Tuesday, February 4, 2014

DR President to Present Naturalization Bill

After talks to resume bilateral relations between the Dominican Republic and Haiti got off to a rocky start last month, a second, more fruitful round of dialogue took place yesterday. This time, according to EFE, the two countries reached agreements on agriculture, police, environment, customs, drug enforcement and (most importantly to human rights advocates) immigration.

Gustavo Montalvo, chief of staff to Dominican President Danilo Medina, told reporters that the administration will roll out a campaign this month aimed at educating those affected by the controversial citizenship ruling in September on ways to obtain legal documentation. The campaign is part of a proposed naturalization plan unveiled by Medina in November which gives affected individuals 18 months to request Dominican citizenship or legal residency.

Additionally, as the Santo Domingo-based El Nacional reports, Montalvo said the president will finally present the plan to lawmakers when Congress meets on February 27, something he has been promising to do since November.

Meanwhile, Dominican officials are still struggling to overcome the fallout caused by the ruling, which has been criticized by international and local human rights groups for leaving as many as 200,000 people effectively stateless. At the CELAC summit in Cuba last week, Medina fired back against these critics, bristling at the suggestion that his country treated Haitian immigrants unfairly. “It is unacceptable for them to accuse us of being racists and violating human rights,” Medina said. “It's not true that the Dominican Republic strips nationality from anyone….I can't take away from anyone what they didn't already have.”

Local civil society groups, like immigrant rights group Reconocido, have refuted Medina’s remarks, and some have even called for implementation of the citizenship ruling to be taken off the agenda until regional and international human rights courts have ruled on it.

News Briefs
  •  Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson wrote an interesting response to the Washington Post’s recent article on a “left-leaning consensus” in Latin America. In a letter to the Post, Jacobson asserts that “the old left vs. right framework is no longer an accurate or meaningful way to look at Latin America, and attempts to sort the region’s governments by that dated rubric lead one down a confused path to contorted conclusions.” While she acknowledged some “lines of difference” in the region regarding economic policy, she expressed faith that the positive outcomes for those seeking “open and globally engaged economies” will ultimately pave the way for a deeper consensus in the future.
  • Despite coming in third place in Sunday’s elections in El Salvador, former president Antonio Saca is not stepping out of the limelight just yet. His support among 11 percent of the electorate is a valuable commodity for the two leading candidates, and El Faro reports that both the FMLN’s Sanchez Seren and ARENA’s Quijano have softened their tone regarding him and his UNIDAD coalition since Sunday.  
  • The AFP has a solid profile of surprise Costa Rican frontrunner Luis Guillermo Solis, which stresses that the historian and Citizen Acton Party (PAC) has never held elected office. While this might be a drawback in other races, this has apparently only served to boost the credibility of his anti-corruption ticket in an election marked by a range of nontraditional candidates.  
  • La Silla Vacia analyzes the results of a recent Gallup poll ahead of Colombia’s presidential elections in May, which shows that the percentage of respondents who say they are undecided or prefer “none of the above” is greater than the support for all candidates in the race combined. Some of this, according to analysts cited by the news site, may be due to the fact that the main issue appears to be the peace process, despite the fact that most Colombians are pessimistic about the negotiations.  
  • Today’s New York Times features an op-ed by Mexican historian Enrique Krauze on the rise of vigilante groups in the state of Michoacan and elsewhere in his country. He offers a positive take on President Enrique Peña Nieto’s recent move to afford the militias legal recognition, saying that it mirrors similar anti-banditry strategies used by 19th century presidents Benito Juarez and Porfirio Diaz. InSight Crime’s Steven Dudley has some shrewd criticism of the announcement, comparing Mexico’s vigilantes to ruthless “self-defense” groups in Guatemala, Peru and Colombia, responsible for committing numerous massacres and other atrocities.
  • El Espectador reports on a nascent discussion in Washington over the future of U.S. and Colombian ties in peacetime. According to the paper, Congressional President Juan Fernando Cristo has traveled to the capital to push for a so-called “Plan Colombia II,” which would shift money previously spent on building up the South American country’s military capacities towards repairing the country’s social fabric and strengthening its justice system.
  • Rebecca Hanson and David Smilde of Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights have published the latest installment on an ongoing series of posts on popular attitudes towards citizen security in the country. As the two note, President Nicolas Maduro has steered law enforcement further out of civilian control by recently replacing the civilian heads of the National Police and police academy with two retired army generals. But while the news was disturbing to many security analysts and human rights advocates, their public opinion data clearly shows that Venezuelans overwhelmingly trust the National Guard over the police.
  • The Washington Post has an interesting profile of Alfonso Fanjul, a sugarcane magnate who is one of the main funders of the U.S. anti-Castro movement. Interestingly, Fanjul has begun traveling to the island and quietly meeting with officials there, placing him at the vanguard of the wealthy investors whose economic interests are driving a potential thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations.
  • Susan Jacobs, the U.S. State Department’s first-ever special advisor for international children's issues, arrived in Haiti yesterday to discuss the country’s adoption regulations following its ratification of the Hague Adoption Convention, the AP reports.

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