Ricardo Varela, the past and the future of Colombia

 Ricardo Varela Consuegra.

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Ricardo Varela Consuegra, a natural man of Barranquilla, is a family man who enjoys life . He currently resides in his hometown , he is married and he is a wonderful father of three independent children. At first sight he might look like an eccentric man, somebody very radical and own ideologies dream man , but deep inside , he is full of aspirations and hopes , he is somebody who did much for his city ​​and for his country long time ago.

 

Elisa Lozano : Hello Mr. Varela.

Ricardo Varela : Good morning young lady , how are you?

EL : Doing well , thank you for granting me this interview. I really appreciate it .

R.V : Dont worry, for me it is a great pleasure.

EL : Well, many people may not know who you are, but I will say he is a man who has done much for his city . Were you born in Barranquilla, right?

RV : Yes, I was born here and have always lived here . I cant imagine myself somewhere else.

E.L : How was your childhood? Did you consider yourself a happy child?

R.V : Tremendously happy. In my house we were so many that we didnt had always enough for everyone , but overall , I’ve been a very lucky child . Very fortunate to have the mother I have and lucky to have grown up surrounded by wonderful brothers and sisters. I have very nice memories of my childhood and my youth.

E.L : How about school? Have you always been such a good student as you were at college ?

RV : In school I was not always an excellent student , but I was not the worst . During college, I have to say that I really enjoyed studying law , perhaps that is the reason of my excellent grades , but I even enjoy more working as a university professor, is wonderful to instruct and encourage education that makes people better humans.

EL :I was just now going to ask you about your work at the University of the Andes, I can see you are really happy at it.

R.V : Very satisfied. Having been a student and then teacher is wonderful. You see things from a totally different perspective. When you are a student, you think A is always A. But when you ‘re a teacher you realize that A is often synonymous with B, or C. I would not change my current job.

E.L : I am extremely glad to hear that . I am very curious about a particular topic . I would like to know how was your experience during your tenure as a Senator . Could you tell me a little about how you came to exercise such an important position and what conclusions did you get from the whole experience ?

R.V : Absolutely. As you know I exercised law for a long time . I liked it a lot, but the truth is that I preferred to teach rather than to exercise it. About the Senator thing, we could say that I was at the right time and met the right people. I became Councilor of Barranquilla and ended up turning into Senator of the Republic of Colombia for a few years and the truth is that it was a bittersweet experience . On one hand I was very satisfied and I really loved my job and my position , I really believed I would be able to end corruption and insecurity in my country and I began to wonder and I realized I could get much higher. For a long time I wanted to introduce me to the presidential elections, but basically I did not want to leave my home and forget toi forget who I really was. My city , my family were very important for me. I became Councillor and Senator in order to change things , but I learned something very important. It doesnt matters how much you look above, becouse thats the less you see below. Barranquilla is the reason I wanted to risk my life , because maybe you do not know but often becoming a politician here in Colombia is signing your own death warrant .

EL : Why did you left your position as Senator, if you do not mind my asking?

R.V : Dont worry , I’ll be happy to answer your question. The truth is that there are many reasons. On the one hand an ethical and professional reason. I am a loyal and fanatical person of Freemasonry , my life has no meaning without a base and a reflection that has to do with Freemasonry and this type of lifestyle. In my house we have always been very loyal to these Masonic principles . During my time as a Senator I had many disagreements and problems with many people because I did not agree with many of the so called ‘solutions’ that came from above. For me, many actions contradicted my own way of thinking and my own moral principles. On the other hand , we can talk about personal reasons . I couldnt spent too much time at home with my wife and sometimes I literally felt that this job would end with me. Also, my son decided to go into politics so I decided to quit my job and devote myself fully to help and support him in his political career.

E.L : Why dont you talk to me about your son? What are his plans for the future?

R.V : My oldest son was always very curious. Maybe that’s why he decided to follow the footsteps of his father. After participating and winning one of the most important television contests in Colombia and forming his own family , he decided to invest his time to improve Barranquilla. During the 2008 elections, he won a great victory and since then he is the Alderman of this city. My son has always been very aware of his people. Plans for the future? There are innumerable . Alfredo has so many development and building plans that I dont really know how he will make them come true, but certainly I can say one thing , I know my son very well and I know he will be able to improve this wonderful city and make it a better place, with a great life quality and a new, more cost-effective healthcare system.

EL :Have you ever thought of returning to your work? Would you return to practice law or to opt again for a political career?

R.V : Not at all . That is over, and trains rarely stop again at the same old and forgotten station. My years of political glory are over, and you better remember me for what I promised rather than for the things I never really did. I’ve reached an age where I prefer other emotions. Now I am a teacher and Im also a member of the board of the Chamber of Commerce of Colombia , and I am extremely grateful and satisfied with this. For me, teaching and spending time with my family comes first. In addition , we old politicians must give way to the younger generation, for example my son Alfredo Varela. I’m sure that he will go far in politics and that he will do great things someday.

EL : Thank you for giving me a few minutes Mr. Varela. I am extremely grateful and it has been a very interesting interview and I’m sure people will like it a lot.

RV : Thank you dear , it has been a great pleasure and I hope you do well in the future.

E.L : I wish you the same. I hope you spend a great day and I wish the best to you and your family . Good afternoon.

R.V : Thanks , greetings and good luck .

” countries with a great future , but major challenges ”

 

 

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The person I interviewed is called Angela Maria Gaviria Londono , a Colombian who studied chemical engineering in South America and Spain and also in medical bacteriology.

It is one of the employees of the company Blankophor GMBH, whose headquarters is in Germany, but has companies located throughout the world.
This company is engaged in the manufacture of chemicals for the manufacture of paper products. an example would be the optical brightener and matting to color the paper.
The German production is great.
Formerly the factory belonged to Bayer , a chemical and pharmaceutical company , but was restructured and sold .

The strategy to grow the company would differentiate from the competition and invest more in development. It has some very significant challenges as controlling more raw materials coming from Asia. My interviewee put the example that I once asked a Chinese raw materials , this closed the harbor just at the time they had to deliver raw materials. Everything was for the olympic games in china that monopolized all the attention, downplaying else.

Companies have spread throughout the world, and currently has a target : South America.
But there are many problems in their development because of tariffs , which makes these countries more secure.
But this problem has a solution according angela maria , as the South American countries are beginning to use free trade.
A part of this problem , there are more : transport deficit , with a high cost and competition with local manufacturers.
The most suitable places for this company would be in South America Brazil, Chile , Argentina and Colombia because of its territorial extension.

The South American economy , according to my interviewee , is totally contrary to Europe , as the construction sector is very reactivated , as export.
The economy is pretty healthy , growth above 4 % , which is a very high value.
South America is a region that has a lot of raw materials such as gold, oil , emerald , copper, wood … but the challenge is to give value to these materials .

Another major problem of South America is inequality in society and that there is much difference between the upper class and the lower class. In Spain for example there are more levels, but in South America is very radical change from one class to another .

A major challenge for Latin America is education , is the great unfinished . It is investing heavily in this, but it is complicated because countries are very large , such as Brazil and Colombia and greatly complicate logistics .

In summary of the problems facing this region , would be the lack of infrastructure and corruption.

On the issue of corruption is a very general problem affecting all countries but that there might be some exception as chile , notable for its buoyant economy. Colombia is a pioneer of corruption
The guerrillas and drug trafficking much of the national economy, which should be used to carry other things .

At this time , despite all these problems, the future of South America is Spanish . There is a strong presence of Spanish companies like Repsol , Santander, phone and now all major construction as the OHL Group .
 
The South American society mimics the model in both North American way of life and infrastructure. Which the European North American model is followed before.

The situation has changed considerably since Europe is in crisis. Before traveling to the South American Spain to find work, but now it’s the opposite. Many South American countries are growing and it is a country with many opportunities to find work. Angela maria made ​​me an example of when she travels to Colombia to see relatives and going round the plane crowded, but back to Spain is almost empty .

Angela maria sudamerica summarized as ” countries with a great future , but major challenges ” , are countries with a long future for major world powers, but still have to work at it .

 

 

                                                                                                                                                       

Almudena Cruz López.

Is there still hope for the Dominican Republic? Interview with Humberto Vallejo by Judith Esteve

Humberto Vallejo Cunillera, photo taken by Alex Bezdicek Zubeldia.

Humberto Vallejo Cunillera, photo taken by Alex Bezdicek Zubeldia.

Humberto Vallejo is a 22-year-old man who was born in Mexico but who moved, at the age of 13, with his parents and two younger sisters to the Dominican Republic, his mother’s native country.

He has got several poetry blogs. Each blog started with a big change in his writing style, when he felt he had progressed… “It’s curious, but each blog has more or less coincided with each girlfriend I’ve had. That’s why I think that each blog represents a period of my life”. One of them, “El Televisor”, ended up being quite well known by the circle of poets on the island.

When he turned 18, he started thinking about his future and although he was unsure about where he wanted to go or what he wanted to study one idea was clear to him: he wanted to leave the island and go and study abroad. For him, the Dominican Republic has a lot of shortcomings. “Politics, poor management and poverty have sunk the Dominican Republic into a culturally regrettable situation. Indeed few recognizable Dominicans have lived their whole careers on the island”, he said. He ended up jumping to the other side of the ocean and coming to Spain to “La Universidad de Navarra” in Pamplona to take a degree in History and Audiovisual Communication. He’s really passionate about what he is doing. Actually, while studying he is thinking more about art than on being able to be economically self-sufficient in the future. He would like to become a filmmaker although, “no sé cómo ni con qué pretexto” but he knows he will achieve it. He wants to live fully; he wants to become a proper artist. His greatest fear would be look back one day when he is in his 40s and regret every decision he should have taken but did not when he was younger.

We talked about the view people in countries such as Spain have towards Latin American nations like the Dominican Republic or even Mexico. From his viewpoint, it’s true that there is a distorted image of the latter which may be due to any or a combination of the following reasons, namely:

a) The ever-existing feeling of colonization found in both parts, ie, Spain and the Dominican Republic.

b) People’s tendency to exaggerate the more or less well-known precarious situation there is in Latin America.

He went on to say that those could possibly be the reasons why people here in Spain are inclined to think that “if you decide to go and live to the Dominican Republic you will dedicate yourself to collecting coconuts and if you go to Mexico you will be kidnapped by a drug cartel. But reality is very different to that.”

The actual fact is that the Dominican Republic ranks 105 out of 192 countries according to the Global competitiveness 2012/2013 report. This report measures the capacity of a country to use its resources, politics and institutions to ensure welfare and progress for its citizens.

This is reflected by the fact that out of a population of 9,500,000, 40,4% were living under the poverty threshold in 2011 which pushed 140,000 people to emigrate from the Dominican Republic between 2009 and 2013.

Besides, he honestly thinks that Latin America is synonymous with “miscegenation and inequality”. And although people within the Dominican Republic are aware of the situation, they decide to accept that things are and have always been that way; both the highest echelons of society as well as the lowest.

The Dominican Republic is a country that shouts out, “God, Homeland and Freedom”, as its covering letter. However, as far as Humberto is concerned, things are not quite like that. He supports that the “God” part still remains, meaning that the Dominican Republic is a very religious country. “Unlike European countries, new generations aren’t losing their faith. Of the 80 people that were in my class, 77 had their confirmation, myself being one of the three who didn’t.” Nevertheless, the “Homeland” part is totally different. He believes that, given the opportunity, every Dominican would switch their passport for a European Union or a US one. And the “freedom” part is a question of money and power; if you’ve got them, you can be free, as in so many other places.

Right now the president of the Dominican Republic is Danilo Medina. His government is an extension of the former president, Leonel Fernández’s mandate. He dedicated his government to grand construction projects, buying votes and promoting political corruption. Today the vice president of the country is his wife. But the main opposition is currently led by a former president under whose rule the biggest banking fraud in the history of the Dominican Republic took place.

When I asked him about his feeling towards all the promises the president has made, there was no hint of optimism. “The outlook is truly devastating; prosperity and social inclusion have not developed at all and in fact, they are getting worse. The quality of life is worse than it was when I first came to the island”. Nowadays the Dominican Republic has become a geographically strategic point for exporting drugs to Europe and poverty along with crime have increased. In fact today, Santo Domingo (the capital of the Dominican Republic) is militarized.

All these reasons show “the ugly truth”. Humberto has got two younger sisters, Vanessa (19) and Natalia (15), and the reality is that if they remain in the Dominican Republic they will not have the same opportunities as him due to the fact that the Dominican Republic does not provide its citizens with the same opportunities as a country like Spain does. When I asked him if he would switch the Dominican Republic for Spain he stated: “Sadly, yes.” And he added, “I am mad about life here in Spain. I love it”.

Judith Esteve Gúrpide.

Interview with Erwin Flores

During all this trimester, I focused on the region of South America and the Caribbean; so I decided to interview a man that was born in Brazil and that is currently living in Madrid.

Erwin Flores is the chief of the strategic planning of a multinational advertising agency, Lowe and Partners, known in Spain as Lola.

He was born in Rio de Janeiro, and passed all his childhood there. His family has Italian origins, even if his father is from Chile. Culturally and linguistically speaking is very mixed, and Erwin always had a big influence from European culture. That’s why, after all these years spent abroad, he finds Europe more interesting than Brazil. Because of the origins of the family, he’s been influenced by European culture.

He studied Communication Science at the Universidade Gama Filho, in Rio. When he finished, he moved to Italy.

He lived in Milan, Turin, Rome, Moscow, Prague and now Madrid.

The first question, maybe the most obvious one, was about the differences between Europe and Brazil. The main one is about the culture: Brazil is a new country that is recently emerging in the international system, while Europe has a long history behind (Italy is the best example of this). Brazil has a sense of history, past and traditions, that is less marked, and it lives in relation to its present. It invested, and it’s still investing, a lot in its present and strongly believes in its future and in what it will become.

He told me how was – and still is – living in Brazil. This is a huge country with lots of spaces, and so with very strong contrasts.

Moving is very limited because of the problem of security that is strongly felt in all the country.

Travelling inside Brazil is also expensive for the population. The contrast between who has and who hasn’t got money is very evident, and this takes also to other differences, besides the economic one.  There is a problem of education, not all the population can get access to public instruction. Just middle-high class got school education, and the other large part of the population didn’t: this created a “cultural abyss”, that still is a very discussed problem nowadays.

In Brazil there is also a difference between who has African origins or is mulatto and who has European origins: the first ones are sidelined in the society. This problem of racism has its origins in the Spanish and Portuguese Colonialism, which created poverty and exploitation. The conquistadores had no intention to make of South America a developed region, and this has persisted during the centuries. It looks like the Colonialism Era is not over, and white people still feel like the conquerors of the country.

Other big issues that come from inequality are the problems of the favelas and of the kid prostitution. These issues are actually problems in many other countries, but Brazil is “famous” because of these. Why do we talk about this especially in Brazil? Because it’s the biggest country in South America and one of the biggest of the world, and there are many metropolis and big cities – lot bigger than the Argentinian, Colombian or Chilean ones. This creates an affluence of people, looking for a job, from the countryside to these cities. They don’t always find one, so they start to live in the margin, creating what we now call favelas. In these places, these people live thanks to criminality, drugs and prostitution, even kid prostitution.

Even though the drug traffic is not a big problem as, for example, it is in Colombia, there are always more sorting centers for the exportation of drugs in other countries (especially US). The very urgent problem in Brazil is the progressive organization of criminality: street dealers are starting to organize themselves in paramilitary organization with real weapons, got from police officers or law enforcement corrupted.

Corruption in Brazil is very spread, and reaches even the political leaders and the regional administration.

It has its origins in the military dictatorship, last from 1964 to 1985. At the end of this period, there was the first opening of the foreign policy and of the market, giving start to treats between political men and industries, with the goal of ensuring the power to some of the interest groups, colluded to the policy.

The last 30 years of democracy tried to stem this previous situation, with no important results. Ten years ago got to power the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT), a party of extreme left wing, with an ex syndicalist as president. The situation seemed to get better, and inequality was getting solved.

Even though, they didn’t succeed because they got corrupted, and now people have lost their hope.

Since the last decades, the international image of Brazil has improved and it’s part of the BRIC. It’s an emergent country, but it’s different from China or India: these two countries are advancing to a balance between all the economic sectors and are getting to the market equilibrium. In Brazil it’s not like this.

Brazil still depends on the exportations of commodities (iron, aluminum, wood, and agricultural products as soya and coffee). It’s getting richer by exploiting nature but it’s not improving the infrastructures. That’s because there isn’t a global vision, a ruling class with enough foresight to plane a growing strategy for the next 50, 60 years.

From this it comes the always less importance of Brazil in the international system, and it can’t get out of the condition of exporter of commodities.

The opinion of Brazil is generally negative, according to Erwin, because in general politic men and ruling classes are not looking for solutions to the problems in the society, that are still affecting strongly the population, the economy and the lifestyle.

 

Sara Lorenzini

 

“Brazilians are the ones who will enjoy the least” – says Lucas Alegria about the World Cup

Lucas Alegria

Lucas Alegria

Generally, there are two ideas that come to people’s minds when thinking of Brasil: the one of the nation that has amazing natural views, the biggest rainforest, the samba rhythm that is contagious to everyone on the carnival and the happiest and most receptive people on the world; and the one who sees the country as a dangerous place, full of thieves everywhere, lots of favelas and people that speaks Spanish. As incredible as it seems, some people actually believe that Spanish is Brazil’s official language. As someone who live’s in Brazil, I must say that the way that people see the country is wrong. We have many more good things than what mentioned before, and, unfortunately, more problems than just violence and the lack of public security. The country also suffer from poor public education and health systems. Ironically, this is the same country that has been waiting to host one of the biggest events on earth: the FIFA World Cup.

As this is a very controversial subject to the world, it would be good to expose an inner point of view. Being so, I decided to interview Lucas Alegria, of age 20, which is Brazilian. This choice was made because even with his passion about soccer, he has a very interesting opinion on what is to happen next year. Lucas is at his sixth semester of studies at FEI University Center, where he learns civil engineering. As most of the Brazilians, he loves soccer and is very excited about the World Cup. But despite of his excitement, there is also a big concern.

When asked about his opinion if the country would succeed in the gigantic task that is to host an event of this scale, he said: “the Cup itself I believe will be a success, but the post World Cup will be a failure. We will inherit debts, stadiums and facilities left aside and forgotten. Facilities that were built with public money.” Clearly, this worries him. The majority of the Brazilians think of their government as a lazy and unserious organization, where most of the members are corrupt. This is where his fear from a bad succession to the event comes from.

According to his opinion, there are some other problems that may occur during the FIFA World Cup. “Principally on game days, when people will not want to work,” he says. Speaking of public security, he expressed to not believe in a proper solution from the police in case of protests and mass thefts, which are “likely to happen,” for example. And, despite knowing up close the public transport system of São Paulo, the city he lives, he believes that people are not going to complain about traffic jams and overcrowded stations, because everyone will be in a “party mood.”

Recently, the stadium set to be host of the very first game of the World Cup faced a sad event. Part of the East side of the complex was strongly affected when a crane fell over it, killing two workers that were on a break. Even after being said by Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s President, that this will delay the delivery date of the stadium until the middle of April, Lucas isn’t worried. “It’s easy and quick to deliver a project when the city council can take more money from public funds,” he said. “Besides, São Paulo has two other bigger and more modern stadiums that could host a World Cup opening,” he added.

By the way he sees it, “Brazilians are the ones who will enjoy the least, being the ones left with debts, the ones who spent money badly, the ones who suffered from corruption [as mentioned before, corruption is something that is expected by every Brazilian, no matter when], and, at the end, not even being able to go to our country’s game.”

All the investments made on the infrastructure of the cities where the games take place, the construction of stadiums, roadworks, airports and telecommunication systems are being paid with public money. But Lucas is positive about this, since he believes that this is going to “provide improvements to every participating city and also move the national economy.”

Talking about economy, he said that he’s in favor of the World Cup, however, investments should be chosen more carefully. “If [the country] made the necessary investment in other areas such as health services and education, this investment for the World Cup would not be a big fuss. The problem is that they have invested more in this event than in necessary areas such as those just cited.”

We’ll wait and see. Let’s hope that the 2014 Brazil World Cup provide’s everyone better memories than bad ones. After all, we can always solve everything with our famous “Brazilian way” of doing things.

Christian L. Bender

Is it possible that there was a drug free Colombia?

On Thursday the seventeenth round of talks will be held with the FARC, which has as main objective to get a “no cocaine Colombia”. The chief negotiator of the Colombian government in Cuba, Humberto de la Calle, quotes the following sentence “We want a field without coke. We want our farmers to leave behind  these crops because the only thing left in these regions is violence, poverty and marginalization. We also want to put on the table the topic of processing and marketing  drugs, because is the fuel that creates conflict and crime in our country”.

Humberto-de-la-Calle-2-e1369603664629-655x458

Humberto de la Calle

The Government’s aim is definitely to end marijuana plantations and laboratories  specialized in the creation of illegal substances such as cocaine. Colombia is one of the major operators and exporters of these substances to the outside, and besides, this business has an important role in the economy of inside the country. The main areas where it is grown and created this kind of substances is within the country where the crime rate is higher and illiteracy is something normal for the population. According to what De la Calle says, thinking of a country at peace without conflict leads people to attack the issue of drugs and illicit fields. “There would be no end of this real conflict without attacking  this phenomenon,” and added that “we want to find new ways to strengthen public health programs and drug production and consume.” One of the members of the delegation of the goverment, Maria Paulina Riveros, also expressed her dissatisfaction with this situation and this vicious circle that will not allow the country to progress and says that all it does is to sink more and more the public image of Colombia. “We want to get deep and improve programs of crop substitution in accordance with what has been agreed at the point of comprehensive agricultural development. (…) We wouldnt  make the whole task of comprehensive agricultural development without a solution to the problem of illicit drugs, ” she said.

marihuana-matas

Campo de marihuana en Colombia

cocaina

Cocaína incautada en Colombia

Achieving an agreement will be important not only for the country itself, as it ensures the government, but will also be extremely important in the international area. The government ensures that they are going to the meeting with good intentions and that they are  willing to sit down and to talk about it until they get a solution that benefits the country and the people. The main goal, aside from ending the trafficking of illegal substances and illegal plantations, is to end the conflict and violence that constantly generates this market. Of course, this would be a step for the authorities to end with the terrorism of the FARC in the territory.  The government delegation will be in the city of  Barranquilla this afternoon before traveling to Havana to meet with  some important employers and to plan their stategy.

“It’s easy to buy a girl, it’s like buying chocolate”

With this disheartening statement, Carlos Da Bomba, youth counselor, describes perfectly the current problem of child prostitution and abuses in Brazil.

Since 1949, prostitution in this country is legal but it is illegal to operate a brothel. Prostitution is very common and it’s very spread all over the country: 15% of Brazilian women and 10% of the total Brazilian population work as prostitutes.

According to a survey done in 1998, 64% of the population thought that prostitution was “immoral”, but nowadays 59% thinks that “prostitutes should be free to do their job if they like it”.

Life conditions in Brazil are so hard and complicated for women, that many of them have no other options than becoming prostitutes. The causes are many: maltreatment, abandonment, poverty, especially the lack of education brings to this only solution.

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The legalization of the prostitution took to the problem of the child trafficking and abuse.

In fact, Brazil is the second country after Thailand with this problem, and authorities think that it will get even worse in the next years.

In 2014 and 2016, the Football World Cup and the Olympic Games will take place in Rio de Janeiro, and this will bring a lot of tourists in the country, that will not look only sports, but also for kids.

“We are looking for a way to avoid this”, says Edivaldo Tauares, member of the Child Rights Advocacy. He works in the area of Recife, and he says that here kids are in danger and the World Cup will bring an injury in the community.

The increasing number of tourist has flood the north-east of Brazil, that doesn’t only take to the child traffic, but also to the drug trafficking and to the human trafficking.

Da Bomba continues saying that the situation in this area is “out of control”. Taxi drivers, hotel workers and drug dealers form an underground network, which directly connects the supply and the demand.

A total of 1.819 businesses in the Brazilian national roads, encourage the child prostitution. They are truck shops, spas, shops, restaurants, hotels, clubs, overpasses, shops in rural locations, with weak presence of the State and without Police control or health centers.

Most of these businesses are located in urban areas (45,5%), while the 31% is in the rural zones.

 

 

The UN estimates that almost 250.000 individuals are sexually exploited in Brazil, especially in the regions where Europeans and Americans go. In these regions, where the level of poverty is extremely high, kids – even of 12 o 13 years – find prostitution as an easy way to make money.

Even if the government is trying to protect prostitutes and their rights, it’s not solving the problem of child prostitution. This issue is getting worse and worse with the years, and tourism and foreign people do not help to win the battle against it. Otherwise, they support the abuse of children and teenagers, without realizing the terrible injuries that these children have in the future.