Interview with D. Manuel María Lejarreta Lobo, current Secretary General of the Institution Consejo España-EE.UU.

MR. LEJARRETA

(Source: Transdoc )

Last May 22th I had the honour of interviewing Mr. Lejarreta, the current Secretary General of the Institution Consejo España-EE.UU. I began the interview asking about President Trump and the events that have influenced his election, as well as, commenting if the presidency might be too big for him.

Mr. Lejarreta answered saying that there are two main factors that could explain his victory. The first one is that many people from deep rural America have not benefited from the latest US governments and globalization has hurt them. They have wanted to give a mandate of disruptive power with a new president from a non-traditional political class who has a different mentality.

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton was a worn out candidate. “A lady who was already very damaged by the establishment” he said. Trump was a hope for those Americans who felt abandoned.

Other factors, like the rise of nationalism, as it is currently happening in Europe with Brexit or the fear of terrorist attacks, have determined his victory. One third of the crimes committed in the United States are by illegal immigrants, a very negative figure against immigration. A speech against immigration or in favour of highly controlled immigration is always welcomed by voters. Trump has exaggerated a lot on the terrorist issue. For Lejarreta, Trump’s messages are simple, populist and very basic, convincing large masses to vote him. Many of his promises made Trump win many followers.

On the question of whether Trump is prepared to be president, the secretary arguments that his profile is effectively not the most suitable to lead the United States seen so far, but the important part is the result.

Mr Manuel gave me an example in the economic area. The American stock market is increasing and the US economy goes quite well which means there is some confidence in Trump’s economic factors. Also many companies have reacted well in his protectionist proposals.

In addition, although the United States has a presidential system in which the president commands, there are some state control devices to help moderate. In that sense, although the work of the president is very important, not all foreign and domestic politics of the country are directed by him. In principle at the intellectual level, he has enough potential. We have to see his personal impulses and his way of leading companies. Being president is something very difficult but Mr Lejarreta puts his trust in Trump and in the possibility that he could be a successful president.

Then, we talked about some of Trump’s promises. We touched on the theme of his desire for the country to leave the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Mr. Lejarreta remarked that Trump is a protectionist and prefers bilateral agreements than multilaterals. He prefers negotiating directly with a country, face to face. The secretary added that we used to have multilateralism with Obama and, under his point of view, he prefers this system.

Regarding the US’ influence in the Asia-Pacific region, Mr Lejarreta completely agrees that the United States will not lose power in the area, because in his opinion, the Asia-Pacific region is the most important region for the United States and will continue to be.

He explained that the US has plans to make his fleet more present and has begun to establish trade agreements with Japan and South Korea. Consequently, he was sure that leaving the TPP will not entail a withdrawal from the area.

Of course, for China, it is very helpful that the agreement does not enter into force because apart from commercial, it also implied a regional political agreement of the countries and the less presence of the United States in the area, the more benefits China.

Once we talked about Trump’s relations with Asia, we started talking about relations with Europe, as well as talking about the relationship with Spain.

As with Asia, Mr. Lejarreta stated that relations with Europe would follow the same bilateral system. Trump does not want to negotiate with the European Union, but with countries separately.

Perhaps, Trump is not interested in negotiating with the EU, but the secretary thinks that Trump knows the transatlantic relationship is fundamental. He do not think it will even lower the level of relations in the military, security, defence … it may be a major change in the way of negotiating bilateral agreements, but it is difficult because the EU made a compromise in a community agreement and it will not be easy to negotiate separately.

Focusing on Spain, Mr. Lejarreta remarked that we are bound to be the little one and have good relations with the big one. Spain have to get along with the American government and its president, whoever.

Obviously, for Spain it would have been much easier with Hillary Clinton as President. First, because she has come to Spain many times, and secondly because her vice president, Tim Kaine, who is a friend of Spain, precisely presides over the forum Spain- U.S.A. of which the foundation Consejo España-EE.UU. is part. Spain has had to start from scratch with the new republican administration.

Spain is a good partner for the States. In terms of security, the bases of Rota and Morón are essential for security in the Mediterranean and as a platform for deployment in Africa and the Middle East, therefore we have very important elements that make the United States interested to get along with Spain.

As with all other countries, Mr. Lejarreta summarised that Spain cannot accept everything because we have our principles and we are part of the EU. But he thinks the relations do not have to be bad, much less, and of course our government will strive to get along. Only time could show the future actions of Trump and its movements in the international order.

                                                                                                       Laura Cañibano Ponce de León

How to change the perception of African countries

This week I had the opportunity to visit Madam Mavis Esi Kusorgbor the Minister in charge of economical and politic affairs at the Ghana Embassy in Madrid. We touched on topics such as her background in international relations and economic, political or cultural aspect of her task in representing and promoting her country.

Her daily tasks consist in looking after Ghana’s political interest in Madrid, promoting economic relations between Ghana and Spain and as a deputy to the Ambassador in administrative issues of the Embassy. Madam Kusorgbor envisaged working in a similar position from an early stage of her education. Before starting university, she studied Governments as major which prepared her for her studies in political science and later international affairs.

After her degree, she managed to find a role in the Foreign Ministry in 1995 which marks the beginning of her employment with the Government of Ghana. The different roles she has taken in the past 20 years were all related to handling Ghana’s foreign affairs and relations either from inside the country or in different departments and countries of the world.

Her first posting outside of Ghana was with the Ghana permanent mission at the United Nations in New York. She served on the Third Committee of the General Assembly which is responsible for social and human right issues and treating questions related to the advancement of women, the protection of children and the promotion of fundamental freedoms .”Everybody is basically pursuing their own interest and not thinking about what is really happening globally.” she said and questioned some countries disregarding events on security issues and humanitarian consensus and sticking to their political stands. After being sent out to Egypt from 2008 to 2012 which represented a momentous time for the country , she then served in Dubai for a brief period before taking her current position at the Ghana Embassy in Spain last year.

During those years she learned about different cultures of the world and how they perceive Ghana. That plays an important aspect in understanding how to present the interest to the different audiences. It is important to take the different aspects of the international relations of Ghana with the countries in consideration. The different strategies focus on knowledge of culture, development, social cultural aspects and most importantly the history of the relations with Ghana. Egypt for example as bilateral partner has a strong relationship, what ensures a lot of support to initiatives. People to people relations are also very important as Ghana is not very know for example in Dubai, but has seen increased activity. In Spain or Europe in general it is more difficult as you must first find out what people think about Ghana and what might be attractive in terms of “business, investment or cultural relations”.

The Embassy tries to promote Ghana as politically stable country with many economic prospects. Western countries look for certain factors such as “good governance”, “committed leaders”, “efforts to improve the well-being of the people” and “democracy” in their potential partners. Ghana fulfills all those factors and the duty of its representatives is now to showcase that potential. In her current role, she tries to attract investments to Ghana from chambers of commerce and companies. Arguments like the low cost of labor and the logistic aspects allowing short distances of production speak for those investments. The readiness of investor due to security and financial concerns are obstacles that she has to face. For that to change the Embassy also tries to showcase the culture of Ghana to attract tourism and subsequently the awareness about the country.

“As small individual countries if we do not come together as a bloc we will not have a voice strong enough to be able to engage with other regional groups like the European Union or even a bigger country like the United States, because after all it is just one small Ghana or one small Gambia.” With this statement, she shows the importance of unity between African countries. Ghana can serve as a leader for West Africa in such negotiations. Most countries of Africa have gone through difficulties. It is important to understand the different dynamics and to help development. It is for that reason that the Economic Community of West African States(ECOWAS) exists. One important aspect in trade negotiations will be the possibility to sell processed goods rather than raw materials in order to be able to have more say in the prices negotiations. With a more unified stand these issues will be easier to solve.

In conclusion, it can be said that more countries have discovered or are discovering the economic potential in Ghana and what it has to offer culturally. With this development, the country can serve as a great role model for neighboring countries and as voice for international negotiations. To achieve that goal different parties and individuals have to come together and work on that common goal.

Rudiger Atchon

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.

 

 

Macron elected President: the world welcomes its victory!

On this day of Sunday, May 7th, Macron has become the new French president. First in polls for several months, French people believed in this young banker to be the one to govern their country. Thanks to his triumph against Marine Le Pen, its competitor, France is no longer divided and finds a semblance of tranquility.

But how did the rest of the world react? Because for some time France has been placed under a microscope almost everywhere. Going from Japan, to the United States, passing through Israel or Venezuela

Firstly, they were also some states in which they offered their support to Marine Le Pen, those special countries had some common characteristics in their political philosophy. The main countries that were backing the ultra-right program in France where; the United States, Russia and the UK government. Especially for UK, which was hoping that France, if Marine Le Pen was elected, that they would not be the only one leaving UE. 

Various political leaders announced by their personal social sites their disagreement to the victory of Macron. As Nigel Farage tweeted “Emmanuel Macron offers 5 more years of failure, power to the UE and open borders. If Marie Le pen sticks in there, she can win 2022”, who directly addresses their support as Le Pen was in favor of leaving the European Union. When the news arrives to Moscow, the reaction of president Putin after his meeting on march 24 with Le Pen was not very likely, as the French leader had included in her political government an exit in NATO and a very friendly relation with Russia.

It is clear that the important influence of the French power had around the world. For this reason the reaction of president Trump wasn’t directly supporting Macron but the past declarations before the elections and the visit of Le Pen to Washington evidently showed a relationship between these right leaders.

On the other hand, Emmanuel Macron was supported by most of the European countries because of Macron’s ideology which is considered pro-European. Many of members of the European departments show their positions as Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, and of course, European countries like Germany, where Angela Merkel celebrate the Macron victory by calling him or even Mariano Rajoy, the president of Spain’s government, who sent a telegram to Emmanuel Macron. Furthermore, the ex-president of the United States, Barack Obama  announced his support to Macron too, just before the election on May 4th.

After winning presidential elections and becoming the world’s youngest president, Europe was then going to react to this event, some countries feared a victory of Marine Le Pen because they felt that the place of France was in europe.

And it is thus the most pro-European candidate of this campaign which was elected, what did not escape in his from now on counterparts. From Brussels to Berlin, including Rome or Madrid, congratulations streamed, so sincere as relieved. Concerning United Kingdom, the majority of the political leaders greeted the victory of Macron, which falls in the campaign.

Emmanuel Macron carries at the same time the hope of the countries of the South (Italy, Greece, Spain), who hope a little less obligatorily and a little more reflation, and those for countries of the North, which, to save European spirit, are ready for financial concessions if France implements new reforms. With its election and after Brexit  and more still if Martin Schultz beat Angela Merkel in autumn , Europe has maybe just entered a new cycle.

“Welcome our girls, welcome our sisters”

Boko Haram’s constant terrorist threat in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Mali has provoked a multitude of deaths and controversies in the last eight years (organization founded in 2002), whose aim is to declare the establishment of the Sharia as in force norm in all the conditions of Nigeria. This organization has provoked 20.000 casualties, the displacement of 1,5 million refugees and a humanitarian crisis without precedents in the North-East of Nigeria in its eight years of insurgency.

During one of the moments of Boko Haram’s maximum territorial expansion, on April 13, 2014, members of this terrorist group were penetrating a center of Chibok’s secondary education, to the Northeast of the country, kidnapping 276 teenagers, between twelve and seventeen years of age. Of the kidnapped girls, 57 could escape of his captors, but the rest disappeared.

Now 82 of the Chibok school girls have been returned in a trade deal between Boko Haram and the Nigerian Government. In order to retrieve the girls, five of Boko Haram commanders have now been set free. The Chibok girls gained attention after social media erupted with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, many public figures such as former United States First Lady Michelle Obama came out in support of the movements. As of today, there are still 113 girls held captive by Boko Haram.

For the return of the girls, some parents traveled to the capital to celebrate and to be with their daughters as soon as possible, meanwhile there are still parents worried about the 113 missing girls. Integrating these girls back to society is going to be a tough task as they faced unbelievable psychical pressure and violence without any hope for freedom. Because many of them were Christians they had to convert to Islam.  It followed marriage to their captor and childbirth somewhere in the forest. The others were forced to take part in suicide missions. The UN Special Rapporteurs stressed the necessity for useful measures to address stigma and rejection of women and people associated with Boko Haram by their families and communities.

As the girls return to their homes “the president was delighted to receive them and he promised that all that is needed to be done to reintegrate them into the society will be done,” said Femi Adesina. Their reintegration to the society will be supervised by government officials.

Even though President Muhammadu Buhari promised for his election to make the fight against Boko Haram and the return of the Girls his priorities it is unclear how active the terrorist group is now. Buhari late last year announced Boko Haram had been “crushed”. With the group, still in activity in Northern Nigeria and its surrounding countries Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris says, “A lot of people in Nigeria don’t believe that Boko Haram will simply release those girls after three years in captivity for nothing in return.”. This shows that even after the release of 21 girls last year and 82 now the population remains uncertain about their safety from the group and the power of the government.

Source:CNN

 

The “Frexit” election

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First results came out April 23rd 2017 which marks a turning point in the French Political life, even in French society, which is more divided than ever.

The first turn of this election shows the rise in power of the National Front led by Marine Le Pen, the defeat of the Right and Left Political parties, as well as the appearance of a new movement. This one is led by one of the youngest candidates of the presidential elections 2017. What happened? What changed people’s minds? Are any of the current event in charge of this Change of circumstances?

To win, each of the two finalists must build a gathering much bigger than its initial one. So they need to attract as many voters as possible from the candidates beaten in the first round. For decades, this gathering obeyed the logic of the two camps – left and right – that dominated the political landscape. The elimination of the candidates of the Socialist Party and the Republican Party, and the qualification of those of the National Front and “En marche!”. Make this voice reporting mechanism unprecedented and much more unpredictable. 

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Marine Le pen is a layer and right-handed politician who has been decisive in the construction of the modern politics in France. This year, she’s leading a political vision that is taking a lot of controversies in the way of being discriminatory, Eurocentric and fascist. In order to understand her ideas, it is necessary to state three of the main arguments she is willing to fight for.

Firstly, she wants to expel France from the European Union (Frexit), this will completely change the organization of the European program after the Brexit was triggered. As she declared in an interviewI am a ferocious opponent of the European Union, so I’m not held to the choices that have been made, which go completely against the interests of France.

Secondly, she wants to change the national and international security program in which France must be taken out from the OTAN, this make a lot of debates as France is one of the countries in which ISIS had taken the most acts.The fear of the French community is becoming stronger after each terrorist attack, is the responsibility for the candidates to ensure their country’s security.

Finally, Le Pen includes in her political campaign program a new economic platform changing for a protectionism in which they will close many of the international treats,  France will lose a lot of international economic power. This protectionism program has clear similarities with Trump and May objectives, in which the three of them share similarities in their political view.

Macron is a former member of the socialist party, despite of creating the centrist movement called “En Marche!”. According to, his electoral program, the republican candidate give an overall Pro European Union view, however he said in one of his speeches  that he wanted to “make some changes so that the EU can be made stronger”.

In economic terms, the Republican candidate is promoting to make France more a business based on work and responsibility. He wants to make the labour market more flexible and talk about changing the electoral system, which would be more proportional. It is known that these days France is suffering dangerous problems with security, so as Macron established, he had promised to strengthen police and suggest to increase European Union cooperation. Furthermore, the Republican candidate said that it is necessary to make France multicultural.

First not-surprise of this first turn, the surveys were not mistaken. The presidential campaign was characterized by a permanent lawsuit blaming the surveys, in particular after the primary educations of the Republicans where the opening of Francois Fillon had been underestimated and in more general context, marked by the partial failures of the survey institutes to predict Brexit and Trump’s victory at the time of the American Presidential election. On may 7th the French people will make an important choice because the far right has never been that close to preside, which would be a first in the French history.

On the other side, Emmanuel Macron leaves like the favorite of the second turn, however the surveys show that voting intentions are very tight between its two candidates.

The stakes are very important because the program of its two candidates are very different in particular economically with the exit of the Europe concerning Marine Le pen whereas Emmanuel Macron would wish on the opposite “to build Europe of the sovereign nations and free people”. In 4 days, France, Europe and the rest of the world will know the future of France and its place on the European scene.

Venezuela marching towards a civil war

Caracas, April 23/2017 the situation in Venezuela has been escalating since Saturday. Around 24 people were killed during these protests. It´s been three weeks of hard social movements from both sides, mainly triggered by National Assembly removal of power in favor of the Supreme Court.

Supporters of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro demonstrate as opposition activists march towards the Catholic Church's episcopal seats nationwide, in Caracas, on April 22, 2017.

Source: AFP, BBC NEWS

 

These actions of dissolving the National Assembly were a low blow towards the political opposition of Maduro and democratic movements of Venezuela. The protests took place through a “silence march” honoring those killed in the past anti-government protests. During these protests the city of Caracas has turned into a war scenario, a 47 years old woman was killed by the impact of a frozen plastic bottle of water and there has been more that 13 deaths according to BBC News.

President Nicolas Maduro has uncovered his true political ambition by assassinating congressman and main representatives of the opposition, especially with the use of alleged paramilitary groups. His latest political movement has been the dissolution of the National Assembly because he did not agree with the signing of the “Democratic Letter” which would restrict his power.

The letter called “La Carta Democrática” or Democratic Letter is a document created by the Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) to encourage and promote democracy over its members. The Secretary General (SG), Luis Almagro, can apply article 20 of the letter if there is any doubt about representative democracy standards: human rights, separation of power and freedom of expression. Several Latin American countries have suffered the power of the letter such as Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Nicaragua For instance; Fujimori was sentenced to prison for several human rights violations during its mandate in Peru (1990-2000).

The SG states, based on the reports made, that there is: a humanitarian crisis, no separation of power and violations of human rights. In fact this report, which is supposed to be unbiased, is said to be influenced by Maduro´s opposition according to pro-government supporters.

Source: Organización de Estados Americanos

The idea of applying article 20 implies a future investigation of Maduro´s regime, which is not willing to be under investigation, this is the reason why the Supreme Court took over the legislative power. There was three days of uncertainty but finally the legislative power returned to the National Assembly. Nevertheless, the protest did not come to an end.

Molotov bomb attacks from civilians towards public institutions, state personnel, private business men… The opposition leaders demands that Maduro´s administration must accept their demands because having “political prisoner’s” is a clear picture of how Venezuela has become a dictatorship.

The only way of ending this protest is celebrating new regional and national elections. These elections are arranged to 2018 but Venezuelans cannot stand this situation. There is a lack of supply not only within Venezuela’s territory but in the international sphere.