Features

Rafael Arnoldo Gómez Salazar – Grupo Cassa

Grupo Cassa legal leader’s role sweetened by variety of responsibilities

Rafael Arnoldo Gómez Salazar has found the sweet spot in his legal career.

Gómez, the legal and environmental manager for Grupo Cassa, El Salvador’s largest sugar producer, says at age 42, has been able to advance further professionally than he anticipated when he was younger.

He’s enjoying a breadth of duties and responsibilities ranging from contract management to antitrust and labor law while advising on creating an innovative sugar product and overseeing environmental compliance.

Rafael Arnoldo Gómez Salazar | Legal and Environmental Manager | Grupo Cassa

Rafael Arnoldo Gómez Salazar | Legal and Environmental Manager | Grupo Cassa

He likes to be known for the varied legal, business and compliance expertise he can provide. He is even helping the Escuela Superior de Economía y Negocios, or ESEN, one of three schools where he teaches law, launch a legal magazine.

“I would like people to see me as a lawyer who is a strategic partner for specific projects that create growth and revenue,” Gómez says. “I’m not just a lawyer who arrives when problems arise.”

Serving big markets

Grupo Cassa, which will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2024, operates two mills where sugar and molasses are produced as well as electricity.

One is in the western Salvadoran city of Izalco (Gomez’s maternal hometown), and the second operates in Ingenio Chaparrastique in the eastern region of the country near the city of San Miguel

“Coming to work for Grupo Cassa was so familiar that it was a perfect match,” Gomez says.

The sugar products that aren’t consumed domestically are exported to customers in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Gómez notes Grupo Cassa’s sugar has also earned multiple certifications for food safety, quality and sustainability.

Rafael Arnoldo Gómez Salazar | Legal and Environmental Manager | Grupo Cassa

Rafael with his legal and environmental team at a sugar cane plantation in Izalco, Sonsonate. From left to right: María Fernanda Munguía, Patricia Zepeda, Claudia Figueroa, Rafael Gómez, Alfredo Hernández, Claudia Hernández, Gonzalo Deras and Gabriela Rivas.

In 2022, the company introduced Muzza, a sugar product available in El Salvador with a lower glycemic index. It was created in collaboration with Nutrition Innovation, which holds the product’s patent. Because Muzza provides users a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels, Gomez says it’s often recommended for individuals looking to better manage their blood sugar levels.

Gómez supported the development of Muzza by drafting and negotiating the commercial agreement with Nutrition Innovation and worked with marketing teams on sales approaches and intellectual property.

Welcoming a new role

As Muzza was being developed, Gómez was named Grupo Cassa’s environmental manager. He’s tasked with helping the company comply with new water use regulations enacted in El Salvador as well as leading other sustainability initiatives.

He says the company already had a strong track record in environmental stewardship. For instance, its mills are powered by burning bagasse, a highly combustible and fibrous sugar cane byproduct that remains after stalks are crushed in the refining process. The excess electricity from burning bagasse is used in the national grids providing consumers with less expensive electricity.

In December 2021, the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly approved a water resources act to regulate its use, while promoting conservation efforts. The law also created the Salvadoran Water Authority to govern water usage and set fees for water consumption.

Rafael Arnoldo Gómez Salazar | Legal and Environmental Manager | Grupo Cassa

Gómez says the company aims to reduce water consumption through efficient processes. While helping compile the data on monthly water use measured in cubic meters that will determine how much the Authority will charge Grupo Cassa for water consumption, he welcomes the conservation initiatives and his role in environmental stewardship.

“I firmly believe lawyers should be multifaceted,” Gómez says. “We can perform leadership roles in other fields, including finance, business and environment conservation.”

Here to stay

When he was younger, Gómez considered following his father’s footsteps and becoming a doctor. Then his sister intervened—by example—as she became an attorney and showed her brother how promising a legal career could be.

Gómez earned his bachelor’s degree in legal sciences from Universidad Dr. José Matías Delgado in 2005 and then a master’s in legal research in 2007. In 2010, he earned a Ph.D. in legal sciences from the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain.

After earning his bachelor’s degree, Gómez served as a junior investigator for FUSADES, a Salvadoran nonprofit think tank founded to promote the country’s social development and economic progress. While studying for his graduate degrees, he was also a senior lawyer with the Superintendencia de Competencia, the Salvadoran government agency in charge of compliance with antitrust law.

Gómez joined Grupo Cassa in January 2011 at age 29. He’s been a professor of commercial, antitrust and corporate law since he was 24 and teaches at ESEN, Universidad Dr. José Matías Delgado (his alma mater) and Universidad Evangélica.

Rafael Arnoldo Gómez Salazar | Legal and Environmental Manager | Grupo Cassa

Rafael with his students from Commercial Law at ESEN. From left to right: Paul Bolaños, Diego Romero, Mauricio Calderón, Alessandra Castillo, Diego Cantaderio, Alejandra Díaz, Vivian Ahues, Valeria Guzmán, Rafael Gómez, Alisson Arévalo, Carlos Cervantes, Roberto Mejía and Alejandro Rodríguez.

He says the opportunity to come in-house was one he had eagerly awaited.

“An in-house lawyer doesn’t need to be an expert on all laws but does need to know enough about everything,” Gómez says. “There’s little room for specializing when your practice includes so many areas simultaneously.”

Outside of work and teaching, Gómez keeps fit by playing tennis twice a week with friends. He’s married, and he likes dining out with his wife. They’re raising two daughters and enjoy going to the beach and vacations. He also likes playing basketball with his younger daughter and playing board games with his older daughter.

Gómez says he’s also enjoyed helping Grupo Cassa set its course for more sustainable operations in the future, offering better opportunities to the regions where the company operates and to sugar cane producers around the country.

“It’s a challenge to cultivate sugar cane and make sugar correctly. I’m confident saying we are doing a wonderful job,” Gomez says. I’m proud of our carbon and water footprints’ results, and our company has been recognized as a great place to work. We’re promoting social and economic growth in El Salvador. Together, we bring the good energies from our land to every home.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Fall III 2023 Edition here.

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