Saturday, January 30, 2010

The New Dominican Constitution

So, I hear the Dominican Republic adopted its 33rd Constitution this past week, right in time for Juan Pablo Duarte’s b-day. Among the goodies included:

- Presidents may be re-elected indefinitely, although not to consecutive terms. (Gee, swell.)

- Same sex marriage is outlawed

- Because “the right to life is inviolable from conception to death" the lack of a death penalty remains in place (although the wording indirectly points at abortion remaining illegal as well)

- The privatization of public land and waterways—i.e., the selling of—is up for grabs

- Children of illegal immigrants are not considered Dominican (guess who?)

- The official motto is “Dios, Patria y Libertad” (God, Country, Liberty)

The media, especially the Listín Diario, is said to be raving about the new Constitution. (Surprise, surprise.)


Some thoughts:

Although I in fact attended an evangelical high school—for purely academic reasons; I was raised Catholic—and thus, was around them on a daily basis, evangelicals were always a mostly silent minority during the years I lived in the Dominican (1976-1988), even in my school. However, it seems like their numbers in the DR have grown exponentially in the years since. (Many high-profile personalities—Juan Luis Guerra, Freddy Beras-Goico, among others—are converts.) I wouldn’t surprise me if their influence has spread to policy-making spheres.

But the Catholic Church is still immensely powerful, and of late has been making a stronger than ever effort to maintain the status quo as far as abortion is concerned. My brother recently told me how appalled he was when he came across a petition drive to ensure abortion remains illegal across the board without exception, stealthily put forth at Sunday mass. I’m not surprised the Church and the evangelicals may have been instrumental in placing the gay marriage ban in the Constitution, especially since Dominican gay groups have been, reportedly, more vocal than ever about their civil rights being trampled.

- That the death penalty was prohibited—a 30-year sentence is the maximum judicial penalty in the DR—was always a source of pride for me.

- The possibility of privatizing beaches, waterways—and even some of the adjacent islands—is but a small part of Joaquin Balaguer’s sad legacy. I bet something is already in the works to sell off some prime real estate.

- Supposedly, this new Constitution was pushed forth by the governing PLD (Dominican Liberation Party), and the PRD (Dominican Revolutionary Party). So, is Balaguer’s old PRSC (Social Christian Reform Party) so debilitated it didn’t take part in this fiasco? Also, the Listín Diario was once the unimpeachable paper of record; the august equivalent of The New York Times. Now, it’s another lowly shill for current Dominican president Leonel Fernandez’s administration, masquerading as a newspaper.

- They should’ve amended the article that reiterates the official motto thusly: “Dios, Patria y Libertad (pero solo cuando conviene).” (God, Country, Liberty--but only when convenient).

Happy Juneteenth!