• 30 August 2018


    Posteado en : Opinion

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    A joint journalistic reflection in La Paz

    Juan Antonio Aunión, from El País, explains his experience in the journalistic reporting workshop he led in Bolivia as part of the project against drug trafficking and human trafficking

    Few jobs have such a frenetic pace as that of a journalist. Day-to-day urgencies rarely leave room for reflection on our own work, to think carefully about the things we fail at, the things we do well in, and especially about what we can do to improve. That is why I appreciate my work as a professor at the UAM-El País School of Journalism, because it forces me to reflect on all this. It is also why I accepted, without giving it a second thought, the FIIAPP’s invitation to lead the International Workshop on journalistic reporting on the prevention of drug use and human trafficking, issues that are so important and so serious that they deserve even more care and self-criticism when dealing with them in the media. The workshop was held in La Paz, Bolivia, in coordination with the Coordination Secretariat of CONALTID and with the funding of the European Union and the AECID.  


    In that context, the most logical thing for me to do was to propose, from the beginning, a joint five-day reflection with the participants, about twenty professionals from the Bolivian press, radio and television.  Precisely, the diversity of the group (not only because they came from different media, but also because some were very young, newcomers to the trade, while others were seasoned journalists with decades of experience behind them) ended up contributing enormously to the workshop. But it was also the main difficulty, solved, in any case, by the chosen format: brief presentations accompanied by many examples of reference texts, a format which allowed us to immediately put into practice all the ideas and techniques presented, along with a lot of interaction and a lot of dialogue.   


    This practical task consisted of writing a report about drug use or human trafficking. This enabled us to review the entire journalistic process, from the choice of topic, its development, documentation, field work, to the writing and editing (or in this case, proofreading).  This way, we managed to delve deeper into fiction techniques that might enable us to present our work in a deeper and more attractive way, without ever losing sight of the strengths of any journalistic text: honesty, rigour, fact-checking each piece of information and giving the context needed to understand complex realities. That’s on top of striking the essential balance between professional distance and the sensitivity required when dealing with social issues in general, and drugs and human trafficking in particular.   


    Many of the problems that the students faced are the same ones Spanish professionals face in our daily work: how to approach the characters, how to present the story and make it attractive, what part of the information, obtained with great effort, to leave out to improve the end result, etc. However, others had to do with traits unique to Bolivia, which has its own working conditions and cultural environment, for example the bureaucratic written procedure necessary to request almost any official information. The answers that we all gave to these problems, at the peak of their experience and mine, were the most interesting part of the course, at least for me, and I think it also has a lot to do with the philosophy of the work that FIIAPP does in all the countries it is present in.     


    Apart from that, my objective for this course was to give the participants a series of tools to tell, in a slightly more attractive and familiar way, both the big stories, those large-scale events that the media relies on, as well as the small everyday stories, those that have to be covered at full speed, but which also deserve, apart from the essential rigour, all the care and affection we can give. Especially when dealing with sensitive issues such as those that have to do with drug use and human trafficking.   


    Juan Antonio Aunión, El País journalist specialising in social and educational issues  

  • 12 January 2018


    Posteado en : Reportage

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    Stories about a problem: drug trafficking and people trafficking in Bolivia

    The First Journalistic Feature Contest organised by SC-CONALTID and FIIAPP seeks to make the fight against these crimes visible within the framework of the project to support Bolivian institutions

    “At 27, Noelia has experienced more than anyone of her age; she is one of the five women who are interned in the Drug Dependants ward at the San Juan de Dios Psychiatric Hospital in Cochabamba, for polydrug use…” 



    Thus begins Moments of pleasure in exchange for a life of suffering, the winning story in the First Journalistic Feature Contest “Prevention of Drug Taking and Fight Against the Smuggling and Trafficking of Persons”. Laura Manzaneda Barrios, a journalist for The Times in Bolivia, narrates the life of a drug addict who loses custody of her children and arrives at an institution to rehabilitate herself.


    According to the Latin American Observatory on Drug Policy and Human Security, 97% of the population considers drug use to be a social problem. Moreover, the fact is that the country is the epicentre of drug trafficking.


    Laura Manzaneda receives first prize

    The portrayal of positive experiences in the prevention of drug use or in the fight against the trafficking and smuggling of persons is the goal of this contest organised by SC-CONALTID and FIIAPP, within the framework of the project to support the fight against drug trafficking and related crimes.


    A story that seeks to provide training for Bolivian institutions in the fields of operational criminal investigation, intelligence, the control of borders and merchandise, money and asset laundering, people smuggling and trafficking.


    This last problem is the subject of the second award-winning story: I woke up from the network, I dodged people trafficking, from the presenter of Red Bolivisión Víctor Hugo Rojas Chávez.


    “Accepting an unknown yet attractive person as a contact was the quickest way to misery, a ticket she acquired when answering the first “hello, how are you?” in a web chat… the rest only a game of warm and flattering words in the midst of a vibrant plague of emoticons of kisses and hearts… that was the journey that led her along this path, a path of no return and at the highest price”.


    The fragment reflects the principle of the many cases of what UNICEF considers “a modern form of slavery”. The main victims of human trafficking are children, adolescents and women who are seduced for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labour.


    According to United Nations (UN) estimates, more than 2 million people are victims of human trafficking every year. And a study promoted by the Organization of American States (OAS) noted that Bolivia is one of the countries with the highest rate of people smuggling and trafficking in the region.


    Institutional action is fundamental

    The project managed by FIIAPP –  funded by the European Commission and the State Agency for International Cooperation for Development (AECID) – focuses on the formation of Bolivian institutions so that they can cope with the problem.


    Making it visible with activities like this is the first step. But there is a need for coordinated work by public and international entities. And in the end, the involvement of these institutions is fundamental. Thus, the third prize winner, professor of Social Communication (UMSA) Ramiro Reynaldo Quintanilla Ramírez, says at the end of his story: People trafficking is a silent crime that threatens Bolivia.


    “Mothers will continue to look for their daughters, victims will try to extricate themselves from the horror which surrounds them and the money will never be enough to deal with such a lucrative and dangerous crime. However, there is hope for society as long as there are institutions that care about the pain of others.”


    To read the full stories, click here

  • 27 October 2017


    Posteado en : Interview

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    FIIAPP expatriates: Santiago Santos Benitez

    “The city of La Paz is about 3,600 metres above sea level, which is an initial handicap for the adaptation process.”

    We turn our attention to fieldwork and look at Bolivia through the eyes of Santiago Santos Benitez, the technical coordinator of the project European support for the special counter-narcotics police force in Bolivia in application of the law.

    How have you adapted to this country?

    Well, I’ve really been working in Bolivia for 15 years. I spent two years in the north of the country, in Riberalta, Department of Beni. I knew Bolivia quite well and I’d been to La Paz several times.


    The city of La Paz is about 3,600 metres above sea level, which is an initial handicap for the adaptation process. Whether or not you have already lived in this city, you have to acclimatise every time you return. As to other issues, it should be noted that Bolivians are very polite, friendly people, so adapting to Bolivian society is very easy. The culture, their ways of working, in fact we have lots of similarities that make the process easier.


    La Paz is a city in the Chuquiago Marka valley so it is “protected” by mountain chains. This squeezes the city somewhat and limits its growth. This factor has made its urban growth very disorganised, creating a city set in the midst of chaos. When you walk around La Paz, you find myriads of streets and historical buildings alongside tall skyscrapers. At the beginning it can seem somewhat stifling; however, over time the chaos becomes this city’s special attraction.


    What was most difficult for you and what was least difficult?

    Personally, and this is not always true for everyone, it was adapting to the altitude that was the greatest handicap for me. La Paz is surrounded by high mountains and is constantly split up by steeply sloping streets, which in the beginning can be somewhat discouraging.


    The easiest thing, let’s say, is adapting to the country itself because there are many similarities between our Spanish culture and Bolivian culture. Speaking the same language also makes adaptation much easier.


    Is this your first experience outside of Spain?

    I’ve been working outside of Spain for almost 15 years. My first posting was to Bolivia in 2003. I’ve worked mainly in East Africa in countries like Ethiopia, Somalia, Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania. I’ve also worked in Asia, in India and Nepal.


    What is your work like and your daily routine?

    We try right from the first moment to link up with social institutions in the daily routine of the project. We work at the offices of our local Bolivian partner, the Secretariat for Coordination of CONALTID (National Drug Control Council) and we have a relationship of collaborating on and coordinating all the activities that we carry out as part of this project. We also work with many other Bolivian institutions, both public and private. Although we do most of our work in the office, which increases coordination with our local partner, we are constantly travelling to other departments since the project is a national one. As well as carrying out the duties of my position as Technical Coordinator, I also coordinate courses on combating people smuggling and trafficking. This means that I have to actively take part in these courses, many of which are held in other cities away from La Paz.


    What is your relationship with headquarters in Madrid?

    This is a fundamental aspect of the smooth running of the project. There is direct daily communication with Sergio Garrido, who is the person who handles all the economic management of the project from Madrid. Although we have a time difference of 6 hours between Madrid and La Paz we maintain very smooth, daily communication, which is very necessary for the smooth running of the activities. But we do not only work in coordination with Sergio, we also have the support of Mariano Guillén, Director of the Security and Justice Department, who gives us constant support. Another key department for cooperative relations between Bolivia and Spain is Communications. Through our colleagues, we publicise our activities in Spain, which plays a vital role not only in showing what is really happening in Bolivia and our link with the country through the project but also in public accountability.


    What about your colleagues in Bolivia?

    Teamwork and coordination are a cornerstone of keeping the project running smoothly. The team is made up of 6 people. There are three Spaniards and one French colleague. We also have the support of two Bolivian colleagues who have administrative and logistical duties and help us all the time with all the paperwork for bringing in foreign experts for the training courses that we carry out.


    How would you evaluate your experience of working as an FIIAPP expatriate in Bolivia?

    The FIIAPP is an institution with great experience in this type of project, which means working with highly specialised people. It is also an extremely professional organisation, which makes the work very much easier.


    Do you have any experiences or anecdotes about your arrival in the country?

    At the beginning, there were three public institutions participating in the project; however, little by little the number of institutions has increased. At the moment, we are working with about 20 institutions, including civil society. This is a real handicap when coordinating activities, courses and other things planned as part of the project. In my case, and it can be said that I have worked on dozens of projects, this is the first time that I found myself in the situation of dealing with such a wide range of institutions.

  • 03 July 2015


    Posteado en : Interview

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    Cooperation: “All changes start with something simple”

    Student Kelly Ramos tells of her experience in cooperation advising fellow Bolivians on tax issues.

    Sometimes, life sends you opportunities and it’s up to you as the individual to decide whether to seize them and take on the responsibility or not. One such opportunity that came my way was the NAF*. Who’d have thought that I could be part of something new? Perhaps no one. In the beginning, maybe we were a little intimidated by the recruitment process, where many fell by the way side. But were we lucky? Hmmm, I don’t think so. Well perhaps in my case, but more than luck, it was a question of perseverance, studying hard and, above all, feeling the need to be part of something.

    They say that it’s not easy to start something new, of course it’s not. Particularly when you are not used to interacting with others. I don’t mean that I’m someone who doesn’t socialise with other people, but this is very different to just talking to your friends, because your friends know you and if you make a mistake they will let you know, with a little ribbing and mockery along the way. But trying to interact with taxpayers was horrible in the beginning! My legs were shaking! I would think “What if I make a mistake? What will I do? Should I just go? I know, it’s a little immature for someone of my age and especially for someone in their final year at university, but I was scared. And then the first taxpayer arrived. She was a very nice dark haired lady, a real delight, and it was then that I understood how unjustified my fear had been, because not all taxpayers are ogres (no offence intended).

    Then it was our turn to do a “tax fair” for the inauguration of NAF. We had to set up the marquee the night before the fair. What a drag! But it was for our own benefit so off to work we went. We learned two things that day: firstly, that putting up a marquee is not a simple thing to do, and secondly, that working on a fair requires team work. On the following day all the members of NAF were really nervous and very tired, of course, but it was worth the effort because the fair went ahead without a hitch. Dozens of people stopped to see the stand and others to ask for information or for the NAF opening hours. In short, it was an immense satisfaction to all of us. Finally, NAF open the doors to its first office in Bolivia, in the city of El Alto. What joy! Our hard work was paying off.

    In our office at last! Well, the office that the university has loaned us, but it was just as though it was our very own. We had to put into practice everything that we had learned up to this point. In the beginning we had days where we only saw a handful of taxpayers and other days were we saw no one at all. Is that frustrating? Well yes it is, very. Even though we saw approximately 100 different taxpayers in our first month, we thought that this was not good enough and that we needed to be more efficient. Personally, I felt disappointed in myself.

    But now we know that 100 is a good number to start with and that we shouldn’t feel frustrated or disappointed because we are giving our best every day. We are a new service, people still don’t know about us, but over time everyone will be talking about NAF.

    I don’t want to change the world, the country or even this city alone, I want to change and help that person that comes to NAF for help, because by helping that person, he or she will go on to help another, and he or she will go on to help another, and by doing so, together we can make the world a better place to live. Someone once said that all changes starts with something simple.

    My time at NAF is now drawing to an end; the time has flown by. I would love to stay longer but I need to make way for new people.

    We aren’t geniuses here and we make mistakes just like anyone else, but whilst we are helping people who need assistance with their accounting and tax affairs, we will always be part of NAF.

    *About NAF: Tax Support Centres, better known as NAFs, are part of a university social responsibility initiative promoted by the Brazilian Tax Administration, (Receita Federal).Through NAFs, students studying accounting and finance degrees who have received the necessary training from the tax administration can offer a free advisory service to low income individuals and entities in relation to basic tax issues. NAFs are available at 50 universities in Brazil, and with the backing of EUROsociAL, an EU cooperation programme, they have now been extended to 66 universities in Latin America: Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia & Guatemala