• 23 July 2020

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    Posteado en : Interview

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    FIIAPP Expatriates: Fernando Guerrero

    “Niger, with its diverse culture and ethnicity, is a country of opportunities"

    Fernando Guerrero in FIIAPP's office

    “Niger, with its diverse culture and ethnicity, is a country of opportunities”

    Fernando Guerrero, a  commissioner with the Spanish Police and head of mission, tells us about his experience as a FIIAPP expatriate with the ECI Niger project. This project is funded by the European Union through the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa and managed by FIIAPP. It fights criminal illegal immigration and human trafficking networks in Niger.

    What was it like when you arrived in Niger? Do you have any anecdotes about that time?

    I arrived at dawn in Niamey in September 2018. It was my first time in the Sahel. We had hardly had any sleep, the next morning, we went to the city centre accompanied with the coordinator. The colours, smells, landscape, the hubbub of the market, the crowds of people, the heat, and the extreme poverty… everything vied for my attention and left me a memory firmly engraved in my memory that I will never forget. As an anecdote, I remember that on the first day I noticed how local food products such as moringa with peanut paste were made and sold in the market. This seemed strange to me to start with but now they are a staple part of my diet.

    And the adaptation period? What were the most and least difficult things for you?

    In my opinion, if you are aware of the country you are going to and are willing to immerse yourself in the local culture, it’s much easier to adapt. Niger, with its varied culture and ethnicity, is a land of opportunities.

    Some customs are strange to me, like polygamy and its rules. Also, the fact that much of the population, due to historical and social circumstances, and beyond the begging you might expect, see white people as the solution to all their problems and do not hesitate to ask for financial help at all times, even when they don’t know you at all.

    Treating local people decently makes it easier to integrate. People welcome you into their homes with kindness, so you can get to know how they live.

    Is this your first experience of living outside Spain? Is it proving to be very different from your previous ones? How long have you been there and how much time do you have left?

    Yes, this is the first time I’ve lived away from Spain on a continuous basis. Most of the time I had spent abroad before this was in Eastern Europe. I arrived in Niger on 21 September 2018 and I’m scheduled to leave in December 2022.

    What is your work like, your daily routine? Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain?

    ECI Niger is a unique project, in the sense that it is a mission with an operational police component. We experts are part of the structure of the Nigerian National Police. We participate with them in operations and advise them on everything to do with police operations. We also deal with different local authorities, with the European Union Delegation; with embassies, with other projects and missions to achieve better coordination, and, of course, with FIIAPP, our operator.

    The routine is different from the one I had in Spain.  One component that is always important, but which is an essential priority here is diplomacy. My experience during my career in the police force is something I share with my teammates and it is essential to the success of the project. Local authorities value that experience and may feel offended if the expert lacks it.

     How are relations with the FIIAPP?

    We have an outstanding relationship. I have great appreciation for FIIAPP’s efforts to manage a pioneering operational police project. I also value the understanding that our coordination team shows with the daily difficulties that we professionals who are “in the field” have.

    How would you rate your experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate?

    My personal and professional experience in Niger is priceless. I am fortunate to have an excellent team of professionals and people. Having worked with the National Police since 1994, working with FIIAPP professionals gives me a new point of view that enables me to grow professionally.

  • 02 July 2020

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    Posteado en : Entrevista

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    “Police and judicial cooperation must fight disinformation”

    Chief Inspector Diego Alejandro Palomino speaks about fake news, what it is, the problems it causes and how it has impacted on the current Covid-19 health crisis.

    Diego Alejandro Palomino durante la entrevista

    FIIAPP, through some of the projects it manages, works hand-in-hand with state security forces and agencies to prevent and fight against all forms of cross-boarder organised crime. One of the new forms of crime is currently perpetrated via the latest technology. This specialist from the National Police Technological Research Unit (ITU) throws some more light on this development.

    What is fake news?

    Fake news can be defined as false information that appears to be true, but which intends to misinform for political, propaganda and/or economic-financial purposes.

    News that falls into the category of fake news seeks to influence or manipulate the ideas of the recipients, causing confusion or deception, and taking advantage of circumstances to create fear, uncertainty and precariousness, thus making people more easily influenced.

    The essential elements of this type of news combine intent and falsehood.

    What are the main problems it causes?

    The main problem that fake news causes is disinformation. Having knowledge of certain information usually generates unease in the recipients of the same, which in turn, can influence decision-making.

    The state of alert and the problems related to the pandemic are giving rise to a high demand for goods, restrictions on mobility, anxiety and fear in people, as well as limitations in supply chains.

    Any news that is generated about each or all of these activities or circumstances is being taken to the extreme; even more so when a lot of it is contradictory, thus generating greater uncertainty. This, in turn, causes people to take even fewer precautions when analysing the situation they are in and to take much more risky measures than usual.

    Another problem to take into account is that quite often the information is not verified and is forwarded or disseminated without any assurance as to its truth, which contributes to its rapid expansion, thereby generating the “illusory truth effect”. In fact, very few people spread false news when they are aware that it is indeed false.

    Why is it so harmful?

    Fake news tends to reach many more people than true information, and may alter the criteria used to distinguish one from the other. It normally reflects an exaggerated sensationalism, which has a direct impact on people’s opinion. This type of information, due to its nature, content and objective, prevents the creation of an objective and rational judgment, thereby distorting reality and discrediting contrary information, which conditions decision-making.

    Taken to the extreme, this type of information can create a domino effect, leading to substantial changes in various social, political, labour and economic matters.

    In certain circumstances, fake news may even contribute to polarising society and can come to be considered as a direct attack on the quality of democracy, given its potentially overwhelming influence on public opinion.

    How is it detected?

    At the National Police level, we use the two fundamental tools currently available to us, due to the operational restrictions caused by the state of alarm and the functions directly entrusted to us by the instructions received. They basically consist of cyber patrolling, that is to say, monitoring social networks and tracking internet activities, and checking the information received through citizen participation.

    All the information received is checked, verified and confirmed, the corresponding information notes are then issued on each event and reports on the facts and the actions taken.

    Moreover, through the various police services and the secretary of state for security, reports are being issued on the control of false news, such as those drafted by the Intelligence Centre for Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime (CITCO), the coordination and analysis body in which the Spanish security forces and agencies participate.

    Has there been an increase in disinformation during the health crisis?

    Generally speaking, disinformation has increased exponentially. Firstly, the dearth of true and verifiable information available about the disease itself has generated a large amount of erroneous information regarding the means of contagion, exposure, methods to avoid contagion, ways in which it may be cured, all of which generated different cases of fraud based on miraculous remedies, and even related to the Covid-19 vaccine.

    Secondly, a series of social and economic needs have been generated around the disease that have led to the offer of aid by governments to alleviate them, which in turn has led to false information about the ways in which such aid can be obtained and the requirements to obtain it. Criminals have taken advantage of such circumstances to “hook” people into giving them personal data, which has caused some to become the victims of fraudulent financial transfers.

    What role does cooperation play in tackling this problem?

    Cooperation has a fundamental role in the fight against any criminal activity or any other that prioritises the interests of a few to generate sweeping changes, either in society or in people’s way of life.

    In a globalised world where there is an absence of barriers and borders in the exchange of information and rapid access to it, countries must act in unison to combat the shared danger posed by the spread of false information that becomes generalised and reliable merely by the fact of being repeated.

    Police and judicial cooperation must fight disinformation, just as it fights against organised crime, exchanging experiences and good practices and promoting the publicity of public actions in the fight against practices that seek to subvert established political orders, given that disinformation directly jeopardises democracy and people’s freedom.

     

     

  • 18 June 2020

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    Posteado en : Entrevista

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    “International cooperation is a very useful instrument for countries that wish to carry out security reforms”

    Here we interview Julio Bueno, Police Inspector and expert in crowd management for the MYPOL project in Myanmar

    The specialist talks to us about how the MYPOL project has worked together with the Myanmar National Police. MYPOL is a project managed by the FIIAPP and financed by the European Commission, which aims to modernise and improve the institutional capacity of the police forces in Myanmar, promoting gender equality and respect for human rights.

    Could you explain what the MYPOL project consists of, its objectives and the part that Crowd Control plays in it?

    The general objective of the project is to contribute to the modernisation of the Myanmar Police through a more preventive, balanced and professional approach, based on international best practice, with special attention to the respect for human rights. Specifically, it intends to contribute to an effective, efficient and responsible Police Service; one that is trusted by the different communities.

    From the point of view of the Police’s operational functions, the project aims to support the development of a public service police model, including a special gender sensitivity, in three main areas: proximity police; investigation units, which we know in Spain as judicial police and scientific police; and finally crowd control, understood in a general sense, focused on public security.

    Regarding crowd control in particular, the expected result of the project is literally “to strengthen the capacity of the Myanmar Police to handle different types of crowds in accordance with international human rights standards.” Here, the term “crowds” does not just refer to demonstrations or concentrations. The legal concept of a crowd in Myanmar is the gathering or coincidence of five or more people in any location. In this sense, we have fully adapted to the legislation and the situation in Myanmar to develop a programme that leads to fulfilment of the project objective.

    What are the differences between Myanmar’s crowd management system and that of Spain?

    There are many differences between the Myanmar and Spanish systems. To begin with, in Spain there are two national and several autonomous bodies that carry out these functions, in Myanmar there is a single police force that performs all of them. Spain shifted to a public service model more than twenty years ago. This process is now taking its first steps in Myanmar, based on a military model, led by military commanders. In general, in citizen security, the Myanmar Police is evolving to a public service model similar to the Spanish one, starting from a model based on surveillance and the occupation of key places.

    As for the model of public order, or crowd control in the sense of control of demonstrations and concentrations, the Spanish model and that of Myanmar are very different. Spain adopted a flexible and mobile model that is common in Mediterranean countries. Myanmar originally followed a model inherited from the colonial administration, of British origin, and during the project prior to this, the British model was chosen again, with training from Belgian, British, German and Polish police officers.

    For this project, one of the mandatory initial conditions was not to change the system chosen in the previous project. To improve it and create a solid, legal and operational foundation that is both efficient and long-lasting, I chose the UN standard system, taught by trainers who are UN-trained and qualified in these techniques and systems.

    And what are the differences and similarities between the units that carry out crowd management in Spain and in Myanmar?

    The first and main difference is the number of police corps there are. The Myanmar police carry out the functions carried out in Spain by the National Police, Civil Guard, regional police, local police, port police and the customs surveillance service. The Myanmar police is military in its origin and structure, many of its top officers come directly from military units, without specific police training.

    The so-called security crowd control units have many more functions in Myanmar and have a similar structure, organised in districts and patrols. Another big difference is the available means, equipment, transportation, which are very scarce. Although some units are similar in structure and functions, the training is very different, especially in the lower echelons, where they are much better prepared in Spain, with more specific and longer training.

    Regarding gender equality in the organisation, the case of Myanmar is very unusual when compared to that of Spain. In Spain there are no restrictions on women’s access to any position and services and there are also active policies to promote integration. In Myanmar, female presence in the organisation is similar to that of Spain, around 13%, but they do not have access to special public order units. However, in the special police unit, with which we also work, female presence is high and very active, without restrictions, while in Spain and other western countries it is very low or does not exist. Despite the differences, difficulties and a certain resistance to change, the general trend is towards full future integration.

    What are the challenges of carrying out this type of reinforcement in a place like Myanmar?

    Myanmar is a country that has been isolated from the world for many years, with a culture and values which are very different and are deeply-rooted. The biggest challenge has been winning the trust of the institutions and gradually showing the benefits of the new models and systems. Difficulties in communication, from a cultural and organisational point of view, have always been present.

    Exclusively from the police point of view, the strong hierarchical structure and the need to follow a rigid chain of command for any initiative have been a challenge and a difficulty from day one, but I think the project has managed to adapt, like all of its staff, and overcome these difficulties as much as possible.

    And what are the main challenges the country faces in order to consolidate a reform of the Myanmar police?

    There are all kinds of problems and difficulties in carrying out and consolidating a police reform. We must bear in mind that the country is in the middle of a debate regarding its own nature, with federalist proposals that could completely change the scenario. The armed forces, which control the Interior Ministry and a quarter of the parliament, are an essential actor in any process.

    In addition to these political problems we have the presence of numerous terrorist and criminal groups in the peripheral regions: very powerful organised crime, among others. In relation to gender equality, there is still a long way to go to achieve the full integration of women in all units and levels of the structure, without restrictions. How these problems are solved will shape the administration model, and therefore the resulting police model.

    What does international cooperation contribute to the project in terms of security?

    The main benefit of international cooperation is to share the experience of people from different parts of the world, who in turn have extensive experience in missions and projects, which provides a global vision of the problems, and over time, a similar approach to such circumstances. International cooperation spreads internationally accepted values and techniques, which therefore have the support of international institutions and the support of members of the international community.

    In terms of security, international cooperation ensures the implementation of these standards, such as international best practices and respect for human rights, giving international support to countries that have decided to undertake reforms in this regard, and that have also decided to accept help from international organisations or institutions to carry out such reforms.

    For matters related to security, asking for international cooperation is a very useful instrument for countries that want to carry out reforms, but have internal resistance or other problems, such as cultural or economic, that make them difficult to implement.

    What are the exchanges like between the Spanish and Myanmar Public Administrations within the framework of this project?

    The Spanish Public Administrations have supported this project from the outset, in the first placeby assigning two members of the National Police Corps as Project Team Leaders, in successive assignments, and a main expert for the crowd control component that has been the same from the beginning of the project.

    The National Police Corps has in several occasions sent another six members of the corps on assignment for some of the activities that have been carried out, most of these with extensive international experience in UN and EU missions. Institutional support has been essential for the proper development of the activities that have been carried out so far.

    How can the citizens of Myanmar benefit from this project?

    Citizens are the main customers of the police service. Shifting the orientation of the police function towards public service, and the fact that it is based on better international standards and respect for human rights, represent a clear benefit for any society.

    In the particular case of Myanmar, a clear change has been seen in the way in which many conflicts are resolved, with a very significant reduction in the use of violence and an increase in police dialogue with social actors. This is something completely new in Myanmar, for which MYPOL and the previous project are largely responsible. Our work has driven change at many levels, from individual behaviour, to unit structure, to the creation of new units.

    A good example of this is the Maritime Police, which has enthusiastically participated in various activities, supporting the project at all times. According to their manager, the mere fact of carrying out visible training activities in the port of Yangon has considerably reduced crime in the area, including robberies and contraband, among others.

     

     

     

     

  • 28 May 2020

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    Posteado en : Entrevista

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    FIIAPP Expatriates: José Manuel Colodrás

    José Manuel Colodrás, Police Chief Inspector and coordinator of the FIIAPP-managed and European Union-financed EU-ACT project, tells us about his experiences and his day to day life working and living in Ukraine.

    Police Chief Inspector and coordinator of the EU-ACT project, José Manuel Colodrás

    How was your arrival in Ukraine? Do you have any anecdotes from that time?  

    My first contact with Ukraine was in March 2017, although my final deployment did not take place until May that same year. I was surprised by some Ukrainian customs, relationships and attitudes, among other things, the apparent coldness of the Slavs. It must be said that this was a first impression, since as soon as you earn their trust, you can find friends here who trust in you as much or more so than in Spain, even with the barrier that the language represents.  

    An anecdote that caught my attention is that the national dish in Ukraine is «сало» pronounced | salo | (bacon) sliced and accompanied by raw garlic and pickles (mainly pickled gherkins). It is usually had as an accompaniment to vodka or other similar drinks (whiskey is as popular here as gorilka, which is what Ukrainian vodka is called. I was surprised, as I did not think that culinary traditions that have totally vanished from many countries in Europe, like that of making salo and pickles at home, were maintained. Family relationships are also something that, while a little differently from how we do it in Spain, are cultivated in Ukraine with meals on Sundays or outdoor barbecues. 

    And the adaptation period? What were the most and least difficult things for you? 

     The adaptation period was fast. City life is relatively easy. The hardest thing for me (and I still find it difficult) is adapting to the bureaucratic mentality, inherited from the Soviet tradition that permeates not only the administration but even the work of private companies.  Any management task is complicated and the procedures for hiring, for making a simple bank transfer, or requesting a certificate make it extremely difficult to implement our international cooperation projects and, sometimes, also daily life.  

    Is this your first experience of living outside Spain? Is it proving to be very different from your previous ones? How long have you been there and how much time do you have left? 

    I have had previous experiences, but only for a few months (in West Africa: Nigeria and Senegal). As I mentioned, I have been here for 3 years and I have, in principle, a few months still to go, until December 2020. 

    What is your work like, your daily routine? Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain? 

     Yes, it must be said that the routine is very different. In Spain as a Chief Inspector with the National Police Corps, personal relationships, both with subordinates and colleagues, and with other institutions and people, occupied most of the time. 

     In the EU-ACT project, on a day-to-day basis, even before this COVID-19 mandated quarantine, a very significant part of the work was carried out over the internet, especially interaction with other project members: calls, emails, messages and the use of our own project platform that allows us to share all the material in the cloud. In that sense, the work is very different and has made the transition to these times, when teleworking is mandatory, quick and relatively easy. 

     Personal relationships with beneficiaries (Ukrainians) and with other international partners also take a long time and, in this case, they are also very different. It is necessary to put yourself in the position of being a collaborator and facilitator, rather than trying to be a protagonist in the activities, this makes for a very interesting and enriching change of perspective. 

     From the point of view of institutional representation, I now represent not only Spain, but the entire European Union, and that, of course, also broadens the vision we have of our work. There is a clear awareness that the EU is a whole and that, from the outside, we are increasingly seen as “Europeans“.  

     What is the relationship with FIIAPP like?  

    My relationship with FIIAPP has always been very positive. I would simply say that most of my colleagues are also friends, especially the colleagues who provide support from Madrid, who have made my job much easier and from whom I have learned enormously. What I hope is that this relationship with FIIAPP, which started before this project, will continue when this project ends. Of course, I consider FIIAPP to be a key instrument for the international projection of the Spanish administration, something that historically we have lacked compared to other countries. 

    How would you rate your experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate? 

    As I have commented, it has allowed me to get to know a new work methodology, new areas of knowledge (socio-health issues, public policy development, the operation of international projects) and finally, it has given me a broader vision of my police work. From a personal and even family point of view, it is turning out to be a great experience that not only will I remember all my life, but it will certainly have a great impact on my personal and professional development. It is an opportunity for which I have to thank the Spanish administration and it motivates me to give the best of myself in every activity, event or meeting that I hold within the framework of the EU-ACT project. 

  • 14 May 2020

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    Posteado en : Entrevista

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    “The Internet has no borders and criminals find a way to attack” 

    On 17 May, World Telecommunication and Information Society Day is held and FIIAPP is working on various projects, such as EL PAcCTO and Apoyo a AMERIPOL, which promote action by the security forces and corps against internet crime 

    Diego Alejandro Palomino

    To commemorate this day, we interviewed Diego Alejandro Palomino, from the Technological Investigation Unit of the National Police, to have him clarify concepts related to telecommunications security and the cyber-patrolling work they carry out to fight cyber crime.  

    What is the dark web, and how is it different from the deep web? 

    The content of the web is a conglomerate of files of all kinds, which are usually indexed, that is, they can be found by searching through the different search engines that exist. That would be the “surface web”, the one to which all users have access and which, however, may correspond to just 4-5% of net content. 

    The dark web, on the other hand, corresponds to content that is not indexed, that is, the content hidden, a priori, from the usual search engines. The contents of the “dark web” pursue anonymity in the source and destination of the information transmitted, whether deliberately or otherwise, which is why it is often accessed through specific applications. Despite this, these applications are used in the same way for searching the “surface web”. 

    Although we can speak of a distinction between the “dark web” and the “deep web”, in practice such differentiation makes little sense. It is true that to refer to the “deep web” the example of an iceberg is usually used, with three parts distinguished therein: the upper part, which is located above the water, which would correspond to the “surface web”; the contiguous submerged part (or intermediate part), which would correspond to the networks and technologies pursuing anonymity in the source and destination of their transmissions, which would be the dark web”, and the lower peak, which would be the websites or databases that escape all types of search engine indexing and are very difficult to access, which would correspond to the “deep web”. 

    What is the work of the Technology Research Unit on the dark web? 

    The tasks of the Central Cybercrime Unit include investigating all crimes related to Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), and a large part of its work is done on the web, without differentiating where the information is found, where the crimes are committed and where the criminals are located. 

    One of the main tasks carried out by the National Police consists of the prevention and investigation of crimes, including those carried out on-line. For such tasks, different sources of information are available: police complaintscommunications from public authorities, information on citizen participation and information obtained directly. 

    In the net, one of the fundamental sources for the National Police is cyber patrolling, which consists of a mixture of techniques, mostly preventive, with the aim of locating illegal activities and their perpetrators, and which do not necessarily have to be linked to specific investigations. It is a technique that allows for the collection, storage and analysis of data so that they can be transformed into relevant information. In general, cyber patrols consist of the observation of social networkstracking on the dark web and checks on the web, distinguishing the activity that can may happen on open networks, like any net user, and on private networks, with judicial authorisation and, normally, for concrete investigation of certain crimes. 

    Has activity increased on this net during the state of alarm? 

    Network activity has increased considerably, based on various factors. For one thing, people who are confined at home and have the possibility of teleworking have remote access from their homes, which generates an increase in the security breaches and vulnerabilities of companies that facilitate this kind of work. 

    For another, since people are not doing outdoor activities they search for leisure or entertainment on-line, which means greater control over emails, an increase in the use of social networksweb searches for information, the need to buy  pharmaceuticals and basic necessities, etc. All this leads to a significant increase in illegal activity and, above all, in the effectiveness of cyber criminal actions. 

    Among the activities that are being discovered among all the information obtained by whatever means we can highlight different blocks of irregular activities, such as fake news, fraud of all kinds, and offences against people and the protection of minors. 

    As an example, and summarising the illegal activity detected by the Central Cybercrime Unit, the following issues, among many others, can be highlighted: More than 130,000 domains related to COVID-19 have been detected, emails, websites and instant messages offering miraculous remedies, including COVID-19 vaccines, fake websites for the sale of pharmaceuticals, impersonation of official bodies for regularisation of temporary lay-offs (ERTES), financial compensation from the Social Security or economic aid to the unemployed and self-employed, as well as an immense increase in “Phishing using the main financial entities’ corporate images. 

    There are no borders on the net… is it necessary to do cyber patrols with the cooperation of several countries or police units? 

    The National Police obviously works hand in hand with international public institutions to carry out cyber patrols and detect “fake news”. The Internet has no borders and criminals find a way to attack victims and feel untouchable before States. The exchange of intelligence and investigative information is therefore still vital. 

    International police cooperation plays a key role in the investigations and cyber patrolling that is currently taking place. It is a way of exchanging experiences and good practices, not just information, when dealing with any investigation, and having knowledge of the current status of cybercrime. 

    The support of the main international institutions, EUROPOL and INTERPOL, where experiences and good practices are being shared, as well as early warning systems and information on new criminal phenomena on the net. In fact, fluid contacts continue to be maintained in the face of network checks requested through these channels. 

    Recently, the meeting with AMERIPOL, which took place as part of the cooperation with EUROPOL and, specifically, with the National Police of Spain, has been an important milestone for rapprochement, collaboration and understanding between the police of various countries that, as a general rule, and more so in the current situation, require generosity, understanding and mutual support, because we are all in the same boat, and sometimes the boat goes adrift and we feel like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza crossing the high plains, fighting against giants or windmills.  

  • 23 April 2020

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    Posteado en : Entrevista

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    “Spanish is that ‘big gold’ we left in Latin America that Pablo Neruda spoke of”

    The Cervantes Institute is a prestigious institution that promotes the teaching, study and use of Spanish and also participates in Spanish Cooperation. On the occasion of the international day of the Spanish language, established by the UN on April 23, we interviewed Sonia Pérez Marco, the Institute's communication and press manager, who explains her main duties and the situation of the Spanish language today.

    Photograph of the facade of the Instituto Cervantes headquarters

    The Cervantes Institute is a prestigious institution that promotes the teaching, study and use of Spanish and also participates in Spanish Cooperation. On the occasion of the international day of the Spanish language, established by the UN on April 23, we interviewed Sonia Pérez Marco, the Institute’s communication and press manager, who explains her main duties and the situation of the Spanish language today.

     

    What is the Cervantes Institute?

    The Cervantes Institute is the body created by the Spanish Government in 1991 to promote and spread the Spanish language and Hispanic cultures throughout the world. We now have 86 centres in 45 countries on five continents.

     

    Why is Spanish Language Day celebrated and how does the Cervantes Institute commemorate it? 

    April 23 is International Book Day, a date also chosen to commemorate the death of Miguel de Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso. It was created by UNESCO more than two decades ago, and in 2010 the UN also established it as Spanish Language Day, which is a happy coincidence.

    As an institution that promotes culture in Spanish from all Spanish-speaking countries, it is a very important day that we have stretched out into a week. In our network of centres, we celebrate Cervantes Week around this day, with a large number of activities. This year, the title given to the week is “Freedom is a bookshop”, a verse from the latest Cervantes Award-winner, Joan Margarit. As we find ourselves in these exceptional circumstances, both at the headquarters in Madrid and in centres around the world, our activities and initiatives have had to be virtual, and we are using social networks as a platform. When face-to-face is not possible, we resort to virtual communications to reach everywhere. But the important thing is the panorama of great quality literature, art, science and, ultimately, culture in Spanish surrounding Book Day and Spanish Language Day. 

     

    What is the situation of the Spanish language in the world?

    I would say effervescent. Almost 700 million people speak it worldwide, and more than 22 million study it. It is the second language of international communication after English, and the second in native speakers after Chinese. We have a lot to celebrate.

    It is in the United States and the African continent where we find the most active sources of Spanish. In fact, it is estimated that by 2050, the US will be the second Spanish-speaking country in the world, behind Mexico. And Africa is a real discovery. 6.5% of people learning Spanish in the world are in Sub-Saharan Africa. We have therefore created a training programme for Spanish teachers in five countries –Benin, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast and Gabon– in collaboration with Casa África and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID).

    Our language is considered prestigious there and is part of their educational systems. Football and soap operas have, of course, also played an invaluable role in spreading Spanish. Moreover, Asia continues to consider it a language of interest due to its economic potential, and there is growing demand for certifications. But it’s not all good news. We have to be able to consolidate it as a working language in international organisations, and this requires a great deal of commitment. Not to mention that Spanish must seriously consider how to conquer the world of science and technology, or a less promising future than we imagine awaits us. The power is there, now we have to channel it properly.

     

    How important is the Spanish language in generating a link between citizens?

    Spanish is the vehicular language of Spain, and it respectfully coexists and is enriched by the country’s other co-official languages, Basque, Catalan and Galician. At the Cervantes Institute, we have held meetings with the Etxepare Institute, the Ramón Llull Institute and the Consello de Cultura Galega, because we believe that the wealth languages bring citizens is a positive, and not a negative.

    In our network of centres around the world, we programme activities around culture in these languages, and also offer classes when there are enough people interested. In the end, Spanish secures and serves as a cultural general for the entire country. All languages have the same dignity, though not all have had the same fortune, and in Spain we should be aware that this is the time for them to be luckier, without taking away their dignity. The Cervantes Institute certainly has nothing against it.

     

    And among the institutions of Spanish-speaking countries?

    If one thing is clear, it is that Spanish will be what America wants it to be. Spain only accounts for 8% of Spanish speakers worldwide. The rest are on the other side of the Atlantic, that territory of ‘La Mancha’ of which the writer Carlos Fuentes spoke. The fact of sharing the way we express the world leads us to consider ourselves a community with close ties. Twenty-one countries united by the same phrase: we speak Spanish“Spanish is that “big gold” we left in Latin America that Pablo Neruda spoke of” 

    The two main world axes at the cultural and linguistic level are currently the Anglophone and the Hispanic. It depends on us to give the power of being millions of speakers worldwide its corresponding influence.

    We are a very diverse region, a family where the commonalities outweigh the clashes. Every three years we hold the International Congress of the Spanish Language in one of the 21 Spanish-speaking countries; the last, the eighth, was in Argentina last year, and the next, in two years’ time, will be in Peru. These are high-level meetings, but popular at the same time. There is talk and there are arguments, there are great speeches but also intimate chats in small cultural centres. There is consensus and dissent. But what always remains is unity in diversity.

     

    At FIIAPP we organise various international cooperation projects in Spanish-speaking countries… what do you think the fact of sharing a language brings to establishing alliances? 

    Well, alliances have little to do with speaking the same language, but rather with sharing the same goal. In this sense, the institutions of the Latin American and Spanish countries, as well as their governments, know very well that there are a series of horizons set by the SDGs that cannot be avoided, but are not easy to achieve. More education, the eradication of poverty, the fight against climate change, true gender equality, respect for democratic norms, etc. Sharing the same language helps us understand each other linguistically, but it does not guarantee that we are talking about the same thing.

    However, it is true that a language is more than a meaning; it is a system of values, and brings closeness in cooperation and a very important perspective of unity in this era.

    In this sense, last year we launched the CANOA project, which seeks cultural cooperation between sister institutions in Latin America. The founding partners are the Caro y Cuervo Institute, from Colombia; UNAM, from Mexico; the Inca Garcilaso Centre, from Peru, and the Cervantes Institute. It is a project that arouses special interest.

     

    Where does the future of the Spanish language lie?

    In pan-Hispanicism and science.

    In terms of the former, through a conception of the language and of culture in Spanish as a bridge that unites all Spanish-speaking countries. We must feel ourselves to be, not owners, but participants in an Ibero-American community of clear Hispanic predominance. The fact that there is a common language among 21 countries is a great treasure.

    Regarding the latter, the future of Spanish will not be understandable if it is not linked to the development of the field of science and technology. We need more science with Spanish DNA. And the most poetic thing of all, as the director of the Cervantes Institute, Luis García Montero, says, is money. The British Council was founded in 1934 and has a budget of more than 1.3 billion euros; the Cervantes Institute was created in 1991 and receives 60 million euros from public funds.