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 Chavezâ’‘¬’“¢ 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 Chavezâ’‘¬’“¢ reelection established the â’‘¬Å“administrative continuityâ’‘¬Â of the Executive, rendering a new inauguration â’‘¬Å“unnecessaryâ’‘¬Â. 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 presidentâ’‘¬’“¢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 legislatureâ’‘¬’“¢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 â’‘¬Å“disciplineâ’‘¬Â 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 regionâ’‘¬’“¢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

    Permanent Researcher and CEO, CIAPA, Executive Director - Center for Inter-American Policy and Research at Tulane University

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LAGO Symposium on Community-Engaged Scholarship

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The Latin Americanist Graduate Organization (LAGO) is pleased to announce its Symposium on Community-Engaged Scholarship. This full-day event will include a series of presentations featuring graduate students, faculty, and local leaders working at the intersection of academia and community. All are welcome to attend one or more of three talks. Breakfast and lunch will be provided.


SYMPOSIUM SCHEDULE

9 – 9:30 AM | Breakfast

9:30 – 11 AM | “The Role of the Arts in Community Engagement and Activism”
Moderator: Megan Flattley (Stone Center PhD Candidate)
Panelists: Dr. Jeffery U. Darensbourg (Tribal Councilperson and enrolled member of the Atakapa-Ishak Nation of Southwest Louisiana and Southeast Texas), Gabrielle Garcia Steib (Media Artist and Writer), Dr. Edith Wolfe (Stone Center Assistant Director for Undergraduate Programs)

11 – 11:30 AM | Break/Networking

11:30 – 1 PM | “Co-Creating Digital Testimonios with Latinx Youth: A Community-Engaged Approach to Scholarship and Action”
Presenters: Jennifer Miller Scarnato (City, Culture & Community PhD Candidate) and Rebeca Sauly Santa María Granados (Youth Member of Puentes)
Discussion Moderator: Dr. James D. Huck, Jr. (Stone Center Assistant Director for Graduate Programs and Puentes Board Member)

1 – 2 PM | Lunch

2 – 3:30 PM | “Guiding Principles and Strategies: The Social Sciences and Community Engagement”
Moderator: Carolina Timoteo de Oliveira (Stone Center PhD Candidate)
Panelists: Dr. Claudia Chávez-Arguelles (Tulane Anthropology Faculty), Ruth Idakula (Critical Race Theory & Anti-Racist Praxis educator and facilitator), and Linett Luna Tovar (Stone Center Masters Program Alumna)

3:30 – 4:30 | Networking/Wrap-up

The LAGO Symposium on Community-Engaged Scholarship is co-sponsored by the Stone Center for Latin American Studies and the Tulane Mellon Graduate Program in Community-Engaged Scholarship.

Latin American Writers Series: Damián Cabrera

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Join us for an interview with Damián Cabrera about his life, interests, and influences. The discussion will be followed by an open Q&A. This event will be held in Spanish.

About the Latin American Writers Series

This series brings together Latin America’s most representative creative voices and the editorial entrepreneurs that publish them. By way of interviews and presentations of various editorial missions, the guests will shed light on a literary world shaped by the contemporary issues of the continent. Moving forward, their conversations will comprise the centerpiece of a digital archive that introduces their ideas to a global audience.

Este serie reúne a los autores más representativos de la escritura continental y los editores que los publican. A través de entrevistas y presentaciones de proyectos editoriales, los invitados explorarán los vínculos entre el mundo literario y la realidad continental. Sus conversaciones se convertirán después en el eje de un archivo digital que busca llevar estas ideas a un público global.

About the Author

Damián Cabrera was born in Asunción Paraguay and grew up in Alto Paraná along the Brazilian border. His publications, which explore the realities of the Triple Frontier, include one collection of short stories, sh… horas de contar… (2006) and the novels Xiru (2012)—winner of the Roque Gaona Prize—and Xe (2019). Cabrera has served as editor of the journals El Tereré (2006-2012) and Ku’Ótro (2008) and is an active member of artistic organizations such as Semenario Espacio/Crítico and Ediciones de la Ura. He also teaches film at the Universidad Columbia de Paraguay and art and design at the Universidad Nacional de Paraguay.

The 2020 Dr. H. Barry and Lucy V. Holt Lecture in Ethnohistory: "City of Blood, City of Flowers: Why the Aztecs Enchant Us"

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The Stone Center for Latin American Studies, the Tulane Department of History, and the Middle American Research Institute invite you to the 2020 Dr. H. Barry and Lucy V. Holt Lecture in Ethnohistory: “City of Blood, City of Flowers: Why the Aztecs Enchant Us” presented by Dr. Davíd Carrasco.

Davíd Carrasco is the Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Latin America at Harvard University. A historian of religions with a particular interest in Mesoamerican cities and the Mexican-American borderlands, Carrasco’s wide-ranging work has explored the challenges of postcolonial ethnography and theory as well as the practices and symbolic nature of ritual violence in comparative perspective. In conjunction with Mexican archaeologists, he has carried out research in excavations and archives associated with the sites of Teotihuacan and Mexico-Tenochtitlan resulting in books such as Religions of Mesoamerica, City of Sacrifice, To Change Place, and Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire. Carrasco’s work has also traced the religious dimensions of the Latino experience, exploring themes such as mestizaje, the myth of Aztlan, transculturation, and La Virgen de Guadalupe. Most recently, Carrasco oversaw production of a documentary about his longtime friend and Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison. He edited and contributed to the companion volume Goodness & the Literary Imagination. Carrasco is a recipient of the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest honor the Mexican government gives to a foreign national.

The lecture is being held in conjunction with the Tulane Maya Symposium and will be followed by light refreshments before the keynote address by Dorie Reents-Budet. Both the Holt Lecture and keynote address are free and open to the public.

Teaching the Maya through Food: K-12 Teacher Workshop

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Friday, March 6, 2020
4:00 pm – 6:00 pm

REGISTER HERE FOR $5 ONLY

In collaboration with the Annual Tulane Maya Symposium, this workshop focuses on foods of the Maya. Participants will explore the foods of the Maya focusing on the role of food over time. Join us as we hear from Maya Master Teacher, Ellen Cohen, Anthropologist and researcher of chocolate, Professor Kathryn Sampeck and Kaqchikel language scholar from Guatemala, Ixnal Cuma Chávez who will discuss the importance of the tortilla and tamal in contemporary Maya traditions.

REGISTER HERE.

Workshop Objectives:

  • Provide a general introduction to the geography of the Maya
  • Introduce new perspectives to teaching the Maya through culinary traditions
  • Share hands-on lessons and activities that inspire learners to better understand ancient and contemporary Maya

Sponsored by Tulane University’s AfterCLASS, the Middle American Research Institute, the Stone Center for Latin American Studies, and S.S. NOLA.

For more information, please call 504.862.3143 or email crcrts@tulane.edu.

Latin American Writers Series: Andrea Palet

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Join us for an interview with Andrea Palet about her life, interests, and influences. The discussion will be followed by an open Q&A. This event will be held in Spanish.

About the Latin American Writers Series

This series brings together Latin America’s most representative creative voices and the editorial entrepreneurs that publish them. By way of interviews and presentations of various editorial missions, the guests will shed light on a literary world shaped by the contemporary issues of the continent. Moving forward, their conversations will comprise the centerpiece of a digital archive that introduces their ideas to a global audience.

Este serie reúne a los autores más representativos de la escritura continental y los editores que los publican. A través de entrevistas y presentaciones de proyectos editoriales, los invitados explorarán los vínculos entre el mundo literario y la realidad continental. Sus conversaciones se convertirán después en el eje de un archivo digital que busca llevar estas ideas a un público global.

About the Author

Andrea Palet is an editor, columnist, and educator from Chile. With almost three decades of experience in the publishing field, she has edited magazines and books in both Europe and South America. In 2014, she became the founding editorial director of Editorial Laurel in Santiago, Chile. Under her leadership, the house has released the works of more than 20 novelists, essayists, and chroniclers. Palet also oversees the Master of Editing program at the Universidad de Diego Portales. A collection of her columns, Leo y olvido, was released in 2018 by Ediciones Bastante.

Latin American Writers Series: Rodrigo Fuentes

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Join us for an interview with Rodrigo Fuentes about his life, interests, and influences. The discussion will be followed by an open Q&A. This event will be held in Spanish.

About the Latin American Writers Series

This series brings together Latin America’s most representative creative voices and the editorial entrepreneurs that publish them. By way of interviews and presentations of various editorial missions, the guests will shed light on a literary world shaped by the contemporary issues of the continent. Moving forward, their conversations will comprise the centerpiece of a digital archive that introduces their ideas to a global audience.

Este serie reúne a los autores más representativos de la escritura continental y los editores que los publican. A través de entrevistas y presentaciones de proyectos editoriales, los invitados explorarán los vínculos entre el mundo literario y la realidad continental. Sus conversaciones se convertirán después en el eje de un archivo digital que busca llevar estas ideas a un público global.

About the Author

Rodrigo Fuentes is a Guatemalan-born writer of short stories. He received the II Premio Centroamericano Carátula in 2014, and his collection Trucha Panza arriba was a finalist for the 2018 Premio Gabriel García Márquez . His works have been published in Guatemala, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, El Salvador, as well as in translation in France and Scotland. Fuentes is also the co-founder and editor of the magazine Suelta and of the digital publishing house and literary journal Traviesa. He currently teaches in the Department of Spanish at College of the Holy Cross.