Friday, October 18, 2013

Caribbean Bloc Condemns Dominican Court’s Nationality Ruling

After the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court issued a ruling last month denying citizenship to thousands of individuals of Haitian descent, the country is seeing increasing international backlash for the court decision.  

Immediately following the ruling, both the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)  issued press releases expressing concern over its potential to leave thousands of people essentially stateless. And in an opening statement ahead of a regional women’s conference in Santo Domingo on Monday, UN Women Director Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka urged the government to consider the women and children affected by the court’s decision. After a subsequent meeting with Presdient Danilo Medina, Mlambo Ngcuka told the Listin Diario that the president assured her he would seek a “humane solution” to the problem, though she did not say what that might be.

From the D.R.’s perspective, however, perhaps the most significant international blowback came on Wednesday, after the Caribbean Community (Caricom) bloc issued a statement on the ruling. Noting that the move flouted the recommendations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (ICHR), and voicing alarm over “tens of thousands of persons being plunged into a constitutional, legal and administrative vacuum,” Caricom urged the Dominican government to adopt measures to protect the human rights of those affected.

The Caricom statement is particularly problematic for the country, as the D.R. has expressed a firm interest in joining the 15-member Caribbean grouping since 1989. Due to concerns over the country’s comparatively larger population and economy, the other members of the bloc have been reluctant to support its admission until recently. But as this appears to be changing, President Medina is likely eager to do everything in his power to smooth over relations with the regional organization.

The Medina administration has also come under intense pressure from domestic human rights advocates, many of whom have vowed to take their case to the Inter-American Human Rights system. Last week the president met with several local activists, including Ana Maria Belique of Reconoci.do and Antonio Polemil of the Dominican-Haitian Network. But while they later told reporters that Medina offered them a “glimmer of hope,” he did not announce any plans to remedy the situation.

Any solution to the current situation will likely involve the creation of a pathway to citizenship for individuals of Haitian descent in the country. But as the AP has noted, the government has failed to codify a means of obtaining state recognition nine years after a 2004 law called for its creation. It is also unclear how many of those who have been denied nationality by the recent court decision would actually be eligible for the process, and how many would still be left stateless.

News Briefs
  • Today’s New York Times profiles a large demonstration held in Times Square yesterday, which brought Haitian- and Dominican-Americans together to protest the nationality ruling. The Miami Herald also picked up on the rally, but contrasted it with a nearly simultaneous protest in support of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and against the government of President Michel Martelly in Port-au-Prince.
  • Edgardo Ayala of IPS reports on the struggle of Salvadoran human rights activists and lawyers to regain control over the archives of the Tutela Legal human rights center, which was unexpectedly closed by the Catholic Church late last month. While Church officials say they are preserving the files kept by Tutela Legal, they have reportedly been sent to other, undisclosed locations, fueling fears that potentially important case information could be “lost” in the process.
  • The Global Post has published the second in a two-part series by Simeon Tegel on coca production in Peru. While the first looked that the prospect of a violent response to a U.S.-funded counter-narcotics campaign in the coca-growing VRAE region, the second profiles the economic hardships faced by small-scale coca farmers in the VRAE, who say they cannot profit by growing other alternatives like coffee and cacao.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports on a split in Argentina’s dominant Peronist movement, illustrated by two competing rallies held yesterday in Buenos Aires to commemorate Peronist Loyalty Day. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s Front for Victory Party appears poised to lose influence in congressional elections next week, and the paper suggests she will lose much of her support base as well in the coming months, in keeping with the saying: “Peronism forgives everything, except defeat.”
  • As the Cuban government continues to unveil new economic reforms which authorize private businesses, the Catholic Church in Havana has begun to offer classes on entrepreneurship. Although the Church has been banned from participating in Cuba’s national education system, the AP notes that the Havana Archdiocese has launched a clergy-run two-year degree program as well as shorter, three-month workshops on “the basics of private business, including sourcing of materials, accounting and tax regulations.”
  • Meanwhile, Cuba’s flourishing market for imported shoes, clothing, beauty products and other goods is set to take a hit in the coming months, as authorities begin enforcing a ban on selling imports. Critics of the measure say it goes against the spirit of recently-announced reforms, but the government maintains it is necessary in order to improve its regulation of the Cuban retail sector.
  • The Guardian reports on the harsh conditions faced by workers in Peru’s illegal mining industry, which in some cases amounts to forced labor, according to U.S. nonprofit Verité. The group is pressuring Congress to pass legislation forcing companies to disclose whether they accepted illegally-mined minerals.
  • Mexico’s lower house voted to approve a general overhaul of its tax system yesterday, which aims to boost government revenue by nearly 3 percent of GDP over the next five years, El Universal reports. Due to lobbying by business groups and conservatives, the bill included a number of exceptions as well as a modified top income tax rate, which Reuters reports will leave the government with a budget shortfall in the coming years.
  • Rebecca Hanson and David Smilde of Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights have the latest installment in a series on insecurity and crime in Venezuela. Whereas the previous post looked at public opinion on who is most at fault for rising crime, this week’s post profiles popular attitudes towards remedies to insecurity in the country. Interestingly, despite the Maduro government’s emphasis on military deployment as a security strategy, most Venezuelans see emphasizing family values and reforming the police and judicial systems as more important.
  • The government of Panama has announced that it will release the North Korean crew and ship detained three months ago for attempting to smuggle Cuban weapons through the Panama Canal. Panamanian prosecutors have found that 33 of 35 crew members were not aware of the contents of the cargo, and will be released without criminal charges, but the captain and his assistant may face trial.