Interview with David Roman – Wall Street Journal

I have the pleasure to talk with David Roman, the correspondent of the Wall Street Journal in Spain. He also worked for the Dow Jones Newswires and Asian FX as a reporter. During this interview, David talked about what means to be a correspondent here in Spain and how they see in US some of the main topics in Spain.

  1.   What does it mean for you to work for the Wall Street Journal?

Well, it’s a great professional opportunity; it’s one of the most prestigious newspapers in the world so it’s an honor to work for them.

  1.    Which are the main differences between American and Spanish media?

In the United States there is a longer tradition of independence media than here in Spain. The American journalist have generally (more freedom as far as the editor and newspaper owners are concerned and also the Spanish media has suffered a huge financial failure so they  depend  much more on of the advertising than the American press, in which  that there is in a better financial situation and that causes fewer problems when you have to decide what topics do you want to report.

  1. Which are the problems that you have had working as a journalist here in Spain?

The truth is that very few, Spain is one of the most comfortable countries to work as a journalist because it has an international language that there is spoken in a big part of the planet and also being a democratic country ,puts few troubles  in your work , the greater difficulties that I have had are relating to what happens here in Spain with burocratic  issues and the access to public information that should be public but there isn’t   and that is related with the privacy laws that exist nowadays in this country that are  obsessive and exaggerated until the point that legal judgements are anonymous , so you can’t know what person has been arrested you have to call the police to confirm. In Spain there are things that are missing due to this kind of laws.

  1. Which is the image that they have from Spain in US?

The images of the countries are mostly related to their political moment, that is constantly changing, 20 years ago we had a completely different impression about Venezuela than we have nowadays for example. Taking into account all the things that happen every single day in the world, what happens in Spain, we think that there are things that they are unique in Spain like the corruption, that happen all over the world, but it is more significance in a country with a 20% of unemployment, so  the people worry more concerned about it.

 

  1. How do they see in America this political changing that is happening in Spain?

Generally, they see it as an opportunity but also as a concern. It’s good to have in politics new ideas, and now there are people that feel represented with these new parties here in Spain people but in most of the cases this new parties don’t have a big experience and finally their ideas are not very successful.

  1. They have followed with interest the recent elections in Spain?

Yes, it has been  followed with interest but it’s not so relevant like a conflict are like that in the Middle East, areas in which there are conflict and are important for the American foreign policy, for example what is happening in Yemen or with ISIS.

  1. How do they see what is happening in Catalonia with the independent movement?

 Yes, it is understood, in this case one part of Catalonia society thinks that are being oppressed by Spain and want to have their own nation. In the United States people can relate to that because they were born as a country in the same way and there are many cases all over the history that new sovereignty countries emerged in the same way   but in the other hand they  think that is an overreaction from part of the Catalan leaders  they have the same impression like what happened in Canada with the independent movement, they think that it’s a little bit exaggerated to say that Catalonia is being oppressed by Spain.

 

  1. What do American media pay more attention to , inside or foreign issues?

Like most of the countries, they concerned more about what is happening inside the country more than in their foreign policy, of course it is important, but it is not a  great deal for them.

 

  1. What do you think would be the legacy of Obama as a President?

That is relative, we have seen cases in which an  American president has left the White House with a big rate of popularity  but in the next generations  they see with a different perspective  or upside down  so that is really relative. What is true is that Obama has made big diplomatic steps with Cuba and with Iran but in other sides he has stayed halfway of the process for example to close Guantanamo or in the Afghanistan War.

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Hillary Clinton – The next US President?

With the upcoming election campaigns in the US taking shape, we argue that Hillary Clinton will make headlines and break boundaries become the first female president of the USA after she announced she will be running for office on April 12th.

Hillary Clinton is a globally dominating figure who actively is promoting gender equality (if not inadvertently) in the USA. Potentially as the first female president Mrs Clinton has the opportunity to bridge the gaps in wage equality and supports that we are all human, therefore Human Rights are for all, we are people as equals.

Clinton represents a strong figure that is defying a patriarchal society and demonstrating that it is possible for females to enter politics and take charge. “Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights” – Hillary Clinton

Clinton’s willingness to participate in social media was demonstrated on April 12th. Mrs Clinton used twitter as a platform to announce her running for the US presidency, showing commitment to modern changes and appealing to a wide range of audiences, including connecting with the youth population. Clinton had reached over 95,000 re-tweets by 7am and stated “I’m running for president, everyday Americans need a champion and I want to be that champion”

Clinton has had global support in response to her tweet including the ex President of France Nicolas Sarkozy who tweeted “…I know how strong your passion is for the United States”. Further support came from Madeline Albright the first female secretary of state who tweeted “@hillaryclinton is smart, caring and determined…”

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There are many individuals who believe that Mrs Clinton is in fact not a suitable role model; as she has been criticised for her previous support of President Bush during the Iraq war but nowadays she has made a positive change of mind about this; showing that she accepts her mistakes and listens to the public opinion that was against this idea.

Hillary Clinton also changed her point of view regarding the international environment when referring to the embargo of Cuba. She refused to accept a trade between Cuba and the USA but she recently supported President Obama in his relations with Cuba; Demonstrating that she is an open-minded woman.

Who knows if Hilary Clinton is the right candidate to lead the Democrats in the 2016 Presidential Elections, but what it is clear is that has enough credentials to say that she is fully prepared to occupy such an influential position, much more than Obama was in 2008. Hillary stood by her husband’s side during his time in office and as 2008 was Obama’s first campaign he was not accustomed to it, Hillary is already more aware of the procedures of campaigning and successful campaigning at that. The United States experienced a huge change when Obama became the first black president, and in our opinion, it is the right moment to take another step in the history of United States and embrace the first female in the White House.

‘Baltimore turns violent’

Protests break out in Baltimore due to the death of a 25 year old African American, Freddie Gray, who was held in police custody where he suffered spinal injuries and died one week later. What started as a peaceful rally gradually escalated into a violent riot.

Peaceful marches were held before his death on April 19th, until April 25th where the situation shifted and a small minority started to convert the marches into violent riots. As a consequence, police intervention was necessary and 35 people were arrested.  Due to the aggressiveness of the protestors, 9 million dollars are needed to repair the damages.

The death of Freddie Gray is the latest in a series of black Americans who were killed by police officers. Last August, Michael Brown was shot dead by police officer Wilson in Ferguson. Another recent case occurred in Staten Island, where Eric Garner was wrestled to the ground by a police officer; providing some explanation to the reactions taking place in Baltimore. These circumstances nurture a negative discourse among the American public and creates frustrations with the police brutality and the heightened media coverage is highlighting the tensions.

Six police officers have been suspended. The names of the police officers were released to the press shortly after their suspension; they state that they did not use force against Freddie Gray.

Eric Kowalczyk, police department spokesman captain, says that the suspensions are standard procedures after an “in custody death”. There is an internal investigation taking place to clarify the case.

President Barack Obama condemned the actions of the public (involved in the violence) in his first public intervention after the Baltimore protests. Stating that any kind of violence, (that has been taking in Baltimore during the last weeks) has no justification and “There’s no excuse for the kind of violence that we saw yesterday”. He also stated: “I think there’s some communities that have to do some soul searching. But I think we as a country have to do some soul searching. This is not new. It’s been going on for decades”.

Maryland’s State Governor, Larry Hogan, declared the state of emergency due “to address the growing violence and unrest in Baltimore City”.

The candidate of the democrat party, Hillary Clinton, said that the violence events are “heart breaking” and that there’s an urgent need to reform the system.

After a week of violent demonstrations, police officers and National Guard troops are leaving the area. Business owners are trying to get back to their daily routine and reconstruct what has been damaged due to the significant visible and emotional impacts of the riots.  Individuals in the affected areas will be the subject of more mass media coverage in the coming months, evidently with particular focus on news regarding police and police conduct.

‘Obama apologises for accidental drone strike deaths’

On the 23rd April 2015 Obama held a press conference in the White House to publicly apologise for the drone strike in January that resulted in the death of an American and Italian who were held hostage in an Al Qaeda sanctuary in Northern Pakistan.

The official goal of the mission was achieved by killing Ahmed Farouq who was a well-known leader of the terrorist group Al Qaeda. The two men killed were American Warren Weinstein and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto.

“Despite hundreds of hours of surveillance, the White House said it had no reason to believe the US and Italian hostages were being detained in the Al Qaeda compound targeted during the operation”

This apology was not necessarily anticipated by the general public both in the US and Italy as it is unusual for the US government to “disclose information”. There are questions currently being raised as to why Obama has felt the need to “take full responsibility” for these deaths. This is potentially to increase transparency and public knowledge of the current situation of drone strikes and attacks. However critics are questioning the timing due to the citizenship of the victims involved. There are further criticisms because the apology was a result of the death of individuals from the Western world.

Obama appears to prefer the use of drones to minimise the casualties of US troops oversees. Since 2008 Pakistan (see graph below) has been the main target for US drones. Obama has previously had support for the use of drones from both the Democrats and Republicans.

Source: New York Times

Source: New York Times

Giovanni Lo Porto was an Italian aid worker who was abducted while working in Pakistan to improve the quality of drinking water in 2010. Warren Weinstein was a “contract worker for the US agency for international development”

Reactions to what happened:

  • Mira Esposito a colleague of Lo Porto said “I do not know what happened and why he was killed. I would like to know more. We miss the people we know, but many more are killed for no reason from a distance by just pushing a button”
  • An investigator from Amnesty international: “Obama’s statement is really moving,” “and we welcome that, I welcome the fact that he has done that” But he added “there are hundreds, potentially thousands of others who deserve the same apology”
  • Elaine Weinstein criticises the US government for “inconsistent and disappointing” assistance during her husband’s captivity. “But they failed to take action earlier in his captivity when an opportunity presented itself”

It is clear that both the family and friends are devastated by the events and are critical of the use of drones by the US government.

Obama attempted to show remorse and transparency with this apology however there is a back log of criticism that follows this recent press conference because a presidential apology is so rare.