Antonio Hernando and his business

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

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

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

Antonio Hernando with the interviewer, Ana María Gómez through Facetime

Antonio Hernando with the interviewer, Ana María Gómez through Facetime

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ana María Gómez González

Interview with Venezuelan Press

Venezuelan Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Irene Matamoros Flores.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Juan Carlos González González

 

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.

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Fighting for Justice in Venezuela

Raquel Victoria Flores Bernal, November 25 2015.

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Juan Carlos Gutierrez, Lawyer of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

 

For this interview I had the pleasure to talk to one of the most important lawyers in Venezuela, he is now defending the case of the political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez. His name is Juan Carlos Gutierrez. At the beginning of the interview we talked about his studies, Juan Carlos Gutierrez finished high school at the age of fifteen at that time he was interested in pursuing a career in Political Science and International Studies at the Central University of Caracas. However, he explained to me that in a family reunion his uncle gave him an advise that changed his life ‘’he told me to study law and after have an specialization in Political Science or International Studies, it was a really good advise at that time and I took it’’. Also, his uncle suggested him to take an Internship in a court of law in which he could learn and decide if law was the career for him.

A couple of weeks before starting his university studies, he was already working as a messenger in the court of law, and also working with a Judge instructor in cases of Criminal Law. However, at that time he just used to served coffee and make photocopies of the records of the cases. During this time working as an intern Juan Carlos felt passionate about Criminal Law.

I asked him what were his goals when he started his university studies, and he told me that the university was the only possibility of progression that he needed in which he finished altogether with his internship in the court. Furthermore, at the beginning his dream was to be a judge in order to make justice. At the age of twenty-eight he was named Criminal Judge of first instance, however, during this time because of the possibility of judging and punish innocents or free the guilty was huge he gave up his position of Criminal Judge in order to become a lawyer instead focus on criminal cases. ‘’ Being a criminal lawyer is my real vocation and if I could reborn five times I would be a criminal lawyer, and at the sixth time I would be a musician’’.

 His goals nowadays is to achieve justice actions in every case he works on, also, that his work would never be use for a person who does not deserve it or via injustice ways. Moreover, he also wish that judges and lawyers in Venezuela work independently and not by other powers from the State, in criminal cases or human rights violations.

 Every case for Juan Carlos Gutierrez is important, and all of them have different elements in which he is found very interested in such as: the use of forensic evidence, means of committing of crime, the relationship of victim-offender, confronting a totalitarian power, fight for justice, and other factor that can be found in every case.

‘’Of course the case of the political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez have been very important and the horror of injustice that exists in this case have been known internationally, and for me is to defend a friend, cases like this should not happened with lawyers and judges inside an constitutional and democratic system’’.

The case against Leopoldo Lopez is an example of many injustice and human right violations in Venezuela ‘’Because of this we fight to liberate him, and after we will fight forever so cases like this wont happen again against any person in Venezuela’’. For him these kind of situations are not to wish for, and for him and other lawyers defend cases in which laws are not follow they work on using every legal resource in which their legislation permit. ‘’It is very important to document and report any violation against human rights and to every day present a new argument and Justice will win’’.

Unfortunately, crimes, danger, insecurities and threats are an every day issue in Venezuela and for a recognize lawyer in our society and in charge of the Leopoldo Lopez case, Juan Carlos discussed that they have felt pressure and threats during this past months. However, for him these are not reasons to give up but to keep fighting positively also it is the love and support of his family that keeps him strong.

‘’…Because of the passion that got me into my destiny from the day I started serving coffee for the tribunals, maybe for that, I still sometimes share a cup of coffee and justice’’. –Juan Carlos Gutierrez.

Venezuelan President proposes new measures to stop inflation

Venezuela’s President, Nicolás Maduro. Photo by Xinhua News Agency.

The president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, tries to legally end and eradicate inflation in the country. This aims to ban and even use judicial force to end the massive price increase experienced by the Venezuelan market. The president even encourages people and opts for a popular revolt and looting establishments that, in a country with a strong social crisis and a very weak economic program, raise prices of food and basic resources offered in their stores. These establishments are facing 30 years in prison for this massive price increase, even if the origin of this surprising inflation does not come from here.

The causes are varied and its origin dates back from the political and economic agenda of the deceased former president Hugo Chavez. One of the many reasons is that the government has given business to people and workers that, instead of producing, they appropriate the benefits achieved and the Capital allegedly invested. But the main cause is an economic model that has failed due to the insistent control by the President of the economy and public life in Venezuela.

The new plan of the government  to deal with this situation is similar to the adopted  in 2007 by the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, who tried to decree down inflation when prices took 15 hours to double in that southern African nation. 48 hours after the Central Bank of Venezuela reported that in the month of October, prices increased by 5% over the previous month (total inflation in the year: +54%) the trustee decided to take action.

Inflation rates in Venezuela since 2000.

Inflation rates in Venezuela since February 2013. By Trading Economics.

What is the solution proposed by the government? The president says he “wants to protect the people of bourgeois parasites, profiteers and looters” and accuses them of raising prices without justification, as well as a try to harm the country and his government.

Maduro called special legislative powers to Congress, in order to create laws that determine “minimum and maximum margins of profit” on all goods and domestic services. The state will take the contol of all prices of both goods and services and will aim to reduce these prices. Maduro says that this hard “price control campaign” will be extended to all types of establishments, such as the textile, automotive and food sector. For now the government has sent both inspectors  soldiers to many chains and stores to control speculative prices. The people’s reaction has been mixed, both for and against. Since the announcement of the discount of appliance stores, thousands of people have rebelled trying to take advantage of these discounts, which has risen this inflation. In cities like Valencia there were detected lynchings, looting of shops and clashes between citizens. The opposition accuses Maduro of forming chaos instead of defending the poor and denounced that economic problems are due to excessive state control, the persecution of the private sector, corruption and the failure of domestic firms. The general perception is that neither mature nor the opposition leader, Enrique Capriles, are favored by this situation.