Fighting for Justice in Venezuela

Raquel Victoria Flores Bernal, November 25 2015.


Juan Carlos Gutierrez, Lawyer of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.


For this interview I had the pleasure to talk to one of the most important lawyers in Venezuela, he is now defending the case of the political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez. His name is Juan Carlos Gutierrez. At the beginning of the interview we talked about his studies, Juan Carlos Gutierrez finished high school at the age of fifteen at that time he was interested in pursuing a career in Political Science and International Studies at the Central University of Caracas. However, he explained to me that in a family reunion his uncle gave him an advise that changed his life ‘’he told me to study law and after have an specialization in Political Science or International Studies, it was a really good advise at that time and I took it’’. Also, his uncle suggested him to take an Internship in a court of law in which he could learn and decide if law was the career for him.

A couple of weeks before starting his university studies, he was already working as a messenger in the court of law, and also working with a Judge instructor in cases of Criminal Law. However, at that time he just used to served coffee and make photocopies of the records of the cases. During this time working as an intern Juan Carlos felt passionate about Criminal Law.

I asked him what were his goals when he started his university studies, and he told me that the university was the only possibility of progression that he needed in which he finished altogether with his internship in the court. Furthermore, at the beginning his dream was to be a judge in order to make justice. At the age of twenty-eight he was named Criminal Judge of first instance, however, during this time because of the possibility of judging and punish innocents or free the guilty was huge he gave up his position of Criminal Judge in order to become a lawyer instead focus on criminal cases. ‘’ Being a criminal lawyer is my real vocation and if I could reborn five times I would be a criminal lawyer, and at the sixth time I would be a musician’’.

 His goals nowadays is to achieve justice actions in every case he works on, also, that his work would never be use for a person who does not deserve it or via injustice ways. Moreover, he also wish that judges and lawyers in Venezuela work independently and not by other powers from the State, in criminal cases or human rights violations.

 Every case for Juan Carlos Gutierrez is important, and all of them have different elements in which he is found very interested in such as: the use of forensic evidence, means of committing of crime, the relationship of victim-offender, confronting a totalitarian power, fight for justice, and other factor that can be found in every case.

‘’Of course the case of the political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez have been very important and the horror of injustice that exists in this case have been known internationally, and for me is to defend a friend, cases like this should not happened with lawyers and judges inside an constitutional and democratic system’’.

The case against Leopoldo Lopez is an example of many injustice and human right violations in Venezuela ‘’Because of this we fight to liberate him, and after we will fight forever so cases like this wont happen again against any person in Venezuela’’. For him these kind of situations are not to wish for, and for him and other lawyers defend cases in which laws are not follow they work on using every legal resource in which their legislation permit. ‘’It is very important to document and report any violation against human rights and to every day present a new argument and Justice will win’’.

Unfortunately, crimes, danger, insecurities and threats are an every day issue in Venezuela and for a recognize lawyer in our society and in charge of the Leopoldo Lopez case, Juan Carlos discussed that they have felt pressure and threats during this past months. However, for him these are not reasons to give up but to keep fighting positively also it is the love and support of his family that keeps him strong.

‘’…Because of the passion that got me into my destiny from the day I started serving coffee for the tribunals, maybe for that, I still sometimes share a cup of coffee and justice’’. –Juan Carlos Gutierrez.

An Expert’s View of the Stock Market in Venezuela

Victor flores oic

It is world wide known that the once “rich” country of Venezuela is now crossing an economic change, or most commonly seen by many as an economic crisis. With the declining oil prices that occur several times on the same year, the inflation being the highest in the world and an enormous debt to allied countries. What can you expect of the nation’s stock market? The ex-president of the BVC Victor Flores gives us a detailed and interesting view of how the stock market is currently functioning in the country of Venezuela.

Victor Julio Flores Rojas started his early education in the Armando Zuluaga elementary school. Five years later he finished graduating and obtaining the Bachelor Science title in Rafael Urdaneta high school in the city of Caracas. During the primary education he found out an inclination for both the subjects of math and social studies. When finishing high school, he started getting a lot of interest in how enterprises work, mostly the financial area, and it started being very obvious that he had to study economy. He started the economy career in the “Universidad Central de Venezuela” for three years, and ended the last two in the “Universidad Catolica Andres Bello”. After 5 years of superior studies in the two most prestigious universities of Venezuela, he finally obtained the economics graduate degree. Then a specialization on business administration was done also in Venezuela.

During his university years, Flores started working for the broker Andre Brunet and years later moved to Cavelba Stock House as an operations executive. These two works were just to start gaining experience in the stock market. Both were the backbone for his entrance to the BVC (Caracas Stock Market).

During the interview Mr. Flores started talking of how the situation of the stock market in Venezuela has changed over the years. He mentioned a market law that was applied on 2010 which regulates the behavior and the ways to operate, so there has been a process of adaptation to these rules since then, “these changes have ended in a new structure and size of the market” he said. With the reforms done the BVC has dropped from 63 to 45 members, in which just a 37% of these 45 members is still operating on this market.

Currently there are 37 companies of different economic sectors. Agriculture, Banking, Transport, Communications, Electricity and other services. These are all inside the companies that represent different economic sectors.

After talking of how the stock market has changed over the years, then he talked of how much money is being handled. If there has been a decrease in the past years, or if it has grown during time and something very interest came up during the interview.

When thinking of how Venezuela’s economic situation has only gotten worse no one could expect less for the stock market in the country, but as it turns out there has been a great increase of the money being handled.

On 2013 the volumes of negotiations achieved 1,206 Million Bolivares Fuertes (Bolivar Fuerte is Venezuela’s currency), this was more than 100% when compared to 2012. For 2014 the total was of 8,782 Million Bolivares Fuertes, this number being 628% more than the last year. When talking of 2015 that has not finished yet, they are expecting to end with more than 70% than last year, the number being something close to the 20,000 Million.

Because of the increase in the volumes of negotiations, the price of stocks has also increased enormously. The general index for the stock market has shown that the prices have increased from 471.44 points on 2012, to 11,064.37 for 2015.

To end the interview, we talked if Venezuela’s stock market has an impact all over Latin America.  His response to this was that each country has an economy that differs from the other, also governments have different economic policies. The two main markets that can influence other countries in South America are Brazil and Mexico. MILA (Mercado integrado latinoamericano) is a Latin American market that incorporated Mexico in 2014, in which every country has its own positive influence to this group market.

Finally, he talked about some plans for the future that consist in actualizing their negotiation platform. They are working on that currently and want to install the platform being used in the Spanish market. This platform is more flexible and adapted to the requirements of the globalized world. With this improvement the stock market in Caracas will be internationalized for sure.

By Rodrigo Rivas

Glimpses of a diplomatic mission, Juan José Plasencia Vásquez, councelor of the Peruvian Embassy in Madrid

Sarah Göbel, 27 November, 2015

As weIMG_7028.jpg were given the opportunity to do an interview with a person working within the area of International Relations, that’s also related to our region of interest, I immediately knew in which direction I wanted to go. Having been interested in the work related to diplomacy and international relations for a long time I decided to dive right into to the task of contacting Latin American embassies and consulates here in Madrid. After a long process of phone calling and e-mailing I could not believe my luck when I an afternoon received a respond from the Peruvian Embassy informing me that I had an interview scheduled with the councelor of the Peruvian Embassy in Spain.

After a lot of research and preparation I finally arrived at the embassy on the morning of November 16, 2015. As I was waiting downstairs in the beautiful foyer reality slowly started to sink in. I, Sarah Göbel, was going to meet the councelor, who is part of the very head of missions, at the Peruvian embassy. I was going to meet Juan José Plasencia Vásquez.

Greeting me at the top of the elegant stairs, dressed in lustrous leather shoes and a smart suit, was Mr. Plasencia Vásquez who firmly shook my hand and politely showed me into his office. As we sat down in beautiful green leather chairs and began our interview I could barely believe it was happening.

Smoothly and without delay, leaving the small talk behind, we moved onto to the interview questions and dived into the diverse work areas a councelor at an embassy deals with on a daily basis. As Mr. Plasencia Vásquez started telling me about the diplomatic mission of the Peruvian embassy, its close bilateral relations to Spain and its different fields of work, the complexity and multifaceted nature of an embassy’s work became clear to me.

Mr. Plasencia Vásquez’s role as councelor demands an impressive amount of knowledge, as the direct responsibility for a man of his position is the actual political relation between Spain and Peru. Including issues and tasks related to domestic politics, the press, multilateral and migratory issues as well as judicial cooperation.

Curious about the diplomatic career and above all Mr. Plasencia Vásquez’s own journey towards becoming councelor, the questions that followed were many. Telling me about the diplomatic career and its hierarchic system, the councelor explained to me that there are different positions at an embassy, different ranks. With ambassador being the highest ranking one, followed by minister, minister-councelor and councelor.

Mr. Plasencia Vásquez has been on diplomatic mission for Peru in Madrid, Spain, since 2010 and was promoted to councelor in 2012 after first having had the position of first secretary at the embassy. The councelor went on telling me that his career started (after university studies in journalism – specializing in the written press) with obtaining the position of consultant in the city of Cordoba, Argentina, were he worked for five years. Further explaining that: “We have a system of rotation within the diplomatic framework. We have to be abroad for five years and spend three years in Peru”.

With the diplomatic mission of the Peruvian Embassy in Madrid principally being to maintain already strong bilateral relations with Spain (within the political, economical and cultural fields), Mr. Plasencia Vásquez went on to further explain the nature of these special relations. Stating that the relations between the two countries are of the highest level and that there has been special visits by the monarchs, which truly demonstrates the imperative diplomatic bond.

Spain has long been the key investors in Peru, a country that in recent time has grown into one of Latin America’s strongest economies. Mr. Plasencia Vásquez tells me that the Spanish investment in Peru is crucial, not only for economic growth and stability, but also for helping decrease the national high level of poverty. By investing in the infrastructure and telecommunications, making the mountain regions more accessible. Investment also includes the establishment of chains such as Zara and companies within the energy and health field – all which in its turn also provides new jobs on the local market. Making the double investment a vital part of the diplomatic relations.

For the final question the focus changed from Spain and took a broader perspective, as the recently established Visa-pact between the European Union, Colombia and Peru was the topic discussed. According to Mr. Plasencia Vásquez, the Visa-pact is not yet fully implemented, but it’s going to be a large step towards strengthening the bonds with Europe. As the requirement for Visa when travelling would be removed, it would have a direct positive impact on the citizens and further increase the economic, political and cultural relations between the continents. It would bring Peru to Europe, and Peru is ready.


Doing Business between Spain and Brazil

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Interviewee Antonio del Corro with Laura Sevilla, in the CCBE head office in Madrid

MADRID – It is not always easy to find the right person to interview, however it was a real pleasure to be able to meet Antonio Del Corro and have a distended conversation with him in his office, discussing the current situation of Brazil and sharing our experiences in the country. As the Chief Executive of the Chamber of Commerce Brazil-Spain, Antonio is in charge of different tasks, all related with helping and giving information to the entrepreneurs for doing business both in Spain and Brazil. The Chamber also offers recommendations and contacts as well as they organize speeches, conferences, events, seminars, etc. The Association provides all kind of tools for the entrepreneurs to develop their business between the two countries. Antonio Del Corro has a really interesting background; he studied Law and did a master in Business Administration. Regarding his professional experience, he had been the chief director in different Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela and vice-president in Miami among other professional experiences. He has mostly developed his career in Latin America.

The Chamber of Commerce is located in “Casa do Brasil” in Madrid, a space where Brazil is present and in which culture, business and youngness coexist together. The chamber is designated to create a link to develop business between Brazil and Spain and after 50 years accomplishing this task, we observe that the CCBE is an institution with a lot of experience in the sector. It is an independent non-profit association counting nowadays with more than 400 members all related with all size businesses between the two countries. Antonio describes the importance of this association based on the numbers “90% of the Spanish investment in Brazil is done by the companies represented by this Chamber and it has an accumulated stock of 71 billion euros”. As we can observe, this is a huge quantity and shows the importance of the union between the countries.

One relevant topic is also to know more about the function of the chamber and about the activities that are not directly linked with doing business. Antonio explains the two main events the chamber carries out to make networking between the associates. The first one is a dinner and the second one is a big event that will take place the December, the 2nd in which the Chamber tries to honor the entrepreneurs in three different categories; the entrepreneur of the year, one prize related with sport and one social prize that usually goes to a NGO. “What we try is to give a high visibility to entrepreneurs that have given priority in increasing relations between Brazil and Spain” and reveals that this year the social prize will go to an NGO in Rio de Janeiro that tries to help children in the favelas. The prize to the entrepreneur of the year will go to Ignacio Martin, Gamesa CEO, “Gamesa has an important presence in Brazil in energetic issues” he adds.

When it comes to talk about the economy in Brazil and the opportunities that this giant can offer, the answer is complicated, “The challenges doing business with Brazil are always present”. Antonio explains the difficulties that Brazil is facing in their economy; the inflation is increasing, the growth is going to be negative this year and the currency is in constant devaluation. However he makes a comparison with the hard time Spain was dealing with not so long ago and he keeps positive “If we were able to deal with the crisis and the difficult situation, I also trust in Brazil’s recovery”. He exposes that the country has an important market of more than 200 million people and more than three quarter of those people are part of a social middle class that is nowadays consuming all kind of products.

During the discussion, I introduced the idea that the Olympic Games could be an engine to ameliorate the economy however Antonio is not really persuaded by that idea. He explains that after the 90’s, the different governments have promoted different programs called “plans to accelerate growth” in which they have invested more than 600 billion dollars in different areas of the economy such as energy and infrastructure. As Antonio says “Brazil is a giant that still needs to make improvements in their infrastructure and that is where the Spanish companies can take advantage”. Let us take note of his comments.

Ms. Freire motto: ”Unity Is Strength”


Women taking classes in Peru

Alianza por la Solidaridad is a non-governmental organization that was created twenty-six years ago through the joining of three completely different NGO’s: International Solidarity, IPADE and Habita Africa. Their name put emphasis on the alliances between people, network and organizations that work for global changes.

There main aims and objectives are to strengthen society to promote their empowerment, a change in legislation and politics to promote laws and politics both domestic and foreign to reduce poverty, social inequalities and protect human rights and dignity. Also, change the economic model which implies initiatives that guarantee a global sustainability for our population and the world itself, as well as humanitarian action to prevent and protect the rights of the people affected by conflicts such as crime, genocide and human disasters. Alianza por La Solidaridad provide humanitarian aid in different regions of the world, especially LEDC’s; Latin America, Africa and Middle East. They also intervene in European countries like Spain and Belgium in which they finance themselves through transparent donations, each person who donates has the opportunity to know were there money is spend on.

Aranxta Freire, head of the Comunication Techinque in Alianza por la Solidaridad, insists that the actual situation in the world can improve for better with the help off our society. ”In 2014, we managed in Bolivia and Peru to provide health assistance and women education as well as social integration. In Ecuador we achieved to disappear rubbish dump in the lives of half a million of Ecuadorians and in Colombia we have provided survival kits for refuges. Over twenty-nine thousand people from Guatemala and Nicaragua can drink potable water,” she said on a recent interview representing their NGO’s projects.

Recently, there has been an increase of people wanting to become volunteers in NGO’s such as Alianza por la Solidaridad due to their effectiveness and professionality towards the projects they set. Here’s Ms. Freire during the interview: ”We have over one thousands of volunteers, but only two hundred are working actively,” she added, ”our volunteer campaigns are very effective and on our web page, we offer how and what you can do to become a volunteer in our organization.”

Ms Freire says our outlook is to ensure that we are not necessary and that our projects can continue without our financial support. Make sustainable projects.

”The actual political situation in Latin America is the same as complicated in other countries and regions of the world, what is true is that inequality indices causes their Governments to not govern over their citizens, but for the most privileged” she said, who added the difficulties that sometimes they confront against these Governments Administrations; ”The difficulties of our labour is the male chauvinist culture that still exist on many countries and the lack of opportunities for women. Also, the laws that does not list the basic human rights of many people, thus we work with politicians and civil society to improve them”.

Latin America is a wide region composed by the Caribbean, Central America and South America, which all of them have countries suffering poverty and lack of humanitarian aid. ”The poorer countries in Latin America are Haiti and Bolivia where we have been working for years to improve their situation. Other poorer countries like Peru and Ecuador have improved their indices of poverty”, she said.

Ms Freire said about their NGO’s campaign during the middle of the interview: ”in some countries our campaigns have been more effective than others, like everything in life”, she added ”in Peru we are very happy to have driven the feminised as a crime, due to our support and with the aid of many women’s associations in the country. Unity is strength”.

Ms. Freire is pleased towards the economic situation in Latin America has really improved comparing to twenty years ago. She added a strong critic towards international financial institutions such as IMF and World Bank to the structural adjustment plans imposed in Latin America who have destroyed their economies and now are occurring in Southern Europe. ”Organized Latin American society has succeeded (along with international NGOs who work there) to increase in education, health assistance and employment opportunities for their people, and this has led to improvements,” she gladly said.

Alianza por la Solidaridad shows that real progression can happen if we join together as a whole society and fight against racism, drugs, sexual trafficking, crimes, atrocities, and other conflict that harms our world. Aranxta Freire shows us that real women can empower themselves and become successful but in order to happen that, we need to fight against discrimination and human abusing.

By Hanane Houliche



Source: El popular

The Argentinian presidential elections are just around the corner, on November 22th, and tension is running high. The electoral system that currently works in Argentina is called the Ballotage System, in which a candidate can win with just 45% of the total votes, or with a 40% but with 10 percentage points ahead of the second place candidate.

It is not a surprise since on the first round on October 25th, none of the candidates were able to achieve 45% of the votes. As a result, the main candidates, Cristina Kirchner’s protégé, Daniel Scioli of Frente para la Victoria, and Mauricio Macri of Frente Cambiemos must face a new runoff election to be held on that date.

Argentina has suffered an important transformation in economic terms. The economic situation nowadays is declared unsustainable by the IMF due to the high inflation and the deep recession the country is suffering. In 2007, according to private sources, the Argentine inflation was one of the highest of the world. According to La Nación,  Kirchner’s government leaves an annual inflation of 14,3%. Furthermore, the annual basic upkeep of a vehicle rose 371% from 2004 to 2014.

However, the Government was not able to recognize the economic reality. They preferred to expose all kind of arguments justifying the low fluctuation of prices while the international community was aware of the drama that the country was living. According to The Kirchner Government, the inflation is due to the speculation of a large number of traders that increase product prices for no reason.  However, the IMF states that this information is false and that the government manipulates statistics.

The Kirchners and many people close to them face numerous accusations involving corruption.The best well-known case is the Hotesur case, for which Fernandez and several relatives are accused. They are suspected of maneuvering laundering of illegal foreign exchange and of returning favors in return of adjudicating public works to an ally, Lazaro Baez.

Moreover, Vice president, was charged in July 2014 of bribery and of taking part in illegal negotiations. Boudou is also on trial for alleged forgery and is accused in two court more causes.

The Minister of Planning and Public Investment, Julio de Vido, is also being investigated along with his wife for alleged illicit enrichment. Meanwhile, Former Secretary of Transport, Ricardo Jaime (2003-2009), already received a sentence of one and a half years for receiving gifts. His successor, Juan Pablo Schiavi (2009-2012), is also tried for the death of 51 people in the train crash in 2012.

As a result of Kirschner’s government, Argentina’s foreign policy changed completely. Kirschner’s government was against the USA. Kirschner claimed that the US was plotting against her, and she opposed the creation of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA),promoted by the United States, and instead promoted Latin American integration, defending the Southern Common Market (Mercosur).

Furthermore, the Kirchner government has tried to strengthen its ties with some European countries (including Germany and France) by starting various bilateral projects. For example, there was a project of a “bullet train“, a high-speed train, between the cities of Buenos Aires and Rosario. The estimated project cost exceeded US $ 5 billion and the realization of the project depended on the granting of guarantees by the Argentine government, however these guarantees never happened, and as a result the project was a total failure. Moreover, public opinion was critic of the project since its cost was very high and it wasn’t a priority.

Kirchner also turned against Spain, a long-lasting ally and friend due to historical and cultural links. The conflict started, when in 2012 Kirchner decided to expropriate YPF, a subsidiary of the Spanish Repsol. Moreover, the European Commission suspended the meeting of the EU-Argentina joint committee in response to the expropriation of 51% of YPF, which was considered as being “illegal” since it did not include an adequate compensation.  As a result, the Spanish government announced measures to limit imports of biodiesel from Argentina in response to the expropriation and the European Commission backed Spain up and urged Kirchner to respect their commitments with foreign investment in its territory.Finally, the conflict was resolved, but relations between both countries have not been the same since, making Argentina lose a very important investor and ally.

Thus, a political change is necessary in Argentina, with a government that knows how the economy works and that does not manipulate the press or statistics, is transparent and fights against corruption and maintains good relations with important countries.

Venezuelan prosecutor declares “I left because I didn’t want to defend a farce”

Source: Youtube

Source: Youtube

After leaving Venezuela to seek asylum in the United States, the Venezuelan prosecuting attorney, Franklin Nieves, admitted through a public video that the trial against Leopoldo Lopez was a farce and declared that the opposition leader is innocent.

Franklin Nieves and his family have suffered a real persecution and pressures from his superiors and the Venezuelan Government, due to his participation in Leopoldo Lopez’s case. During Leopoldo’s trial, Nieves was one of the two main prosecutors. However, Luisa Ortega, Chief of the Prosecutor’s office, declared in an official statement that, “we at the prosecutor’s office, don’t put pressure on anyone”.

Leopoldo López is part of the “Voluntad Popular” party, the main opposition party in Venezuela.  The Government has accused him on February, 2014 of inciting the population to violence by participating in antigovernment protests in Venezuela. In September, after a year-long trial, López was sentenced to almost 14 years in prison for ‘inciting violence‘. A charge that is frequently used by arbitrary governments as explained Rafael Micheletti of the think tank “Libertad”.

Leopoldo’s wife, Lilian Tintori, and his lawyer, Juan Carlos Gutierrez, have contacted some Western countries in order to obtain International support to fight for his freedom. They have received support from multiple governments. For instance, the French socialists which supported Leopoldo’s cause and called for the reestablishment of a real democracy in Venezuela. In the case of Spain, the current government and the opposition have met Leopoldo’s wife in order to make the unfair sentence visible to the international community. Maduro’s government was quick to condemn these measures and he declared that Mariano Rajoy should not interfere in internal issues occurring in Venezuela.

Furthermore, many NGOs and various distinguished people have voiced their support for Leopoldo and his innocence. Twenty Venezuelan NGOs have rejected the sentence. They have declared that this sentence is proof of the lack of democratic freedom in Venezuela, as a result of Maduro’s government. Moreover, Amnesty International remains concerned that Leopoldo López’ detention appears to be politically motivated.  Erika Guevara-Rosas, Director for the Américas of Amnesty International, explained “Leopoldo should have never been arrested or judged in the first place. He is a prisoner of conscience and he should be released immediately.”

In the video, released by Franklin Nieves, he urges prosecutors and judges to tell the truth and to stop being afraid. His declaration poses an unexpected turn in this case and it can mean a change for the rest of the sentence if Nieves finds support from his fellow colleagues. Moreover, there are high expectations for the parliamentary elections that will be held on the 6th of December. Hopefully, as a result of these discoveries and international support, Venezuela will be able to initiate a democratic reestablishment where freedom is respected.