The Canadian current challenges explained by a Canadian diplomat

In the framework of my study of North America, I had to interview someone from this region. After having contacted the embassy of Canada to Spain, they kindly granted me the opportunity to meet Mr. Simon Cridland, their political counselor, in order to question him about his day-to-day work and the current Canadian challenges.

Embassy of Canada in Madrid in Torre Espacio (Paseo de la Castellana)

Embassy of Canada in Madrid in Torre Espacio (Paseo de la Castellana)

We started by introducing ourselves and I presented the purpose of the interview. Firstly, I asked Mr. Cridland in what consisted his job. “The main part of my work is to follow the political and economic situation in Spain and write reports to the Ottawa headquarters and to the other Canadian embassies when it could have some interest for them”, answered Mr. Cridland. For instance, if the Spanish foreign policy evolves, Canada must be informed. Moreover, a political counselor is attentive to the policies and announcements of new and traditional political parties, particularly during this election-filled year. Mr. Cridland is “also interesting in local politics”, including in the Spanish communities since Canada has economic ties with a number of them. Another important task is promoting Canada. It can lead him to highlight, before the Spanish institutions, a policy that the Canadian Government wants other countries to support. Additionally, Mr. Cridland promotes the priorities of the Canadian Government, which include religious diversity, international security, the principle of good governance, children and women rights, education and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, the trade agreement between Canada and the European Union for which negotiations were recently concluded.

Afterwards, I carried on to the subject of the challenges that Canada and other countries are facing with the rise of terrorist groups. I enquired Mr. Cridland about the measures implemented by Canada to fight terrorism. He informed me that 600 Canadian troops were in Iraq at the moment with the mission to train the Iraqi troops. Moreover, Canadian aircraft are bombings ISIS targets. Canada also gives Iraq money to buy non-lethal equipment such as helmets or tents and to invest in development. Then, I added that the Canadian Government was in favor of a legislative bill to strengthen the fight against terrorism by giving more powers to the intelligence services and to the police. I asked Mr. Cridland if this bill could be considered as a kind of Patriot Act. He told me that the bill is being debated in Parliament where various views about the bill are being raised. However, he noted that the Government was already planning to introduce such a bill before the October 2014 terrorist attacks in Canada. I questioned if there was a link between the Canadian involvement in the international coalition against ISIS and the terrorist attacks that Canada has faced. In his opinion “we can’t know for sure”.

Thereafter, we discussed the other Canadian challenges. Mr. Cridland mentioned the global security, the events in the Middle East, the crisis in Ukraine, Ebola and the security issues in Africa, the respect of human rights and the economic rules since Canada supports free trade.

I decided to delve further into some issues. Firstly, we focused on Ebola. He informed me that no Canadian citizens have been infected, nevertheless Ebola has led to lots of concerns. Canada sent help to Africa and some vaccines were developed in Canada and dispatched in Africa. We continued with the Canadian tools to promote human rights. Mr. Cridland explained me that Canada could sanction or put pressure on Governments that disrespect human rights. Canada can also engage in dialogue to encourage countries to modify aspects of their politics related to human rights. Mr. Cridland distinguished two types of human rights: the political ones, controlled by the Government like the freedom of expression or the right to vote, and human rights linked with culture or poverty such as women and children health. Canada gives poor countries money to improve this second category. Canada is particularly concerned about three gender-based issues: health that Canada develop with its program dedicated to “maternal, newborn and early child health”, early and forced marriages that Canada prevent by working with Governments to change the laws and violence against women especially during conflicts that Canada fights by, among other things, encouraging education and awareness of the issue.

To conclude, I asked Mr. Cridland his advice for an international relations’ student. His tips were to study topics that interest you, maybe to study more deeply one part of the world but without forgetting the rest of the world. It is not as important what you learn in terms of subject, but lessons that it teaches you about how to analyze and think. His final advice was to “be persistent” and I completely agreed with him!

Mr. Simon Cridland and me after the interview at the embassy of Canada to Spain

Mr. Simon Cridland and me after the interview at the embassy of Canada to Spain

I would like to thank Mr. Cridland for the time he devoted to me and for his reception and the interest he showed to my questions. It was an enriching experience to discuss the current Canadian challenges with someone so informed.

Romane Goy

International view behind the eyes of a Regional Claims Manager

The Central Claims Manager, gives us her opinion about the most current issues that are happening nowadays and explains us in what consist her work and the problems she  can face at an international level.

She works in a Security Multinational Company as a Regional Claims Manager and her work consists in providing  technical assistance and training for Claims Managers and staff. She has two partners that help her, give guiadance, rules and establish best claims practices within the Claims offices in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, UK/Ireland, Cezch Republic, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary, Rumania,  Norway, Germany, USA and Canada. They also are in charge of deciding which claims have to be investigated for avoiding the fraud.

Nowadays she is working in a global project that consist in changing the working method applied in the officies with the aim of reducing costs. This project is focused in the policy of Costumers Centricity, where the clients will be more satisfied.They are also provinding  free assistance  for the costumers applying the  wording friendly policy with the aim of working better and faster  just in changing the way of working and reducing cost.

One example is that the costumers will find easier and more accesible applying the claims from the web page. Another example is making faster the period of paying a claim, if before took  10 days now it only takes 3 days.

The company is linked with Northamerica as the headquarter of their officies is located in USA. They receive the orders and projects from there. Every operation and every mandate comes out frome the Home Office.

To understand better the topical issues occuring in Northamerica, she gives us her perspective, about the missing of the mexican students she thinks that Mexico is a country with a lot of population in the federal district and in the guvernamental organizations that are corrupted. She believes that students have always had the ideas for future changes, the reivindicative voices and that they represent the innovation and that is why they wanted to keep them quiet.

Taking all the mexican corruption to her working ambit, when they have claims in Mexico they always have to question themselves if this claim is true or not. Maybe the document is true but the claim is not because it is very easy to get a death certificate. So they frequently have to ask for a second verification.

Another matter of concern is inmigration “The problem of inmigration that is happening in the US can be extrapolated to any part of the world” she said. Also added that inmigrants usually look for places where they feel confortable at the time of speaking. In US lenguage is not a wall but the proximity of the border in mexico is a facility. She said that “ Stoping this is practically impossible, they have to adopt measuresfor making the country more atractive and, consequently, make mexicans want to stay there and not leave their country”.

She claims that US policy is improvable. When she was asked about how can we improve the US policy she answered that one of the most important aspects that US policy have is to improve the health care service. She said “ It is surprising how a first power as US is able to invest in army and in every single global noble cause and the organization of their health care system is only accesible for that part of the population that have money”. She also thinks that the pension system and everything related with the social security is very poor compared with Europe.

Universities are also a very stressfull problem that the US policy has. “their prices are extremely high”she added. The price of one normal university in the US has nothing to do with the price of one of the best private universities in Europe.

Summarizing the question she said that they have to organize better and redistribute the budget of the social systems.

Finally she was asked about what kind of problems could she find when she face the US burocracy and she answered that they want to control everything and that they are very strict talking about burocracy, sometimes claims formulariesthat are useless and that do nothing apart from driving the costumers crazy. They have to write lots of formularies answering stupid questions. One example of this is when we arrive to the US airport and the questionary that we are somited. Those questions are useless “ if you are asked about commiting a crime, that person is not going to tell you: yes, I´m thinking about putting a bomb in a museum!”.

With this interview, we can se how different our cultures are but it also shows how close and similarwe are between each other after all. She works in a Multinational Company and she travels frequently  and has a specialized view about what is happening nowadays, and this opinion can help her in her dialy work projects.

By: Rita Soriano Marín

Talking with Antonio Fornieles, What is happening in US?

 Bandera de Estados Unidos

Maria Cristina Hernando Suero

-MADRID- Antonio Fornieles is a graduate in economics sciences and business by Universidad Complutense de Madrid . He was named as a general director of operations of revision area about sum in KPMG.

Currently he is  Independent advisor coordinator and second vice of  Abengoa

Abengoa is an international company which function is to apply technological solutions to  sustainable development  of energy and environment.

The majority of business that this company carry on are mainly outside Spain .They work all over the world, but mostly in the United State.

The purpose of this interview is to know more about the United States in the different aspects that are involved currently , for example :  the relationship between Cuba and the United states , The Jihadism , the economic situation , The conflict between Russia and Ukraine and also , about oil and renewable energy . For that reason, today I count with the opinion of Antonio Fornieles .

I think he is a great person and a great professional . He is good in his job and he has a long working experience about the relationship with US and foreign countries and he answered to my questions very friendly .

We started with a topic that has shocked the whole world .

A couple months ago, the world looked to the United States and Cuba as the reason for their converstations. We don´t know what could happen or what type of international consequences could have this issue.

Antonio affirmed that the Cuban case was an anachronism. The Cuban immigrants in the United States always have had a strong politic strength, that’s why this conversations have taken place. This will have certain repercussion and it will affect Cuba a lot more than it will affect at an international level.

Another of the important aspects is to know in what situation is the United States situated, more specifically which are the principal problems the United States is going through.

As Antonio said “United States has problems, but it still is considered the first power in the world. It is obvious that it has problems that need to be solved but is also where more nobel prices have been given and where more intern benefit is found. The problem is that there is a high social difference as well as having the most expensive healthcare in the world. Obama wants to solve all these problems. Comparing the United States with Europe, another problem is the train and roads infrastructes”

Continuing with the United States problems, we have the 11S terrorist attack:

“ Yes , of course. The terrorist attack marks a before and after. It is an issue that it still need to be solved

When a country is more stable the risks of having a terrorist attack decreases. The only solution is to get to the root of the problem which means an economic solution”

Continuing with the terrorist issue, nowadays we find ourselves in a very sensitive situation when it comes to the Jihadist issue. We have no idea what it could happen.

According to Antonio Fornieles, right now the United States is using more soft power than it is using hard power.

We also need to have into account, that the United States always have the main character role in the world, in any conflict that we can think about, the United States is involved. When it comes to the jihadist problems, this issue will not be solved until someone gets to the root of the problem.

Another problems covered nowadays, is the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Many people think that this conflict together with the role that the United States is playing there could be a future second Cold War or the possibility to get to an armed conflict.

“ It is complicated to get to a Cold War. It is very surprising how Putting is capable of doing certain things and be able to say that he is doing the opposite with an unexisting feeling of guilt. Putting, to avoid his problems it is being a lot more intervencionist with the countries that belonged to the Soviet Union. I don’t want to think that we might get to a Cold War once again because there are open routes for dialogue, but Putin is showing that he has a capacity to change the natural way of things, the most recent example would be the assesination of Boris Nemtsov. I want to believe that we are not going to get to a generalized conflict but it is true that we should look for a solution with the possibility of negotiation and it has to be, not only with the participation of the United States but also including Europe action.”

Changing topic and the last one, we move to the topic that includes the United States and half of the world that controls oil, more concrete fracking. We don’t know if the decrease of oil prices has something to do with fracking and in what height this could affect the relations between the United States and the countries that produces oil.

According to Antonio   fracking affects to the decrease of the oil prices. Fracking has allowed the United States to generate back all the oil that consumes and the necessity of the oil imports and this is what has desequilibrated the market that was before the use of fracking

Nowadays  we are in a situation a bit strange because in less than a year the oil prices has decreased half its actual price, a part of the fracking, what it has been included is the Arab countries since they have decided to inhibit the management of the oil offer and that is what has mainly provoked the decreased of the prices.

Antonio thinks that the relation between the United States and Russia is affected with this but it is not as affected as the relations between the United States and the Arab countries because the oil price will grow eventually and the reserves will be consumed and new ones will appear because the technology that is being developed to find oil locations has improved a lot meaning that it could be extracted in a more economic way and that will allow them to keep maintaining the oil sources. Therefore, it is hard to know how long it will take but what it is very clear is that it is not sustainable.

As a conclusion, the United States is going to have a harder time to get along with Russia than it will take to get along with the Arab countries.

So I conclude this interview here . I think that it was a great experience to contact with Antonio  and  to talk about currently .

With this interview we can learn more about why and what happen , and to understand the status of US.

Mexico: massive concern of corruption in the case of the disappearances of forty-three students in Iguala

On September 26th 2014, forty-three Mexican students were kidnapped and likely murdered in Iguala, yet this case is still unresolved since only one remain has been identified as belonging to a student.

Around fifty persons including policemen, José Luis Abarca the former mayor of Iguala and his spouse, and members of the local drug cartel Guerreros Unidos have been charged with these kidnappings. Indeed, José Luis Abarca is accused of having ordered to the policemen to attack the students in order to prevent them from disrupting an event to promote his wife’s political ambitions. However, the inefficiency of the investigation has led to weeks of protests across Mexico against corruption and violence and has highlighted Mexico’s need for justice.

Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty Images

Protesters confronting policemen on November 10th during the demonstrations at the Acapulco airport (Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty Images)

According to the NGO Transparency International, Mexico is ranked 103 out of 175 countries based on how corrupt its public sector is perceived to be, zero being the highest corrupt country. As we can notice in the case of the missing students of Iguala, the Government is not doing enough to bring answers to the relatives of the victims. Indeed, despite the fact that independent Argentinians experts have highlighted the irregularities of the official investigation, the Attorney General of Mexico has concluded that the students have been first attacked by corrupt policemen and then sold to the drug cartel Guerreros Unidos that has murdered and burned them, but relatives of the victims accused the Government of trying to cover up a “State crime”. They denounce a web of corruption and an attempt to close the case further to the widespread and often violent protests that it has triggered.

NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have also questioned the official version and denounced the delays of the investigation which has been opened ten days after the students disappeared. José Miguel Vivanco, director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas division, denounced the “degradation in Mexico in areas such as justice, violence, observance of human rights, corruption and impunity”. Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director of Amnesty International stated “It is imperative that Mexico’s promises to respect human rights are not just government platitudes behind which a host of abuses can be committed with impunity.”

There is a deep judicial crisis in Mexico since 80 percent of homicides remain unsolved.This impunity has even led some Mexican human rights groups to ask the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into Mexican crimes against humanity. In a country where 40 percent of the federated States do not considerkidnapping as a crime, the violence is widespread. Actually, the International Crisis Group estimates that 47,000 to 70,000 people were killed in Mexico in drug war-related violences between 2006 and 2012 and thousands more have disappeared. Human Rights Watch affirms that state actors such as the army, the Navy and the police are often involved in such crimes.

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Comparison between the cartel-related homicides and all the homicides in Mexico between 2005 and 2012 (Latin America Report n°48 from March 2014 by the International Crisis Group)

In Mexico, it is not unusual that the proponents of the rule of law such as some activists, journalists and incorruptible judges, police officers and politicians become the target of violences which often end in murders.

Start of the race for the potential candidates of the 2016 U.S. presidential elections

The Republicans and Democrats potential candidates for the 2016 presidential campaign are already facing about both internal and external issues further to the debates concerning measles vaccination and the fight of the Islamic State.

Charles and David Koch, the fifth and sixth world richest persons and supporters of the Republicans are now the worst threat for the Democrat Party, since they plan to spend almost $900 million in the 2016 Republican campaign. This amount represents more than twice the money spent in the Republican presidential campaign of 2012. Koch brothers have used their network to find 300 donors willing to finance the Republican campaign. David Koch explained: “What I want these candidates to do is support a balanced budget”. He added: “I’m very worried that if the budget is not balanced that inflation could occur and the economy of our country could suffer terribly”.

In addition to this donors’ race, Democrats and Republicans are currently clashing about the vaccination issue. In January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a revival of measles mainly due to the decrease of vaccinations.

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The cases of measles in the United States in January 2015 according to CNN

Indeed, some persons believe that vaccines can develop autism since the publication of an unfounded study in 1998. Obama urged parents to get their children immunized because “There is every reason to get vaccinated, but there aren’t reasons to not”. Two potential Republican candidates have shared a different view. Rand Paul affirmed that most vaccinations should be “voluntary” since it is “an issue of freedom” and Chris Christie declared that parents should have “some measure of choice”. Other Republican candidates such as Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio strongly support vaccination. Amongst the Democrats, Hillary Clinton posted on Twitter that “The science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. Let’s protect all our kids”. A recent study of the Pew Research Center indicates that 68% of U.S. adults support a compulsory vaccination, as well as 76% of Democrats and 65% of Republicans and independents. Moreover, Republicans and independents tend more than Democrats to believe that parents should decide.

The statistics of the Pew Research Center’s study concerning vaccination

The statistics of the Pew Research Center’s study concerning vaccination

Even though the American elections are usually based on domestic issues, given the global situation, the controversy about the role of the U.S. in the fight against the Islamic State will make its way in the presidential campaign, especially concerning the question of the ground troops. Some analysts and Republicans blame the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq because of the progress of the jihadists, and warn that the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan could also give the Taliban more power. A recent study of the Pew Research Center shows that the first public’s policy priority for Americans is the fight against terrorism. Moreover, defending against terrorism should be the top priority for Republicans whereas it is the second priority for independents and the forth priority for Democrats.

The statistics of the Pew Research Center’s study concerning the public’s policy priorities

The statistics of the Pew Research Center’s study concerning the public’s policy priorities

Rick Perry, Ben Carson, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul, who are six potential Republican candidates, have already expressed their support of a return of ground troops. Amongst the Democrats, Hillary Clinton stated that military action against jihadists is “essential” to stop the growth of ISIS but “not sufficient” since we should also ruin the extremist propaganda and support Middle Eastern governments in their process of political and economic reforms.

  Romane Goy, Cristina Hernando & Rita Soriano

Boehner and Netanyahu’s attempt to undermine Obama concerning the Iran negotiations

On top of the extremely sensitive official negotiations with Iran, internal U.S. political forces have broken up and the Israeli Prime Minister has become involved to make the nuclear issue with Iran even more complex.

President Barack Obama with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office in October 1, 2014  (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office in October 1, 2014 (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

On January 21, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner announced that he invited the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of the Congress on March 3 that will deal with nuclear negotiations with Iran. Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran affirms that its nuclear program is only to produce energy for civilian use. Iran and the U.S. try to find a final deal by June 2015 in order to prevent that this nuclear issue results in a war. Indeed, Obama at a joint press conference with David Cameron at the White House on January 16 declared: “if this diplomatic solution fails, then the risks and likelihood that this ends up being at some point a military confrontation is heightened”.

Obama, in his State of the Union’s speech declared that “New sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails […] That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress”. At the contrary, Netanyahu supports the Republican’s proposal to put sanctions on Iran. Obama has often disagreed with Netanyahu concerning Iran and Netanyahu will once again attempt to undermine the American President. In May 2011 he publicly criticized Obama during a speech to the Congress, also organized by the Republicans. Furthermore, Netanyahu supports the Republican candidates against Obama, such as during the 2012 elections when he supported Mitt Romney. He will probably also support the Republicans during the presidential elections in 2016.

Netanyahu will not meet the President during his visit because the White House refuses to receive foreign leaders before their elections and Netanyahu’s visit is only two weeks before Israeli’s legislative election. Netanyahu’s speech in front of the Congress may be perceived as an election speech. According to the Guardian, Netanyahu told his cabinet: “As Prime Minister of Israel, I am obligated to make every effort to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weaponry that will be aimed at the state of Israel.” However, it is also a very risky political strategy for the Prime Minister because it could damage Israel’s relationship with the U.S. that is Israel’s most important ally and it can finally lead to an opposite result for his elections.

Boehner invited Netanyahu without informing the Obama administration. It represents a breach of protocol since the foreign policy is supposed to be made only by the President and not by the Congress. Indeed, it would mean that there are two US foreign policies and it would be extremely confusing for foreign States which could misunderstand which of the two institutions is actually making the foreign policy. Moreover, a U.S. political party siding with a foreign country over its own President denotes a major break-up with the usual approach of the international relations.