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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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. Visit the Institute Website to learn more about the program.

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.

La hora del cuento: Call Me Tree/Llámame Arbol

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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 Call Me Tree/Llámame Arbol.

Photography Exhibit: El Viajero

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The Consulate of Mexico in New Orleans is pleased to present, in collaboration with the Photo Alliance of New Orleans, the photographic exhibition "El Viajero " by Owen Murphy from June 18th to July 11th, 2015 at the Art Gallery of the Consulate of Mexico. An opening reception will be held June 18th, 2015 at 6:00 PM.

For more information, visit the cultural agenda of the Consulate of Mexico in New Orleans.

Octavia Gallery Presents "Summer in Havana"

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Summer in Havana
July 2-25, 2015

This summer, Octavia Art Gallery is pleased to present new works by Cuban based artists. The 2015 installment offers a wide range of artistic styles, imagery, and influences, with works by the following artists.

Alex Hernández Dueñas, recently featured in Vanity Fair as one of the Cuban artists you should know, is a painter whose work investigates themes of status, privilege and hierarchical structures within society through images of pristine pools, manicured lawns, sleek homes and country clubs. Influenced by a wide range of artists, including David Hockney and Richard Diebenkorn, Dueñas's flattened, simplified and colorful handling of compositions creates atmospheres that are dreamlike and often times eerily void of human life.

Luis Enrique Camejo draws his inspiration from the transitory relationship between man and man's environment, particularly the urban environment. The movement and dynamism of the cityscape is captured through an over use of light, blurring, and dripping of his materials, not showing clarity but the instantaneous nature of the moment.

Karlos Perez is a good example of how recent contemporary Cuban painting has been shaping its own space. With a background in photography, video, and installation, Perez's paintings have blurred the order of the traditional discourse of art. His works are not "portraits" in the traditional sense, but rather the power of the images comes from their existential character.

JEFF, or José Emilio Fuentes Fonseca (JEFF), is a sculptor whose work gives the impression of simplicity while keeping the complexity hidden from view. Often working with the theme of childhood, he manipulates the language of children toward that of an adult. Threads of love, danger, and play are largely at work in his sculptures, which are also imbued with melancholy and nostalgia.

The Merger is a union of the artists Alain Pino, Mario Miguel González, Niels Moleiro. Their sculptures are greatly influenced by the current economic, political, and social state of Cuba. Using popular icons and tools for their work, they are able to distort them and adapt them to new circumstances in order to highlight issues in culture and society.

Frank Mujica's graphite drawings explore and enhance human observation in an unexpected way. The gesture within his marks give a realness and clarity to his works, while still maintaining a certain mystery and movement. Mujica's technique and medium shows a process that adjusts itself to the transient aspects of life.

Summer Bilingual Reading Series at the Pebbles Center

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SECOND SATURDAY OF THE MONTH

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