Interview with a Brazilian politican

By Fiona Krogh Gerson

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Lurdete Kummer, Vice-Mayor in Jandira

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Madrid –  Lurdete Kummer is a 47-year old Vice-Mayor of a small town, called Jandira, in the State of Sao Paulo, Brazil. I wanted to interview her to get a closer look on the inside of a local government in Brazil. Since I know Mrs. Kummer personally, I was hoping to get her insight and opinion regarding the many problems and challenges Brazil is facing today, corruption amongst the political elite being one of the biggest scandals.

Mrs. Kummer has a degree in Administration, Law and Education and currently studying for a master degree in Human Rights. “You don’t really need a degree to work in the local government”, she told me during our skype interview. Adding that you can never get too much knowledge, learning new things and getting valuable experience in new fields is so stimulating and enables me to do a good job for my town and the people here.

At first I wanted to know a bit more about her position, so when I asked her what she does in her current position as Vice-Mayor in Jandira she told me she helps the Mayor in his work for the population. Her daily life is just like any other ordinary job. When I asked her about the positive and the negative sides of her job, she said that the sad thing is that they can’t really do so much. They have very little money to spend on projects compared to the big cities, and people often demanded and expected a lot from her and the local government. However, when they managed to help people, she described it as the most inspiring part of her job and the main reason why she had chosen this field of work. She didn’t want to see people with power destroying ordinary people’s lives, she wanted to make a difference. “I want to improve people’s lives”, she told me and went on explaining how there are too many people getting into politics for the reason of earning good money, and not for the sake of doing something good for their country or its people. This has to change. Because if not, we will never have the right people in power, she added.

We then got talking about the main issues in Jandira and Brazil. The main focus in Jandira right now is to improve basic education and healthcare for its citizens. The town has a massive need for improvements in these fields. With Jandira being one of the poorer cities in the state of Sao Paulo, they are facing big challenges. She mentions the lack of good healthcare being one of Brazil’s biggest challenges at the moment. There are countless people dying all over Brazil every day due to the lack of good health care provision and a shortage of hospitals. There are not enough medicines to meet the needs of Brazil’s large population. She pointed out education as a priority to tackle this problem. “Good schools and equal access to free, good education for all children is a main priority to achieve this”, she said.

When we started on the topic of corruption she got quite exasperated. When you think of all the poverty there is and corruption scandals Brazil has been exposed to over the last couple of years, it’s understandable that people lose trust in the politicians, get frustrated and riot in the streets. They have had to put up with corrupt governments for so long, and now this year even with the president getting impeached along with so many more in the government. And this is exactly how Mrs. Kummer described it. As many foreigners believe, we have seen Brazil really trying to address the problem of corruption this year, getting rid of tons of corrupt people in the government. But did it help? Mrs. Kummer tried to explain how difficult this challenge is. The corruption is not related just to individuals, it pervades the whole system. “The problem is so deeply entangled into the whole political system that nobody can really see it”, she continued. She cited corruption in business contracts as one of the biggest problems. To my question whether she could see it going on in her local government, she said yes. She felt powerless however in trying to do something about it. For instance, one can make overpriced contracts and it is within the law. It is all very well organized and hard to prove, and she described “them” as experts on what they do and how to hide it. She was not talking about one or two persons, because you have the federal police and higher forces playing a role in this corruption, too. According to Mrs. Kummer this is something everybody knows about but it continues in silence. Mrs. Kummer finds it hard to have faith in the system around her, but she believes Brazil can change. This is why she will continue to be honest in her work in the local community and be a good role model for the people she is meant to serve.

To conclude with I was very curious about how she saw Brazil’s position in the world right now, and how the corruption scandals going on this year might have damaged Brazil’s reputation internationally. Mrs. Kummer sees Brazil struggling to regain confidence in its world position today. She also thinks that Brazil is not an isolated case, that it occurs in many other developed countries all over the world, but not in such a shameful way. Brazil has great potential with its huge amount of natural resources, especially water and forest. Brazil has the potential of becoming a great power one day. Even though it has had its struggles in establishing a stable governance, it looks like the country is on the path to a better future with the events and impeachments this year being a good start. What we from the outside have witnessed is a cleansing in the governmental system, and hopefully in the future there will be only more people like Lurdete Kummer, politicians who wants to serve the needs of the people. I still hold Brazil as a “country of the future”, because I believe in people like her.

 

 

 

 

 

Peru – Spain relations, an insight into the Peruvian embassy in Madrid.

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When I started contacting embassies a couple weeks ago for an interview, I would have never realized that I would be looking now at so many of where to choose from: Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Dominican Republican just to name a few, gave me the thumbs up right away, and in the end I decided to put on paper what I learnt about Peru regarding bilateral relations with Spain.

On Tuesday, November the 22nd I was appointed by the Counselor Minister Reynaldo Portugal at the Peruvian Embassy in Madrid. He received me with two of his colleagues, Second Secretary Willy Salazar, and Lawyer Hermes Alván.

Minister Portugal started talking about the history and values the couple of countries share in common resembling democracy, religion, laws, gastronomy, language, and economic policies just to name a few. Although the relations between both countries has had its ups and downs, he reckons it has been stable and solid once diplomatic relations were reestablished during the late 70s, the period when both exit nondemocratic regimes.

After that, the two countries have signed several bilateral treaties over the years, one Reynaldo recalls is the social security treaty, which allows Peruvians that have been working in Spain, to retire in Peru with a proportional pension.
“It ́s not a perfect treaty as it has some flaws”, he recalls, but it ́s one of the ones he says they are currently working on improving.

Second Secretary Willy Salazar ratified Reynaldo ́s position stating that Spain is currently one of the countries Peru wants to have as a strategic partner by having an open agenda on several matters. By briefly describing Peru ́s national plan for the next years, Mr. Salazar mentioned that Peru ́s goal is to open a new stage in the international ground in which Peru, wants to be an even more relevant player by trying to position itself as a regional developing power, strengthening its image worldwide by cooperating with other relevant players, and protecting its citizens abroad.
In almost all of these objectives, Spain can be seen as an integral partner as it shares in common most of the interests previously stated, Mr. Salazar said.

One of the examples the three officials share, which explain Mr. Salazar ́s posture, are the two main priorities Peru has regarding Foreign Policy. These were described by them as Peru gaining access to the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) and strengthening the deal Peru currently holds concerning the Schengen zone. In both concerns, Spain can be a crucial partner that might act as a channel that might position Peru in a better place to negotiate, as well as assisting Peru in achieving its goals, they mentioned.

Reynaldo also spoke about how interested Spain had become on the Pacific Alliance, a free-trade organization Peru is part of. As Spain is the foreign country with the most

direct inversion in Peru, and the presence of Spanish companies seems to be on the rise, he says, Spain has developed an increasing awareness on wanting to gain indirect access to the Pacific Ocean, therefore finding this organization quite relevant. Willy affirms that the same way Peru considers Spain a crucial partner serving to them as a channel, this time is the other way around. As he states, Spain, which is currently an observer in this organization wants to become something more for the reasons above explained, maybe not a full member, yet something more like an observer with a vote, or in other words, “an observator +” Willy said.

Another example of cooperation between Spain and Peru as Reynaldo recalls, has been a project regarding military observatory vessels, a project recently gone un- classified. This project consisted of the construction of two vessels in Vigo, to serve the Peruvian army in observatory missions throughout the sea. Not only did we count on Spain to help us develop the vessels, he stated, but also to train our personnel into operating and managing them.

On a related matter concerning free trade organizations, when asked about the relevance of the Andean Community, they showed some difference in opinions.
They stated that Peru has always been keen to participate and cooperate with others fostering organizations of this type, and especially when the members inside are countries with whom they share the same interests, in this case, an economic one.

However, after the withdrawal of Chile first, and Venezuela second, the organization has lost part of its charm, Reynaldo mentions. Entities such as the Andean parliament have lost relevance and they are in a severe need of reform, Willy spoke. Nevertheless, is not that Peru wants to abandon, the purpose it originally intended greatly benefits our country, for example with our neighboring country Ecuador in which some of our industries take great advantage of it, Willy and Reynaldo remarked. As Peru has been advancing in terms of new trade bilateral agreements with other countries, the Andean Community is kept now to a secondary role. “Just take a look at the figures” Reynaldo continued, 16% of our trade is with the E.U., 22% is with China, and the U.S. occupies the largest percentage, whereas within the Andean Community the records are kept as low as 7 %; it is still relevant but definitely not a priority.

Moving on with the interview, I decided to conclude by asking what kind of image Peru was trying to portray to the world. Reynaldo mentioned that the Peruvians have seen Spain as a role model in terms of world tourism leaders and that they were trying to extrapolate that in order for Peru to be a more attractive country to visit. Furthermore, he explained that Peru also wanted to be an example to follow and seek advice for, as he believes they already have the knowledge and the experience so they can share it with others. He continues by saying Peru now has succeeded in the development stage and that they feel now confident enough to give solid advice to its counterparts around the globe if they request them to do so. Last but not least, other features he ́d like to emphasize is their political stability and their values of democracy previously mentioned as a part of the Peru brand.

My personal impression of the time I ́ve spent in the Embassy couldn’t ́t be better. I learned a lot of things not only regarding the relations between both of the Hispanic countries, but getting to analyze the profiles of each of the interviewees and comparing them with other diplomats interviewed so far in terms of background and experience, was in overall an excellent enriching experience.

 

Pedro V. Esteban Orellana

Defeat terrorists, don’t reward them!

The rule of law matters, it is after all the foundation of democracy. The principle belief is that one must be duly punished for one’s misdemeanors by independent courts, acting on behalf of current laws approved by governmental and legislative branches, is essential to the preservation of justice. Benjamin Franklin once said: “justice will not be served until those unaffected are as outraged as those who are” – seemingly not everyone is yet wholeheartedly outraged by FARC’s crimes, but we certainly are. We believe that negotiating with terrorists and any approximation with FARC is fundamentally immoral. The suffering endured by the Colombian people must not be forgotten and cannot morally go unpunished. The rejection of the initial FARC agreement by the Colombian electorate was an important step in the defense of democracy and must be continued.

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The majority of Colombians have voted NO to the last agreement.          Source: Elclavo

 

The new FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) Peace Agreement differs from the old agreement on 56 out of 57 grounds, however, it does not incorporate one of the main concern of the electorate; FARC representation in senate and chamber. A such move is deemed controversial in that Colombia’s constitution currently does not allow citizens with criminal records to run for any official positions. FARC members to be formally represented do not necessarily have a criminal record, but they ought to. The new FARC deal by no means guarantees post-agreement peace. There is a great chance the FARC will fraction into a moderate camp, supporting the agreement, and a conservative camp firmly believing in the militant ways of the past. This potential FARC division must necessarily mean the disarmament of FARC will, in reality, be extremely challenging to carry out if the agreement were to be signed.

Justice must be served, even to former FARC members. No jail means no justice. Moreover, letting FARC members go untouched would be an outright insult to the many victims. We vividly remember Martha Luz Amarocho’s statement after the FARC assassinated her son; “there is nothing, there is no one, I will never get another hug from my son” – sadly, the government and part of the Colombian electorate do not feel the pain of these affected families.

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Colombians will have the final say on this agreement.       Source: RTVE

 

FARC’s financial and military assets are derived from decades of clandestine activities. One important and often forgotten point is that many years have passed with a status quo in FARC-controlled areas, meaning the rightful owners of land(s) and victims as a whole may be remarkably challenging to track down. The FARC members willing to confess their crimes will, even after the agreement is ratified, remain within the same local communities and villages. Thereby they will represent a menace to the new and/or rightful owners of the property assets scheduled to be stripped from the FARC. Unfortunately, this scenario seems more likely than not.

The punishment must fit the crime, however, any FARC agreement neglects this basic principle. Victims’ opinion is being largely undermined by the new agreement as it essentially lets criminals get away with their crimes – let alone giving them guaranteed representation in congress and chamber. We stand with Colombian victims in defense of  justice and their nation’s democracy and firmly believe terrorists mustn’t be granted amnesty – no to terror, yes to peace!

Written by: Fiona Catherine Krogh Gerson, Cassandra Bakketeig Thomassen,  Isadora Clough, Sebastían Berko and Pedro Esteban.

 

 

Maduro impeachment: Coup d’état or will of the people?

Venezuela’s opposition’s attempt at ousting President Maduro from office by gathering signatures for a petition, has been temporarily halted after National Electoral Council casts doubts on the authenticity of signatures.

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People protesting against Maduro’s Government.                                                                          Source: Reuters.

 

Venezuela, the oil-richest country in the world, is once again experiencing political and social turmoil in the awake of the recent economic meltdown. President Maduro has long blamed Western sanctions, particularly by the United States, for the poor economic shape of Venezuela, however, the opposition claims that Maduro’s nationalistic policies have created the financial vacuum and consequently the opposition is pushing for a change in government.

According to Venezuela’s constitution, a plebiscite can be held once a president has served half of his term if certain requirements are met. By October 21st the opposition had successfully initiated the process of issuing a recall referendum by having one percent of voters in each of Venezuela’s 24 states signing a petition. Now the opposition is required to collect signatures from 20 percent of voters in each state to favorably trigger the referendum. The government-controlled National Electoral Council has, however, disdained the result of the first petition on the grounds of alleged electoral fraud.

 

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Path to Referendum vote on Maduro’s presidency.                                     Source: BBC World

 

The invalidation of the petition by the National Electoral Council was received with hostility by the opposition, which has long accused the agency of having a Government-friendly approach to issues that ought to be independently assessed. Henrique Capriles, leader of the opposition, has expressed particular concern regarding the lack of separation between the state institutions and the government in office; “A coup d’état has taken place in Venezuela, it cannot be classified otherwise. It’s time to defend our Constitution. We need to re-establish Constitutional order.”

 

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Henrique Capriles at a press conference in the state of Miranda.                     Source: ImpactoNY

 

President Maduro continuously insists the evaluation of the petition signatures was conducted by independent judges, electoral officials and experts based on technical criteria. He denies having had any influence on the decision to invalidate the petition. Maduro made no secret of his cynical take on the opposition’s attempt at removing him from power: “The revolution will continue to win despite the constant pretensions of the right which is trying to take over power by unconstitutional means” he said while in Saudi Arabia discussing global oil prices.  Members of the Maduro’s Venezuelan Socialist Party, such as Earle Herrera, Deputy of the Council of State, have issued similar statements; “Don’t try to take advantage of these hard times to finish off our nation”

 

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Opposition congressman accusing President Maduro of being a                                              dictator                                                Source: Latin American Post.

 

While the legal stand-off between the government and the opposition is expected to continue in the coming months, the Venezuelan economy, suffering from a staggering 700% inflation rate, is expected to worsen. The electorate is not taking kindly on the government’s lack of action, with recent opinion polls suggesting that 80 percent of Venezuelans would sign the petition to remove Maduro from office. Henrique Capriles remains optimistic about the prospects of having popular opinion behind him:  “They are the 20%! We are the great majority, the 80%! We are millions and we are going to make them feel it!” he wrote on Twitter.

Video related article

Source: The Daily Conversation

Written by: Fiona Catherine Krogh Gerson, Cassandra Bakketeig Thomassen,  Isadora Clough, Sebastían Berko and Pedro Esteban.

HURRICANE MATHEW STRIKES HAITI, CHOLERA OUTBREAK SPIRELS OUT OF CONTROL

Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti on October 4th causing substantial amounts of deaths, displacements and an intensified risk of a cholera outbreak.

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Areas of Jeremie, Haiti; destroyed by Hurricane Matthew, photographed on October 8th, 2016. Source: The Atlantic

 

The category four hurricane, Mathew, hit southwestern Haitian shores on Tuesday 4th around 5 PM forcing many to abandon their homes and families in seek of shelter and increasing the risk of a cholera outbreak. A continued lack of funds to rebuild water infrastructure and hospitals further jeopardizes the Haitian people.

 

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Source: Civil Protection Directorate. Retweeted by @USEmbassyHaiti

 

Cholera has been prominent in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake as a result of poor water quality. Many have long feared a cholera outbreak in the area and experts say hurricane Matthew may bring this scenario closer to reoccurring. David Nabarro, Medical Doctor and Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General, has expressed particular concern that inaccessible areas are making it difficult to evaluate the full scale of the outbreak; “We don’t know if there are many people with the problem of cholera in the areas that we cannot access and that is why I ask the people, let us access everywhere” he told Reuters.

 

 

Haiti’s first outbreak of cholera in more than 100 years was announced by the Ministry of Public Health on October 19th, 2010, a mere 10 months after the disastrous 2010 earthquake. With more than 450.000 affected and over 6000 deaths, the Haitian government swiftly recognized the need for foreign aid. Despite efforts made by the local government and the international community to contain and eliminate cholera from the Hispaniola Island, the measures were of limited avail. By the time Matthew struck, many houses had yet to be reconstructed, many remained unchecked for cholera and clean water supplies were still to be installed in many parts of the country.

In an official statement, the Elysse set forth the essential steps towards de-escalating the cholera situation; “the most urgent thing is now to furnish drinking water to the population and prevent sanitary risks” emphasizing the urgent need for medical personnel. France sent 60 civil security experts and through the French department of Doctors Without Borders another 26 medical doctors. However, as Nabarro points out, on the 18th of October, two weeks after the hurricane came ashore, UN had received just 15 million USD out of a total of 120 million USD requested; “it is difficult to have a good UN response if we don’t have enough money” he said disappointedly.

Humanitarian non-governmental organizations, such as the Red Cross and CARE, have come together to provide basic needs for the impoverished population, considered to be the poorest in the western hemisphere. An ongoing lack of organization and uneven distribution of aid has resulted in general civil unrest. On Tuesday 18th a Dutch Military ship carrying 35 tons of food, hygiene kits, and medical supplies had to abort its mission by leaving the Haitian Port of Jeremie due to chaotic circumstances; “This terrible drama reminds us again of the extent of the humanitarian challenges facing Haiti and its population” said Alexis Lamek, French Representative for the UN.

 

Video related article:

Source: CBS News.

Written by: Fiona Catherine Krogh Gerson, Cassandra Bakketeig Thomassen,  Isadora Clough, Sebastían Berko and Pedro Esteban.