Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dominican Court Ruling Fuels Climate of Fear

The recent court ruling on nationality in the Dominican Republic has drawn plenty of criticism for essentially stripping citizenship from thousands of people of Haitian descent. Even more alarming, however,is the fact that Dominican authorities are already implementing the ruling, deporting individuals across the border and leaving them stranded in Haiti. 

While there are no available figures on deportations following the court decision, human rights advocates say it has shifted the local legal context, giving officials increased justification for expulsion. Unsurprisingly, this has generated panic in communities most influenced by the ruling. From the AP:
There are accounts of people who have been reported to immigration authorities and deported after squabbling with their neighbors or being abruptly thrown out of the country at a time when their employers are having financial difficulties, [International Organization for Migration Program Manager Tobias] Metzner said. Migrants say they have paid bribes to soldiers to keep from being detained, or were held when they couldn’t come up with enough cash, said Colette Lespinasse, director of the Support Group for Repatriates and Refugees, known by its French acronym as GARR.
And there are widespread reports that authorities are deporting or seizing the residency documents of people with darker skin or French names that may signal Haitian ancestry.
The government has sought to downplay these reports, insisting that no one will be left stateless and that rights groups’ estimates of the number of those affected are exaggerated. According to Dominican officials, only 24,000 are at risk of losing their citizenship as a result of being improperly registered, not 200,000 as some claim. Still, the administration of President Danilo Medina has not been quick to address their needs. Although the government claimed it would create a legal path to citizenship for those affected, it has not done so.

Meanwhile, the regional fallout for the country continues. The Caribbean Community bloc has condemned the ruling, and last week the Dominican government sent representatives to Venezuela and Cuba to explain its consequences. Today, the Santo Domingo-based Listin Diario reports that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will be sending a delegation to the country to assess the impact of the court decision in the coming days, potentially as soon as December 2.

News Briefs
  • After months of dodging a straight answer on his intentions, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has finally confirmed that he plans to run for a second term in next May’s presidential election. Judging from his speech yesterday, it seems that the campaign will be heavily focused on the peace negotiations in Havana. El Espectador notes that in his address, the president repeated the phrase “we have to continue to finish the job,” with a special emphasis on the peace talks with FARC rebels. La Silla Vacia has the full text of his speech, also noting that among its major themes is Santos’ desire to pursue a lasting peace deal. Consulted by Semana magazine, political analyst Laura Gil argues that the election will ultimately boil down to a “referendum on peace; the proposal of peace versus the proposal of war.” This is a reference to Santos’ opponent Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, who is a major critic of peace talks backed by ex-president Alvaro Uribe.
  • Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has announced that he intends to take advantage of his newly-granted temporary decree powers today to pass two new economic measures. Telesurand Reutersreport that one will limit the private profit margin to 15-30 percent, and another will establish a government agency to allocate dollars at the official rate.
  • The L.A. Times profiles the Drug Enforcement Administration’s latest National Drug Threat Assessment Summary. This year’s annual report found that while the availability of cocaine is down across the United States, methamphetamine and heroin have become more accessible. According to the report, this is due to efforts by Mexican traffickers to deepen their hold on the U.S. meth and heroin markets, combined with a “sizable increase” in demand for the latter drug.
  • In the latest story to fuel rumors about the whereabouts of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Honduran Deputy Defense Minister Carlos Roberto Funestold El Mundo that there was a chance he could be hiding out in the Central American country. “Yes, Joaquin Guzman could be in Honduras,” Funes remarked to the Spanish newspaper. Previous press reports have indicated that the Sinaloa Cartel boss could also be laying low in Argentina, Bolivia and Guatemala.
  • During his Tuesday visit to Panama, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden praised the government for its leadership and “international responsibility” in detecting and seizing the North Korea-bound Cuban arms shipment earlier this year. Security analyst James Bosworth points out that this is a rare bit commentary on the find from a United States government official. The U.S. has demonstrated a restrained response to the issue in recent months, at least partially due to Washington’s increased openness to improving relations with the island.
  • The Washington Post has a sampling of some common attitudes towards Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’sdecision to enforce strict price controls with the help of the military and police. While the move has given him a boost of popularity ahead of local elections, businessmen and economists say it will do little to curb inflation and further erode the economy.
  • William Potts, the American citizen who returned to the U.S. from Cuba to face charges stemming from his decision to hijack a plane to Havana 30 years ago, has been denied release on bail. Prosecutors contend he is a threat to society, and is wanted in New Jersey on robbery charges.
  • The Foundation for New Ibero-American Journalism (FNPI) and the Colombian city of Medellin have announced the winners of this year’s Gabriel Garcia Marquez International Journalism Awards. La SillaVacia’s piece on Colombia’s Victims Law, “Proyecto Rosada,” received the innovation award, and Mexican Journalist Alejandro Almazan won the features and reporting category for his excellent piece on crime in Durango and Coahuila, “Carta la Laguna.” The prize for “excellence in journalism” went to Costa Rican investigative journalist Giannina Segnini.  AP photographer Esteban Felix won the journalist images category for his multimedia photo essay on a mysterious illnesses faced by sugar cane cutters in Nicaragua.
  • The Miami Herald reports that Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe arrived in the U.S. yesterday to tour the major companies of Silicon Valley. Lamothe met with executives from Facebook and Google yesterday, with whom he discussed generating technological innovation in the impoverished country.

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