotomayor's evaluation of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay's involvement in the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti reinforces his final analysis – that successful democratic transitions must include a military organization open to change and a civilian leadership that exercises its oversight responsibilities.

Arturo Sotomayor is an assistant professor in the National Security Affairs Department at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), in Monterey, California. His areas of interest include civil-military relations in Latin America; UN Peacekeeping participation by South American countries; Latin American comparative foreign policy, and nuclear policy in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. His publications have appeared in Security Studies, International Peacekeeping, Journal of Latin American Politics and Society, Hemisphere, Nonproliferation Review and other edited volumes. He is the author of The Myth of the Democratic Peacekeeper: Civil-Military Relations and the United Nations (Johns Hopkins Press, 2014) and co-editor of Mexico's Security Failure (Routledge, 2011). Before joining the NPS in 2009, Sotomayor taught at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE) in Mexico City, and was a post-doctoral fellow in the Center for Inter-American Policy and Research (CIPR) at Tulane University. He received his M.A., M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees in political science from Columbia University and his B.A. degree in international relations from the Technological Autonomous Institute of Mexico (ITAM).

For flyer, click here.

The Guantánamo Public Memory Project

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The Guantánamo Public Memory Project seeks to build public awareness of the long history of the US naval station at Guantánamo, Bay, Cuba, and foster dialogue on the future of this place and the policies it shapes.

Steered from Columbia University's Institute for the Study of Human Rights, the Project is being developed by a growing collaboration of universities, organizations, and individuals. It was first launched in 2009 from the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience. Support for the Project has come from National Dialogue and Traveling exhibit partners, the Libra Foundation, the New York Council on the Humanities, and the Open Society Foundations.

National Dialogue & Traveling Exhibit
The Project's first traveling exhibit opened in New York City at NYU's Kimmel Center for University Life Windows Gallery on December 13, 2012 and is traveling to 17 sites across the country and internationally through at least 2015. The exhibit explores GTMO's history from US occupation in 1898 to today's debates and visions for its future. It was created through a unique collaboration among a growing number of universities from around the country by student curators, communities, and people with first-hand experience at GTMO, who raised difficult questions and addressed them from diverse perspectives. The exhibit is accompanied by public dialogues in each host community. Join the National Dialogue.

The Guantánamo Public Memory Project in New Orleans
SEPTEMBER 2 – NOVEMBER 26, 2014

Exhibit in New Orleans at Tulane University with special events on campus and at the Ashé Cultural Arts Center.

September 2 – October 30, 2014

Exhibit is free and open to the public from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.

TULANE UNIVERSITY
6801 Freret Avenue
Jones Hall 204

Special Events:

  • September 18
    6:00 PM
    Guantánamo Post-9/11: Human Rights and Constitutional Law in Modern America
  • October 16
    6:00 PM
    Angola and Guantánamo: Art and Incarceration
  • October 30
    6:00 PM
    Guantánamo: Cuban and Haitian Refugee Stories

November 5 – November 26, 2014

ASHE CULTURAL ARTS CENTER
1712 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.
(Please see website for detailed event information: www.ashecac.org)

Special Events:

  • November 7
    Performance Excerpts by Kesha McKey
  • November 8
    Evening Performance with ArtSpot Productions & The Graduates
  • November 14
    The Farm: Life Inside Angola Film Screening
  • November 15
    Central City Fest

Sponsored by Tulane University’s Cuban and Caribbean Studies Institute, African and African Diaspora Studies, The Murphy Institute, the Altman Program, New Orleans Center for the Gulf South, Center for Public Service, Center for Engaged Learning & Teaching, Newcomb College Institute, Honors Program, Department of History, the Stone Center for Latin American Studies, and the Joan Mitchell Foundation, The University of New Orleans’ Latin American Studies Department, CubaNOLA Arts Collective, and the Jefferson Muslim Association.

For more information about the Guantánamo Public Memory Project, please visit gitmomemory.org. For more information about the main exhibit at Tulane University, please contact jlipman@tulane.edu.

For resources for K-12 teachers, click here.