Enrique Villobar

Enrique Villar-Gambetta

People around the world find themselves in the midst of one great, shared experience. Social distancing and large-scale quarantine measures became the norm in the months of March and April for many in the U.S. Colleges and schools stand empty, workplace conversations take place on laptops around kitchen tables or, in many industries, not at all. We spoke with a few of our members whose lives, work and studies have been directly impacted since governments across the U.S. took measures to slow COVID-19’s spread. The answers have been lightly edited for clarity.

Enrique Villar-Gambetta – Attorney and Honorary Consul for Peru in Oklahoma

What is your title and what does your firm do in “normal” times?

“I am the CEO of my law firm in Peru. We are legal advisors for Peruvian and foreign companies in civil, commercial, labor, business, criminal, trademark, contracts and foreign   investment, among others areas in our expertise. Besides that we handle procedures on trials, though this activities are in hold now, because our country is closed. With the lock down starting in March and going through June 30, we are working by Zoom or Skype.

How did the COVID-19 issue impact your day-to-day work?

“In my particular case I usually go to Peru or Chile  every 45 to 60 days, so my last trip to Peru was in December 2019. My main clients are there for that reason now I only connect them by  phone calls/Zoom/Skype. Some of our clients face serious economic problems (like a Paraguayan airline company, steel company, among others), with about 45 percent of my clients suffering a direct financial impact. They have asked me to give them time to recover their economies in three to six months, but  others … bankruptcy. Peru in this moments has thousands of sick people daily, the situation is so bad there.

“Here in Oklahoma as a Peruvian Consul I has to be alert and handle the coordination for humanitarian flights from U.S. ( Dallas, Houston, Minnesota, Chicago, Miami, New York, Alabama) to Peru. Only some airports are working with these Peruvian flights (Miami, NY, Houston) and I have to make all the contacts and connections between them. Our country moved the people from U.S. and housed them in local hotels until their flights. When they arrived we arranged to put them, following medical exams, in quarantine in specific Peruvian hotels. Most of the people I need to help are from Peruvian universities in exchange programs and internships in resorts or hotels.”

If you’ve been forced to shut down or work from home, how has that impacted your job?

“With the slowdown in Peru, all businesses, ports and airports are closed. So, we use technology for the communications. One part of my job is legal advice and other part trials or legal procedures. As I said, the last one has been suspended for three months until June 30.”

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work in the coming few months?

“The reconstruction of the economy is a big challenge. New ideas, new ways to do business and new activities here in Oklahoma as well.”

Have there been any positives you can point to in terms of new ways of doing business or working that have come during this time?

“Yes, we need to be very imaginative. Our states need to be so aggressive in international business. Commercial trips or commercial missions will need to offer our products in other countries, and that is a very good point if we use our Oklahoma consular corp. We have the connections and contacts, let’s explore and do business. I remember I got a very good portfolio of clients when I started my law firm in Chile and Panama. Commercial missions using the platforms like the Chamber of Commerce is very easy and the best way to coordinate. I say this because I already did. Everyone needs to create the possibilities and opportunities.”

In terms of your international activities, how have those been impacted by the past three months? 

“For now I believe could be wise for me to stay here. It is not a very good idea to visit clients in other countries or my Peruvian office.”