“The richest man is not he who has the most, but he who needs the least.”

Solidarity is a trend. This is the main statement that the detractors of humanity progress use. It is said that activities such as volunteering, cooperation or social tourism have been created just to make “first world” citizens feel better. It is true that some people and organizations have made profit of charity, for example, French organizations raise almost 3.000 million of Euros per year consequently, there is some cases in which we can even talk about multinational companies of charity as for example the ewll-known Projects Abroad.

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Interview with the Chancellor and Minister for bilateral cooperation between Haiti and Spain.

In recent years, Haiti has been a country that has been  repeatedly hit by natural catastrophes over and over again. On Thursday, May the 1st, I had the honour to interview Mr. Louis Marie Montford Saintil, Chancellor and Minister for bilateral cooperation between Haiti and Spain.

During this interview we went over different topics such as the 2010 earthquake, the aid provided by the UN, the cooperation between Spain and Haiti, the meeting between the secretary of Internal Security of the United States and finally, the catastrophe caused by Hurricane Matthew last year.

 

The earthquake that occurred in Haiti in 2010 was one of the major catastrophes of this decade leaving behind more than 300,000 deaths and 350,000 wounded.

After this tragic event, countries around the world wanted to contribute with economic and humanitarian assistance in cooperation with the UN bodies to help the Haitian people.

One of the European countries that gave strong support to Haiti during this period of turmoil was Spain being considered a vital partner of Haiti after the earthquake. According to Mr. Saintil, Spain contributed more than 346 million euros in the fund for the reconstruction of Haiti during the donors’ conference in March 2010. It is there that the cooperation between Haiti and Spain began and according to Mr. Saintil it is worth noting that Spain was the third country that gave most help to Haiti after the United States and Canada and the first one in the EU.

Right now, Haiti is one of the 23 countries that the Spanish executive gives more priority to in terms of cooperation and aid. During the last Minister’s visit of Haitian cooperation, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Spanish Cooperation, assured him that Haiti would continue to be a priority in terms of  providing help to ensure cooperation and development in the island.

The last two agreements that were signed between the two nations are a protocol in relation to the promotion and protection of investments as well as a framework partnership agreement. This framework agreement was signed in June 16th, 2015 between the minister of foreign affairs and cooperation of Haiti, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Spanish Cooperation.

According to Luis Marie Montford, Spanish cooperation in Haiti focuses on specific issues, mainly rural development, the fight against poverty, education, water and sanitation; the fight against climate change and cultural development mainly, all of these being Sustainable development goals.

Moreover, the two governments are currently studying how to extend cooperation throughout Haitian territory because currently this cooperation is only centered in the west (the capital), the center and the south east.

It is worth noting that the US also helped Haiti, Mr. Saintil stated. The American Government made available to the Haitians a TPS (Temporary Protected Status) that is renewed every 18 months. Surprisingly, the Trump administration  has decided not to renew this temporary status. On the 31st of May, the Secretary of Homeland Security of the United States went to Haiti to see in which conditions the Haitians live in today because of the massive protests being carried out by the Haitians living in the US. The aim of these protest was mainly to have the US government approve a demand for the renewal of the temporary status to the 60,000 Haitians living there, Mr.Santil mentioned.

Six years later another major catastrophe occurred, Hurricane Matthew, destroying Haiti once again and causing problems in the purification of water and favoring the spread of cholera disease. Following this event, the UN Secretary General decided to dedicate the 40 million dollars that were in a reserve fund for Haiti, as the UN had already signed a mission for this country, the MINUSTAH, United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti for the fight against cholera.This figure only represents 10% of what the Haitian government estimates they need to correctly eradicate cholera.

Currently, the Haitian executive is based on aligning the bilateral agreements between Haiti and other countries within their priorities and redirecting those within the framework of cooperation. The objective is no longer to donate funds just for the sake of it, but to have donations that are most importantly effective. In order to do this, the UN and other country´s aid funds have to be guided by the government’s plan because it is the one who knows the needs of the people, the Haitian minister said. It is in our best interest to promote trade and investment with the aim of creating jobs as this is what will ultimately make the Haitian people be autonomous, hence emerge out of poverty, Mr. Saintil said.

Mr. Louis Marie Montford finished the interview by establishing a metaphor between the aid and the real situation his people is living back in Haiti “It is better to provide people with a fishing rod than with fish.” meaning that the means are everything in order to accomplish the targeted objectives.

William Lenôtre Okemba Ongagna

Antonio Hernando and his business

Antonio Hernando is a Venezuelan entrepreneur, who founded Aquapana with his brother. The business focuses on the area of pumping systems, which are equipped with high technology and innovative devises, and are environmentally friendly.

The company is located in Ciudad de Panamá, and was created eight years ago. Aquapana is the second business that Mr Hernando and his brother have founded. Thus, it was created as an alternative to the one located in Venezuela, which was also founded by his father, and follows the same business line and the same functioning structure as Aquapana. This way, Mr Hernando has been working in the same sector for thirty years.

The Venezuelan entrepreneur is the general director of both the Panamanian and the Venezuelan one, and his position is a multitasking one. Therefore, he is in charge of the key accounts, of the company’s documentation, of team motivation, of the finances…

Antonio Hernando with the interviewer, Ana María Gómez through Facetime

Antonio Hernando with the interviewer, Ana María Gómez through Facetime

As he explained, the political crisis that Venezuela is facing currently, does not make living or working there easy. Regarding business life, Mr Hernando explained that, as the laws and regulations are constantly changing, nearly on a daily basis, the entrepreneurs must constantly carry out paper work in order to be within the law. As he was saying, this is something that takes up time that businessmen would rather invest in other needs that their companies may have.

On the other hand, since the company needs to import and export, Mr Hernando explained that the functioning of his business sometimes depends on the availability of dollars. Regarding this issue, the president of Venezuela established an exchange control some years ago. Thus, in order to have access to the dollars, he was obliged to participate in an auction, and obviously not always could achieve the dollars he needs. Moreover, Mr Hernando added that the Venezuelan’s law regarding employees and working conditions, has seriously damaged the power of the companies and the working environment. In this line, he stated that the employees are overprotected, so they cannot be fired even if they do not attend work for a week without any kind of justification, or if they decide to work just five hours per day. Additionally, the employees could also denounce the employers and often achieve compensations for any minor issue easily, for instance, not agreeing on with what the employer says. This generates an awful working environment and the stress for the employers.

As for his personal live, the Venezuelan entrepreneur stated that the situation of the country constantly implies stress and isolation because of the insecurity, the lack of resources… and put emphasis on the grey mood that characterises the current Venezuelan population. Due to these factors, he was forced to send his two daughters to Spain, in order to provide them with a better opportunity to evolve and have a better life. The country’s situation has also forced him to create the business of Aquapana in Panama, as an alternative to the one in Venezuela. He emphasized that he decided to develop the same business line, to continue the legacy of his father.

In this line, the Venezuelan entrepreneur explained that to start a new business in the Panamanian market was quite tough, specifically without living there, because it was hard to keep daily control on the company. Moreover, the first manager of Aquapana turned out to be a scammer and stole the customers, preventing the business from development well. Three years later, when he was uncovered, a new manager was hired and he turned out to be another scammer too, creating also a bad working environment. This way, each time Mr Hernando or his brother travelled to Panama, the business situation had declined, so he had to move to Panamá for longer periods. According to Mr Hernando currently, “Aquapana is reborn”, after a long period of hard work to achieve its good functioning. He also added that now the company is trying to achieve diverse contracts “that will be fruitful for the company, as well as determinative for the coming years”.

Going back to the Venezuelan company, which is suffering losses, Mr Hernando explained that it is at the minimum performance right now, and that the maintain the staff, but he cannot close it because of the government laws that forbid it. He explained that each year imports decline, as well as the constructions, that needs pumping systems. Moreover, the entrepreneur stated that new competition has recently appeared on market, a cheaper version of bad quality water pumps from China. Although, people know that these pumps require frequent changes, it is what the majority could afford.

To conclude, Mr Hernando explained that the Venezuelan crisis has strongly affected almost all companies, which have had to reborn and find the way to survive in business. Many of them have had to close, and many others, as Aquapana, have had to go out of the country in order to go ahead and due to the fear they have to the power that the Venezuelan government have over the businesses. In this line, he explained that for instance the government could expropriate any company without having to justify it.

Ana María Gómez González

Interview with Venezuelan Press

Venezuelan Press

I started contacting with embassies and organizations many weeks ago, looking for an interview, although I received many responses, I decided to choose the Venezuelan Press because of its important role in Venezuelan journalism and its actions to achieve justice.

Carleth Morales Senges, President of Venezuelan Press, started talking about the history and values that this association has. The Association of Venezuelan journalists in Spain, registered the Venezuelan Press in May 2015, although its origin goes back to 2007, the date in which a group of Venezuelan journalists began, organizing meetings in Madrid with relevant Venezuelan’ citizens, who arrived to Spain to report firsthand what was happening in Venezuela. Currently it is formed by more than 300 Venezuelan communicators residing in Spain and 19 Members of Honor, outstanding figures linked to the field of communication in Venezuela and Spain. 

It has two clearly defined objectives, to help the partners in their social and labor insertion in Spain, and to serve as sound board in the battle the guild has in Venezuela in defense of freedom of expression.

We had a cordial conversation about the actual and complicated situation of Venezuela.Freedom of expression, consecrated in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, from which freedom of the press derives, is one of the many fundamental rights violated today in Venezuela. A dossier by “Reporteros Sin Fronteras” corroborates this: Venezuela is situated as 139 in the ranking of 180 countries studied for freedom of the press, a position that drops between two and three points each year. Freedom of expression and information in Venezuela is deteriorating constantly, united with the intensification of the economic and social crisis that hit the country. The 2,648 cases of violations of press freedom in the past 15 years -between 2001 and 2016- registered by the IPYS( Instituto Prensa y Sociedad Venezuela), give good account of it.

We are also interested in the news, are the news published in this country really trustworthy? According to Venezuelan Press, what happens in Venezuela is that there is a communicational hegemony exercised by the government. A clear example is the access of newsprint, controlled by the Government, which has forced many print media to close, to reduce their pages or to not publish on weekends or holidays.

When President Nicolas Maduro came to power, there were 115 print media and today there are less than 80, and only one of them is independent and of national circulation. According to a study by the IPYS: The purchase of media in Venezuela registered in the last five years has determined a form of censorship and self-censorship in the exercise of journalism.

Also, Maduro and some high ranking people have radio and television programs through which they speaks to the country, live, for hours. Programs like: “En contacto con Maduro”, “La hora de la salsa”or “Con el mazo dando”, are some of them, direct channels with direct access to the population and the world making them effective communication tools for their goals. The abuse of power is public and notorious in these programs, where an inappropriate language is already a constant.

In Venezuela there is not only censorship in the press or television, also the freedom of expression is violated. Everyone knows about the case of Leopoldo López, the opponent imprisoned for supposedly organizing the demonstrations of “La Salida” in 2014. He has been sentenced to 13 years and 9 months of prison only for stating his opinion and for fight peacefully for the freedom of his country.

To fight this situation of lack of freedom, Venezuelan Press carries out a campaign under the motto #VenezuelaSOSnow, a help call addressed to the International Organizations that watch over Human Rights, motivated by the constant violation of Human Rights in Venezuela. The extreme situation in the country has so far generated several reactions in the International Community, but the country calls for a reliable pronouncement to relieve internal stress. Demonstrators call for more support for the implementation of international treaties, guarantors of human rights, and that will not become wet paper. That’s the aim of the #VenezuelaSOSnow campaign, which will remain on the networks as long as fundamental rights are violated in Venezuela. All of this has caused a panic situation, with daily demonstrations that the Government suppresses with the use violence without a doubt. Also, migration is booming, many Venezuelans are forced to leave their country.

Those issues could end up in the future scenario proposed by Josep Maldonado(former parliament member and former Spanish senator) in a recent interview for Venezuelan Press he affirmed: “I fear for a civil war in Venezuela”. This perception is shared by other actors in the national and international scene, but it is very difficult to predict, for there are countless factors that would have to intervene and it is an ending that we all hope will not come to pass.

In conclusion, if we want to change Venezuela’s situation, the solution to this crisis involves respect for the Constitution, the laws, rules and international treaties, which respect Human Rights in their full dimension. If this does not change, the international community should strengthen its measures in order to bring order and peace in Venezuela.

 

Irene Matamoros Flores.

 

 

“It is difficult to foresee the end of this story in Venezuela. What I am sure about is that neither Maduro nor western countries are going to change their current strategies.”

Alberto Rubio, Bez diario´s editor, has a great experience in Madrid issues. He is in charge of covering any issue, mainly political, in Madrid. Graduated in journalism, he has never hidden his love to politics which can be shown in his articles. There were some protests against Nicolas Maduro in Madrid due to the Venezuelans residents in the capital of Spain and that is why he started his interest in Venezuela. The 4th of May I had the opportunity to meet him in a coffee shop where both of us felt comfortable.

WhatsApp Image 2017-06-04 at 18.37.11

The first question that any student would ask is about Maduro´s government legitimacy. At the very first moment he smiled because it is a question that everyone asked him. He told me that based on statistics Maduro obtained more than the 50 % but there was a body called Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) that is in charge of counting every vote. It is said that this body is highly influenced by Maduro. Rubio criticised the Venezuela´s system because there is no separation of power nor human rights commitment.  Rubio states:” According to Amnesty International is has been a total of 1426 arrest and 59 imprisonment”.  Alberto Rubio clearly supports all International Organisations that report this data to the western world trying to sensitise western society.

It was inevitable to relate the actual riots with the other side of the world, the Middle East. Syria civil war started thanks to different riots that arose in the country. Nowadays it has become a battlefield where superpowers fight each other. I asked Alberto if there was any chance of becoming the Syria of Latin America. He totally rejected that possible scenario because “Russia has shown all its support to Syria both economic and ideological meanwhile he has supported the Venezuelan regime but he has not any interest in Venezuela yet.”

On the second part of the interview we focused on the documentary broadcast by Cuatro called En Tierra Hostil. The main objective of the documentary is going to the worst places which are hermetically sealed. One of the most known was Venezuela , this documentary starts with all the team wrapping up all the tapes and contacting some smugglers in order to pass all the film through the border. After these first minutes of documentary the team filmed the reality of Caracas which discredits Maduro´s speech. Obviously, Alberto watched the documentary and he agrees with the perspective of the team but he always remembers to anyone that not everything is real, mainly everything is true but sometimes reality is exaggerated. There was a case in which a PP member of parliament twitted a video where you can see protest in Venezuela. In reality it was protest in Congo not in Venezuela. He pointed out that we must double check all incoming information because we are over informed.

In addition, the interviewee gives some example about press freedom in Venezuela. According to Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa , Venezuela is an example of press setback because of the continues harassment and prosecution that exist to silence all journalist that try to cover Venezuela´s news. He claimed that even in developed countries such as Spain, censorship exits but in a lower scale. Another example is Turkey which can be considered as a developed country, one of the MINT members, and a magazine director strongly criticised the regime of Erdogan. We was sentenced to two years and he ran away of Turkey in a refugee´s boat.

Although in all countries censorship exists, there is a responsibility of developed countries and International Organisation to solve this situation. I asked him about Spain´s role in Venezuela due to the fact that many Spanish flew to Venezuela looking for a better life in Latin America. “Spain must be involved in Venezuela not only for its heritage in the region but for all that human rights that has been violated”. Venezuela’s prior president, Hugo Chávez, has really bad relations with Spain. We had the opportunity to remember that “¿Por qué no te callas?” from the Emeritus Juan Carlos I King of Spain.

The third part of the interview was about populism and economics. Based on my previous research I concluded that economics and politics are closely links. Those countries where poverty is widely spread in all the country, populism is likely to arise and succeed meanwhile wealth well distributed equals political stability. Alberto partially agrees with my statement and he brought two main topics to the discussion: Spain and Venezuela. Spain suffered one of the worst crises in its history and populism groups were created in order to represent all those people who were against the actions taken at that time. The party called Podemos, it said to have a close linked to Venezuelan regime, succeeded in the European Elections with a remarkable percentage but still insignificant. On the other hand we find populism in Venezuela which was affected by the crisis but it was deeper due to the insignificant measures taken by the government. Venezuelans becoming poorer and an economy that needed currency devaluation to be competitive showed how weak is populism in Latin America. Rubio claimed: “Every riot starts because of a general unhappiness of the situation, mainly economic or social problems are the ones that trigger that riots.”

Finally, I challenge Alberto to predict the possible scenarios that Venezuela can face in the coming future. Rubio answered : “ I think there may be three possible scenarios : few people are able to meet and create a powerful opposition that can overthrow Maduro´s regime, Venezuela´s authorities intimidate the opposition until it disappears and both sides increase tensions between each other ; as a consequence a civil war starts.

These last words made me think about the actual problem that Latin America can have if a country as Venezuela starts a civil war. The South American continent may become the new Syria were Maduro´s supporters will fight the oppositions supporters, but the most affected will be Venezuela´s population.

 

Juan Carlos González González

 

Interview with a Brazilian Lawyer

This project is founded on an interview with Antonio Martins, a Brazilian lawyer for a multinational company. The objective of this interview is to learn in primary source the experience of being a lawyer in Latin America.

After a short briefing through Skype, I though the best way to introduce his experience was through a short story about his life in reference to his professional skills.

Antonio has lived most of his life between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. He studied Law at the university “Estácio de Sá” during the 80´s and got his first job at a nutritional industry straight after finishing his studies. After 5 years, Antonio changed sector and went to the farmaceutical industry. At this job he found the stability he needed. During this period he found who would be his actual wife, got married and had kids. At this moment, he is living in Rio de Janeiro and he has more than 20 years of career experience in the juridical sector.

I was very interested in this experience, reason why I wanted so much to do this interview; therefore I asked Antonio, how essential are lawyers in Brazil?, in the sense of what are the most common crimes he sees from his law firm. The first thing Antonio pointed out is that the political system is a very sensible subject to talk about, but lawyers are a “legislative making source” towards resolution of most conflicts. He says that a couple months ago there was a process going on called “Lava Jato” where a few politicians including high charges of the government, where accused of corruption scandals. So far, “this has been intensified through media and also due to the global issue regarding fiscal paradises”, said Antonio. In conclusion the massive demand on this sector is especially related to cases of deviation on public funds towards private accounts.

He believes that there are many lacks of information and procedures in some specific laws in Brazil such as in labor, economics and Internet. In this sense he says that lawyers have become fundamental towards the fight against crime. In answer to the second part of the question, he says “sometimes it´s not easy to cope with clients that come to my office”, he says that fortunately he only picks topics related to multinational companies, although in Brazil the most common crimes are basically drugs, prostitution and robbery, but he says it´s hard to precise which one is more common. Antonio says that nowadays he leads more with trials related with legality of products, especially in terms of “reverse engineering”, which is generally a modification of a product, intent of copy or just piracy.

In this sense I asked Antonio, what was his opinion on law enforcement? To what extent, he believes that when legislative rules are approved, the Government accomplishes these aims? Antonio smiled, he says that it´s a good question! He started by saying that last year, summer of 2016, the Olympic Games took place as a motor towards the economy, although most people where against it, because these infrastructures have a high cost that would consequently be paid by Brazilian citizens at very high prices. Even though, he believes that it´s not a matter of costs, but an issue between investment and corruption that allows these decisions.

The bright side of Brazilian people it´s that they will always smile and give you the best part of these types of issues, he says: “at least we projected ourselves to the rest of the world and Brazil has achieved more tourists then ever”. He says that sometimes we forget that Brazil is a country with 8.516 million km² and a population of 207.8 million people, if it´s hard for European communities to sometimes get along, imagine having to enforce law in such a huge space. The question on Government aims, he says that it´s not easy to compare, Sao Paulo has 12 million habitants and Roraima has 497 thousand. There is a huge difference between the different regions of Brazil, but Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia, are the most developed regions and it doesn’t represent Brazil as a whole, therefore in general terms, it is hard to achieve and most of the times aims are not even started.

As a last question, I asked Antonio what he thought about future challenges in terms of his law firm and the perspective of future in Brazil, he said his law firm is working hard towards the adaptation of new regulations and the enforcement of the commerce between different countries of the Latin America Region. He strongly believes that Brazil will open his way out of the economic crisis, somehow provoked by the unbalance of the International trade. The prospects in terms of future economics “looks good”, said Antonio, but he says he is still worried about the political instability.

Miguel Viçoso

Maduro takes control of Venezuela!

The situation in Venezuela after the political instability has generated a poor distribution of resources and consequently, the scarcity of food and medicines to the population. The sharp cuts in the educational and health sector by Maduro have been crucial towards the breakdown of the democratic government. Due to this situation, the international community must act as mediator and as a unique actor, to put an end to the agony that lives the venezuelan population.

Archivo particular

Source: archivo particular de El Heraldo

Firstly, the efforts on Maduro´s presidential government to control the State and preserve the entire power, has escalated the conflicting situation, by getting to a side the opposition of political powers and taking into jail those who Maduro considers to be against the government. Furthermore, censorship has become a predicted routine, news are not fully informing of what is going on and specially avoiding by all means the dissipation of information of procedures being taken in the country. Thus, it is a tool to maintain the power that Maduro has always craved.

Secondly, the lack of resources that Venezuela suffers, is other of the consequences of this poor communist-socialist management. It has generated supermarkets and food centers becoming out of stock, they will soon have nutrition problems, as the population is sick and starving. Despite the fact that Venezuela is one of the Latin American countries with the highest natural resources, it has achieved the top of the poorest country of the region. Although, the government somehow tried to help people with the rationing of food distribution, sooner food chain has failed. The same has happened to pharmacies. The pharmaceutical theme also generates its own problematic since many pharmacies do not have basic medicines like products for serious and common diseases like epilepsy, heart problems, and respiratory problems. Among, the situation of famine and the lack of medicines, the health public system is completely collapsed.

Thirdly, Maduro forefront an auto coup d’état ending with the last breath of democracy with the directly withdrawal of the politicians of the National Assembly, and avoiding new elections. These actions have a tremendous impact because it put into an end the separation of powers, leading Maduro as a disguised dictatorship. The Democratic Charter of the Organization of American States was the main key to achieve international consensus and study the Maduro´s case.

Finally, the “well-being” of the country has turned into a totalitarian State chaos; the population of Venezuela feels oppressed, restricted by all means through the loss of civil and political rights. Therefore, the international community should act forward the same goal: defend Venezuelan’s rights. While it is true that some actors as the United States has taken part in the situation, by reducing their exports towards Venezuela, as a way to boycott the system, it is not enough. Although these actions has caused severe changes in the distribution of energy in the country, and has destabilized Maduro’s regime, Venezuela still needs a unique answer from the international community, in order to solve this issue. Therefore, we believe it is in our hands to express ourselves for Venezuelan people and make public those actions taken by Maduro.