Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Citing Citizenship Ruling, Caricom Freezes Dominican Republic’s Application

Following up on an October statement criticizing the Dominican Republic’s recent Supreme Court citizenship ruling, the Caribbean Community (Caricom) has further condemned the decision and announced it will suspend consideration of the country’s application for membership to the bloc.

In yesterday’s statement, Caricom claimed it was “especially repugnant” that the court ruling, which could leave thousands of people essentially stateless, ignored a 2005 Inter-American Court on Human Rights judgment ordering the D.R. to align its migration and nationality policies with human rights standards. 

The communiqué adds that, “given the grave humanitarian implications of the court ruling the Community cannot allow its relationship with the Dominican Republic to continue as normal.” As such, Caricom announced that it would suspend consideration of the D.R.’s request for membership to the regional organization, and review its relationship with the country in other diplomatic arenas. “It cannot be business as usual,” the statement reads.

The AP notes that the move comes after reports that some 350 Haitians and people of Haitian descent were deported or (according to the government) voluntarily accompanied by police across the border following an outbreak of violence in the western town of Neiba.

While the Dominican government has faced heated international criticism as a result of the ruling, it still has not followed up on a promise to provide those affected with a path to legal documentation and citizenship. However, this may change now that the country’s national interests have been directly impacted. The D.R. has been seeking to join Caricom since 1989, and with its application on hold the government has even more reason to remedy the situation.

News Briefs
  • Yesterday evening Uruguay’s Senate Health Committee passed the country’s marijuana regulation bill with no changes. While the full measure passed with the support of only lawmakers of the ruling Frente Amplio (FA), opposition members of the committee backed some provisions in an article-by-article vote. It now appears that the full Senate vote will take place next week. El Pais reports that the vote is slated for “early next week,” claiming it will happen “next Tuesday or Wednesday” (December 3 or 4). The AFP, however, is reporting that FA Senator Luis Gallo told the news agency the bill will be voted on in a December 10 session.
  • According to the website of Honduras’ Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), as of this morning election officials have counted 68 percent of the ballots cast in Sunday’s election. National Party candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez continues to hold a commanding lead, with 34 percent to Xiomara Castro’s 29 percent. Election monitoring officials from the European Union and the Organization of American States have endorsed the TSE’s initial results, and praised the election process for its transparency. In its report on the elections, however, the EU delegation noted that the campaign leading up to the vote was “opaque and unequal,” which it claimed was worsened by the National Party’s use of public funds to support its candidates.
  • The Americas Quarterly blog has a good survey of Honduras’ political landscape by Kevin Lees, who notes that even if the country’s elections are deemed technically “free,” there will be lasting doubts about whether they can be considered truly fair. Lees also points out that political polarization in the Central American nation is likely to worsen, as whoever is declared the winner will have to deal with a deeply fragmented Congress.  Meanwhile, La Tribuna reports that Hernandez met with President Porfirio Lobo yesterday to discuss the “transition period” before the likely president-elect takes office.
  • The Cuban government has announced that it has been forced to indefinitely suspend its consular services in the United States due to an inability to find banks willing to accept its business. The bank which previously handled the Cuban interests section’s money has announced it would stop providing services, and efforts by Cuban diplomats and the U.S. State Department to find a replacement have failed.
  • According to a new poll commissioned by several leading Colombian media outlets, President Juan Manuel Santos is still the leading candidate ahead of the country’s May presidential election, with 26 percent support compared to 10 percent for his closest rival. Still, Semana magazine notes that this is hardly a resounding mandate, as 23 percent of those polled say they would not vote for any candidate. The poll also offers some interesting insight into variation in public support for the peace process along class lines. According to the survey, some 79 percent of the wealthiest Colombians support the negotiations, followed by 64 percent of middle class Colombia, and 60 percent of the poorest in the country.
  • Mexico’s lower house has approved a bill to reform the country’s Federal Institute for Access to Information (IFAI), a measure which has been backed by pro-transparency advocacy groups Fundar and Articulo 19. The bill passed Mexico’s Senate last week. Animal Politico has an overview of the bill’s specifics, which aim to significantly expand public access to government documents.
  • InSight Crime’s Patrick Corcoran provides a useful overview of the main points of a new report on Mexican prisons by Mexico Evalua, which criticizes the country’s reliance on prison as a punishment. According to the report, overcrowding and worsening conditions are at least partially fueled by the fact that 95 percent of all crimes are punishable by prison sentences.  
  • The NYT’s Simon Romero reports on a corruption case gripping Brazil, which involves allegations that a group of tax investigators in São Paulo accepted tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from construction companies looking to avoid taxes. The scandal has reached Mayor Fernando Haddad, who has fired a top aide accused of participating in the scheme.
  • According to La Republica, former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori has had the phone line to his prison, which he has used to get around a ban on conducting interviews, cut. Penal officials have also filed sanctions against Fujimori, accusing him of violating prison conduct regulations.
  • Yesterday was the last day of the trial of U.S. lawyer Steven Donziger, who Chevron is accusing of bribing judicial officials in Ecuador to win a high-profile lawsuit for environmental damages against the oil giant. The Wall Street Journal has an overview of his defense team’s main strategy, which involves characterizing Donziger as a “noisy, boisterous” activist, but also stressing that he used only legal means to pursue the case.