October 26, 2007

SIUC to host Venezuelan high court justice

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Venezuelan Supreme Court Justice Fernando Ramón Vegas Torrealba will speak with students and faculty during a visit to Southern Illinois University Carbondale next week.

Vegas' visit on Monday, Oct. 29, includes an open forum with the Latin American Students Association, the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and the Department of History. The open forum is 11 a.m. to noon in the Student Center's Illinois Room.


Media Advisory

Reporters and photographers are welcome to attend the open forum at 11 a.m., Monday, Oct. 29, in the SIUC Student Center Illinois Room. Interviews with Vegas, who is fluent in English, may also be arranged for other times by contacting Charles A. Serrano at 312/217-0894.


Following lunch with SIU School of Law students from the International Law Society and the Hispanic Law Students Association, Vegas will speak to associate law professor Cindy Buys' International Law class.

Vegas said the focus of his conference is the constitutional reform process that is now underway in Venezuela. He expects to have time for a question-and-answer session.

"This gives our students a comparative perspective where they learn about a different judicial system under a different constitution," Buys said. "Venezuela is going through a lot of changes right now under Hugo Chávez, much of which is very controversial. I think it will be interesting to ask Justice Vegas why these changes are necessary and what they hope to accomplish."

Vegas, 61, graduated from law school at the Universidad Central de Venezuela in 1971, and earned a master of law in economic integration from there in 1977. He is chair of the electoral chamber of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice. A businessman in the private sector, as well as an author, Vegas' experience includes civil and labor litigation.

Prior to his appointment to the Venezuela's Supreme Court, Vegas served as Director of Education of DISIP, the Venezuelan intelligence and security police, where he is credited with "changing paradigms in the training of officials in line with the tenets" of Venezuela's Constitution "and the universal norms on human rights," according to his Venezuelan Supreme Court biography.

Professor Anne Winston-Allen, chair of SIUC's Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, said Vegas' visit is a "very valuable opportunity."

"I think it would be especially important for students in the new Latino and Latin American Studies minor," she said. "It is a very valuable opportunity for them to meet and hear from a very important person in Venezuelan politics and government."

Prior to Vegas' visit on Monday, SIUC's Latin American Student Association will hold an informational session on Venezuelan history, culture and the nation's current political structure. The session is set for 5 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 28 at the SIUC Student Center International Lounge.