Thursday, May 22, 2014

DR Lawmakers Pass Partial 'Fix' for Citizenship Ruling

Lawmakers in the Dominican Republic have passed a bill aimed at resolving the legal status of thousands of individuals who were stripped of their citizenship by a September 2013 ruling, but the measure could still leave thousands essentially stateless.

In an emergency session yesterday, Domincan senators voted unanimoutsly to support the long-awaited bill, which was submitted earlier this month by President Danilo Medina. The move will re-establish citizenship rights for children born in the country to foreign parents  in the past, provided they are on the government's civil registry and have legal identification. 

As El Listin Diario reports, lawmakers cited international pressure as a primary reason for the bill's passage. Senate President Reinaldo Pared Perez, noting that even Pope Francis had raised concerns about the citizenship ruling during a meeting with a Dominican delegation to the Vatican, expressed hope that the new law would end "international commentary" on the issue.

But the measure has earned a mixed reaction from human rights advocates in the country and abroad. The Denationalized Peoples Solidarity Committee, a coalition of civil society groups and individuals opposed to the September ruling, referred to the bill as a "victory" in a statement released following its presentation to Congress. But at the same time the committee expressed concern that citizenship would still be denied to those who are not registered or lack documentation. These criticisms have been echoed by the UN Refugee Agency as well.

As Reuters explains, the law will have a varying impact on those affected by the ruling: 
The legislation would create different categories. Those born between 1929 and 1997 with proper documentation will be granted full citizenship; those born between 1997 and 2010 will need to apply for citizenship; and those born 2010 or later, or those who have no legal documents, will be given the opportunity to apply for naturalization after 10 years.
The requirement for documentation is problematic. A recent study (.pdf) of some 350 households in the country (both immigrant and non-immigrant) by the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO) found that 30 percent of those polled lacked necessary documentation to prove their citizenship. This means that many may be required to register as foreigners in the very country they were born in, which the editorial board of digital newspaper Acento calls a paradox that "will have to be resolved in the future."

News Briefs
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Mexico yesterday as part of his first official visit to the country, expected to focus on economic, education and security issues. In remarks to the press yesterday, Kerry also took the opportunity to give his most forceful response yet to the political situation in Venezuela. As the New York Times and Washington Post note, Kerry criticized the “total failure by the government of Venezuela to demonstrate good-faith actions.” He also brought up the subject of sanctions, noting that while the administration continued to hope they “would not be necessary,” Congress is pushing the issue. “The Congress of the United States is discussing those sanctions now,” Kerry said. “They have already passed some legislation reflecting that attitude. They’re moving it.”
  • Animal Politico and EFE report on the passage of a controversial law passed in the Mexican state of Puebla, which human rights groups have criticized for authorizing the use of deadly force against violent demonstrators.
  • In the U.S. debate over Venezuela, the conversation has generally focused around targeted sanctions on officials and their impact on the human rights situation there. Lawmakers backing the sanction push say they will punish human rights abusers in the country, while opponents argue that doing so will only reinforce the government’s anti-imperialist rhetoric. But in a column for The Hill’s Congress Blog, international relations scholar Juan Gabriel Tokatlian lays out the case for a different approach, one which would involve using back-door communication with Cuba, which also has a significant stake in a peaceful outcome in the country.
  • Imprisoned ex-Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori is once again making headlines in Peru after his attorneys called for him to receive a pension from the state due to his ten years in office, El Comercio reports. The Legal Defense Institute (IDL) has challenged this assertion, arguing that if Fujimori is entitled to a pension, the funds should go towards the families of the victims of the human rights abuses for which he has been convicted.
  • Venezuela is coming under increasing pressure from international air carriers to pay overdue debts. With the withdrawal of Italy’s Alitalia last week, a total of 13 airlines have pulled out or restricted service to Venezuela due to charges that the government is not passing along ticket revenue, as the L.A. Times reports. Ultimas Noticias notes that the economic minister in the country yesterday denied that airlines were pulling out of the country, saying international flights were merely being “redirected” due to the World Cup.
  • The Miami Herald has a succinct overview of the recent scandals that have rocked the two main candidates in Colombia’s presidential election, President Juan Manuel Santos and his rival Oscar Ivan Zuluaga. Despite the recent release of a video showing Zuluaga meeting with a hacker accused of attempting to sabotage peace talks in Havana, Colombian political analysts cited by the Herald say it is unlikely to hurt Zuluaga’s odds in Sunday’s vote.
  • Chilean President Michelle Bachelet gave her first state of the union address yesterday since taking office for a second term.  El Mercurio reports that the president spoke for two hours, during which she outlined her plans for her administration and repeated campaign promises to push for tax and education reforms. La Nacion notes that she also stressed her commitment to loosening the country’s harsh anti-abortion laws, proposing a reform that would allow abortion in three cases: when the fetus is non-viable, when the mother's health is in danger and in cases of rape. The Wall Street Journal looks at her proposed tax reforms, which are currently under debate in Congress, citing business leaders who argue that they threaten to “reverse the gains that have made this country Latin America's most prosperous nation.”
  • Access to the new digital newspaper launched by dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez and her husband Reinaldo Escobar, 14yMedio, was reportedly blocked on the island shortly after its launch yesterday. The AP reports that it was redirecting Cuban visitors instead to a site dedicated to hosting criticism of Sanchez by pro-government writers. Sanchez and Escobar have blamed government censors for the redirect, and have said they intend to distribute a PDF version of their paper weekly via USB memory sticks.
  • What’s in Blue, a United Nations publication detailing the work of the UN Security Council, has released a briefing suggesting that Cuba could receive only an “implementation assistance notice” for violating sanctions on North Korea by attempting to send military weaponry there last year, a move the Miami Herald characterizes as a diplomatic “slap on the wrist.”
  • Guatemalan news site Plaza Publica looks at the effect of freedom of information legislation in the country, five years after its passage. While the law has hardly rid the country of its notoriously opaque government institutions, its application is slowly growing and more individuals are taking advantage of it, with last year seeing a 37 percent rise in freedom of information requests.

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