Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Dominican Republic, Haiti Resume Post-Citizenship Ruling Talks

After talks to restore diplomatic ties between Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the wake of the D.R.’s controversial citizenship ruling in September, officials from both countries are set to meet today to discuss bilateral relations.

The Listin Diario reports that, while the meeting is expected to take place in Haiti today as planned, as of last night Haitian and Dominican representatives had not agreed on the location for their 11:00am meeting. According to the paper, Haitian authorities wanted the conference to be held at a public university in northern Haiti, while Dominican officials wanted to hold it at the nearby CODEVI industrial park/free trade zone. It appears that the two sides eventually settled on the industrial park, located in the town of Ouanaminthe.

The talks will address a number of trade and diplomatic issues, but the main sticking point will be the Dominican Constitutional Court ruling to deny automatic citizenship to tens of thousands of Dominicans of foreign (and mostly Haitian) descent. However, considering that the two countries couldn’t even agree to a meeting place until the night before the event, the odds of establishing full relations -- let alone some kind of bilateral accord on migration/citizenship -- seem remote.

This is the second attempt at repairing relations between Haiti and the Dominican Republic in following the court sentence, after the latter country pulled out of Venezuela-facilitated talks in November. This round will also be facilitated by Venezuelan authorities, as well as representatives of the United Nations, the Caribbean Communities and the European Union.

Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on Dominican authorities to ensure that those affected by the ruling are not left stateless. The December preliminary report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, as well as the advocacy work of local human rights groups like Reconocido (referred to in a recent Miami Herald piece as the “Dreamers” of the D.R.) have succeeded in framing the sentence to an international audience as a violation of human rights rather than an immigration issue.  

As proof of this, the U.S. State Department publicly addressed the ruling for the first time on December 18, when deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters the U.S. had expressed “deep concern” over the ruling to Dominican officials. Harf also said that the U.S. had seen the Dominican plan to implement the ruling, announced in November, although the specifics of citizenship eligibility have not yet been made public.

News Briefs
  • Elsewhere in the hemisphere, two other traditionally rival countries are set to hold talks this week as well. The Miami Herald reports that U.S. and Cuban officials will meet tomorrow in Havana for the second round of migration talks since the Obama administration resumed the dialogues in July with no official explanation for the shift.
  • The Los Angeles Times looks at the work of Cuban doctors who have been sent to Brazil to provide health services to underserved communities, profiling the political controversy surrounding their arrival. Much of this is due to the way in which they are being compensated, which involves Brazil providing a lump sum to the Cuban government rather than direct payment to the health workers themselves. Still, as the paper notes, many doctors participating in the program support the arrangement, seeing it as a way of contributing to health and education programs back home.  
  • The L.A. Times also has an excellent report on the shortcomings of Colombia’s much-lauded Victims Law. While the law attempts to guarantee land restitution to those displaced by armed groups, most of those affected are unable to return due to a lack of economic support and the government’s inability to guarantee their security.
  • Supporters of embattled Bogota mayor Gustavo Petro are organizing what is to be one of the largest demonstrations yet in the city square this Friday. According to EFE, activist Jose Cuesta told local press that some 150,000 people are expected to participate in a show of support for Petro, with delegations arriving from across the country.
  • Mexican daily El Universal yesterday published an in-depth investigation on the U.S. role in Mexico’s “drug war” from 2006 to 20/ 12According to official documents and interviews with U.S. and Mexican authorities, DEA and Department of Justice figures were authorized meet directly with high-level drug traffickers, often without informing the Mexican government. While this news may not be astonishing to some, it shows the unprecedented access afforded to U.S. anti-drug officials in Mexico under the administration of former President Felipe Calderon.
  • Mexican officials say they are investigating a small plane crash which injured Jose Manuel Mireles, leader of an high profile self-defense group in Michoacan state.  In an illustration of the increasing influence of vigilante groups there, Proceso reports that on Saturday some 100 armed members of a community self-defense group took over the Michoacan village of Paracuaro, a stronghold of the Knights Templar drug gang. Reuters has some amazing photos of the incident, including images of armed vigilantes forcing allegedly corrupt local police to surrender their weapons.
  • Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro yesterday announced that his country’s minimum wage would be raised by 10 percent, in an effort to keep up with the country’s 28 percent inflation rate. Meanwhile, El Nacional reports that inflation has caused many electronics and clothing stores to cut back their hours of operation, and that traditional beginning of the year sales have been significantly cut across the retail sector.
  • A dispute between the Panama Canal Authority and a consortium managing an expansion project appears to be nearing an end after officials announced that the two sides were discussing plans to split unforeseen costs between themselves. Meanwhile the head of the body overseeing construction on Nicaragua’s proposed canal, Deputy Foreign Minister Manuel Coronel Kautz, has said that construction on the project there will begin this year, contradicting earlier remarks about a  yearlong delay.  
  • The Washington Post takes a look at Brazil’s troubled oil industry, noting that predictions for an oil boom have reined in significantly since billions of barrels’ worth of deep sea oil deposits were discovered in Brazilian waters in 2007.