Venezuelan hustler Iglesias leads student protests against the autocratic regime of Nicolás Maduro. After years of opposition and harassment, he was offered a scholarship by the University of St. Gallen to expand his water treatment business.
This content was published on July 06, 2023
For several years, Hustler Iglesias protested against the autocratic government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. He says, “He was in the front row.”
Hasler Iglesias was active at the local level before heading the national student movement. “I was the one who went to meet the families of the people who were in jail. We had a hard time when we had to bury friends who died during the demonstrations.
He managed logistics, communications, and care for wounded members of the opposition movement. until he had to run away.
Today Hassler Iglesias lives in Spain. He was recently in Switzerland for the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy. He had already lived there after receiving a scholarship to start his start-up.
In late 2021, while hiding from Venezuelan security services, Husler Iglesias went online for one reason only: to attend online seminars organized by the University of St. Gallen as part of its “Start Global” scholarship program. The latter is aimed at founders of companies in developing countries. Convinced by his project on water treatment, Hasler Iglesias was able to study in St. Gallen for six months.
in the front row
Prior to this semester in eastern Switzerland, he had been in hiding for some time. “When the government issued an arrest warrant against me, I knew it was time to go into hiding,” he says.
Hasler Iglesias entered politics in 2007 while studying engineering. His commitment continued to grow as he held high positions in the student union before heading the national movement.
Monstrous protest against Nicolás Maduro
The student movement is an essential element of opposition to the autocratic government of Nicolás Maduro. In 2014, when hunger spread and inflation soared in the country after the Socialists were elected, the opposition staged massive street protests. Forty-three people died in a span of three months.
Protests flared up again in 2017 after Parliament was impeached. Two years later, thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets after Nicolás Maduro was re-elected for a second term in an election called fraudulent by critics and the United States. Security forces loyal to the regime responded brutally to the protests.
Since left-wing populist Hugo Chávez came to power in 1999, fundamental freedoms have become increasingly restricted in Venezuela. After the death of the revolutionary symbol, and in the wake of the volatility in the oil market, the country largely lost its economic power. Hyperinflation, hunger and crime have plagued Venezuela for more than a decade.
Changes that Hasler Iglesias’ family saw themselves: “When my parents arrived in Venezuela, it was the richest country in Latin America.” Later, according to an analysis by the United NationsExternal Link Published in 2021, 94% of the Venezuelan population lived in uncertainty. poverty rateExternal Link According to a study by the University of Venezuela, it declined in 2022 for the first time since 2014 and now stands at 50.5%.
The Venezuelan regime says this uncertainty is due to international sanctions. But according to Hasler Iglesias, “the food shortages and democratic erosion began many years before the first sanctions”.
democracy in exile
Hasler Iglesias is now committed to the main opposition party Volantad Popular. The latter, of a social democratic orientation, protects fundamental rights. “Currently, we are asking that the government resume dialogue with the opposition.”
Shortly before the last scheduled talks, as of the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, an arrest warrant was issued in July 2021 against Hasler Iglesias and four other Volantad populist politicians, based on “false allegations of collaboration with criminal gangs”. were issued.External Link,
About 28 million inhabitants live in Venezuela. Since then about a fifth of the country’s population has emigrated: the global migrant count is around seven million Venezuelans.
Hasler Iglesias is organizing internal party primary elections for him with an eye on the 2024 presidential elections. However, it is not certain that these will be free and fair. Venezuelans living abroad may not be able to vote.
In theory, this community has the right to vote: “The regime does not enforce the right to vote abroad, because it is aware of its unpopularity within the diaspora”, points out Hasler Iglesias.
son of immigrants
Hasler Iglesias is the son of a Spaniard and a Colombian living in Venezuela. His career in politics was not predestined: “Like all immigrants, my parents started from scratch. He was not active in politics, and he never even voted,” insisted Hasler Iglesias.
He was 10 when his father was murdered in his mother’s clothing store. And he was 17 when a man pointed a gun at his head for the first time, he tells us so rhetorically at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy. Hustler Iglesias, remarkably well dressed, remarkably attractive, is the archetype of a genius politician.
In his speech to the plenary assembly of the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, he called for freedom for hundreds of imprisoned dissidents. Among the latter is the journalist Roland Carreno, who will soon spend three years in prison.
Speaking with human rights activists from all regions of the world, from Afghanistan to Cuba, Hasler Iglesias was struck by the similarity of dictatorships: “All authoritarian regimes use the same methods. They learn from each other.”
For Venezuela, international presence and mediation are important. And Hasler Iglesias cites Norway, Mexico and the United States. “Switzerland is not very present, but it will have potential because of its experience as a neutral arbiter.”
save life with clean water
In addition to his political commitments, Hasler Iglesias continues to pursue his Agua Secura project. “It is a social enterprise. It should not become a unicorn start-up, but save lives,” he said.
At first, he wondered how he could use his knowledge as a chemical engineer in a meaningful way. “Drinking water is not available to almost 80% of Venezuelans. So far, we have been successful in setting up eight water purification units.
Agua Segura ensures free access to drinking water (partly in bottles) for vulnerable people, mainly children and the elderly. The project has already attracted attentionExternal LinkFor example, she received a Wonder Grant in 2021 from Canadian pop star Shawn Mendes’ foundation.
Last year, Hasler Iglesias spent six months at the University of St. Gallen, then worked there for two months at a water technology company. We appreciated it as much as he loved St. Gallen.
“I found her very open and interested. Janos Grundling of Start Global says, “Despite the torture she endured and the need to remain in hiding, we did not feel any distrust on her part.”
Hustler Iglesias always tries to reach out to people. “Given its history, it is impressive. This shows how stable he is, ”says János Grundling.
Hassler Iglesias says, “If my mother could come with me, I would definitely stay in Switzerland.” His mother has no family in Venezuela. “As the son of a Spaniard, coming to Europe was not a big problem for me. But it is different for my mother: it would have been difficult for her to obtain a residence permit in Switzerland.” As the widow of a Spaniard, it is easy for her to live in Spain.
(Reviewed and verified by David Eugster, translated from German by Zelli Schaller)
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