This is part of a series of re-published articles I wrote in 2005 for the Daily Journal in Caracas.
May 16, 2005
Venezuela signed an agreement with Spain on Monday that allows Venezuelans to use their driver's licenses in Spain. Spaniards will also be able to use their licenses in Venezuela.
"This agreement is dedicated to improving the lives of citizens," said Spanish Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, Jesus Caldera Sanchez-Capitan. "It will make [their lives] easier."
Sanchez-Capitan signed the agreement with Venezuela's Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez Araque at the Foreign Ministry in Caracas.
Rodriguez Araque said the agreement helped facilitate the free movement of human beings, rather than just free movement of capital. He said it would also help people from Southern countries who seek a better quality of life in Europe.
Rodriguez Araque added that when masses of South Americans want to go to the United States, or when many Eastern Europeans or North Africans want to live in Europe, they find many barriers. He cited the Berlin Wall and the Mexican-American border as examples.
Sanchez-Capitan added that the agreement will deepen relations between the Venezuelan and Spanish people.
"This was a necessity for the Venezuelan and Spanish people," said Sanchez-Capitan, emphasizing that many Venezuelans in Spain need to drive to work. "I want to thank the Venezuelan government for this solution."
Sanchez-Capitan said the Spanish government will establish a procedure to legalize the "thousands of people" who are working illegally in the country without social protection or legitimate work contracts.
The labor minister, who belongs to Spain's ruling socialist party (PSOE), said the opposing populist party (PP) has criticized the current government's efforts to give foreign workers legal status.
"The Partido Popular likes people to work illegally," he said. "They like to have cheap labor. But the social democrat government cannot allow that."
Rodriguez Araque said that while approximately 65,000 Venezuelans were registered as residents of Spain, many more lived there illegally. Sanchez-Capitan said approximately 10,000 Venezuelans working without papers in Spain are currently applying for legal status.
"We think that the whole Venezuelan community in Spain is going to be legal," Sanchez-Capitan told reporters after signed the agreement. "We don't want people to work illegally in the economy. Venezuelans in Spain are working, contributing to the property of Spain. Therefore, their rights should be recognized."
JENS ERIK GOULD
Jens Erik Gould is a political, business and entertainment writer and editor who has reported from a dozen countries for media outlets including The New York Times, National Public Radio and Bloomberg News.