Bati Bleki Weekend Recap, Septmber 17th, 2017

Special request for a positive column, Voila!

Aruba should be super proud of the recent evacuation of 64 dialysis patients from SXM, and their reception here.

In total two flights, remember the airport in SXM is crippled, so this must have been a military operation, landed here, delivering patients in poor condition, in dire need of medical assistance.

Most of the patients arriving here require dialysis every second day, and because of Hurricane Irma and the destruction of the hospital in SXM, they were getting into a critical situation.

Apparently, without an inch of red tape, the health authorities on both islands were able to talk to each other, not a single politician involved, no picture opportunities, no press releases, just a fast and efficient collaboration with the pure and honorable goal of saving lives and helping fellow-islanders in distress.

As soon as patients landed here, they were greeted at the airport at a special staging area, by a team of nurses and doctors, who assessed their condition on the spot.

Mind you, the same people who worked all day, worked all night, some until 3am. As you know, we have no extra nurses and doctors.

It’s the same old ones on all shifts.

Patients in better shape were sent to IMSAN, in SN, and the ones in more stressful circumstances were referred to HOH, in Eagle.

Dr. Joel Rajnherc told me that for the first time in the history of our usually-lackadaisical state-of-preparedness, Aruba mobilized ten fully equipped and prepared ambulances and first responders, 4 working at the airport, 3 on the road for traffic emergencies, one at Palo Marga for a car race and two additional first responder vehicles, as backups.

We used our brains and hearts, the good doctor says, and received excellent all-around cooperation.

We should all remember that once the adrenaline settles, this rescue operation is long term. The hospital in SXM is kaput. Dr Rajnherc is hoping some of the nurses would be able to come to Aruba to lend a hand because the just-arrived patients must receive ongoing treatment in addition to the islands own patients.

The dialysis facilities in SN includes 18 chairs, and at HOH 21 chairs, plus 2 in intensive care. That means triple shifts for the nurses and doctors in charge. The same old ones on all shifts.

One more feather in our cap: The health authority contacted AHATA on Thursday night. They were looking for 64 rooms. Vanessa Rasmussen, AHATA, did a great job coordinating the hotels response. The hotels volunteered the rooms in about one hour. Amsterdam Manor, Tropicana Resort and The Mill Resort offered the most, but almost all of the hotels opened their hearts and doors.

Heartfelt condolences are sent to family members of the one dialysis patient who did not make it, arriving on Aruba deceased. A reminder of the miraculous nature of a truly fast response.

If you were the Prime Minister, what would you say?

A letter I got in the mail, from the UK

Dear Prime Minister Mike Eman and Chief Minister Victor Banks,

Let me start out by saying that as an Aruban expatriate living in London, UK, it gives me great pride to see how the Government of Aruba and its Citizens have stepped up to the plate by immediately rendering humanitarian assistance to our Dutch Kingdom Brothers and Sisters of Sint Maarten who have been so greatly impacted by the destructive forces of Hurricane Irma over the past week.

I understand from media reports that as many 90 ‘Aruban volunteers’ have been dispatched to the island of Sint Maarten and that among these are Law Enforcement Officers, Medical First Aid Responders and Public Works Engineers and Technicians, in order to assist the Local Authorities in Sint Maarten on the ground with their emergency humanitarian relief and infrastructure rebuilding efforts. I furthermore deeply admire and respect the good efforts by the Dutch Ministry of Defense as well as similar contributions by the Government and good people of Curaçao.

Prime Minister Eman, you may recall that between 1998 and 2010 I lived and worked in Anguilla on a full-time basis and during this period I was fortunate to be able to establish a close working relationship with the Government of Anguilla in general and current Chief Minister Victor Banks in particular, with whom I still maintain a close personal friendship. In the past I have spoken to Chief Minister Victor Banks about the generosity of the Aruban people and I recall telling him with pride that during the Haitian earthquake of 2010 not only did your Government mobilize humanitarian resources akin to what you are now doing for Sint Maarten, but the people and commercial entities of Aruba provided an extraordinary charitable contribution to this effort by donating approximately 10 million florins to the relief effort (which was equivalent to approximately 100 florins for each Citizen of Aruba!).

You may have heard that Sint Maarten’s ‘Sister Island’ of Anguilla has also suffered tremendous damage due to Hurricane Irma. In particular, I have been told that the hospital, the primary and secondary schools, many churches and the Senior Citizens home have all either been badly damaged or rendered completely uninhabitable. Many government administration buildings, the House of Assembly, the Police Station, Prison and hundreds of private homes have also been partially if not totally destroyed.

Sint Maarten’s tight bond with Anguilla is obviously well known since there are quite close familial relationships between the Dutch and also the French side, as there are many Anguillans who are also Dutch Passport holders. Anecdotally, it wasn’t until I actually moved to Anguilla that I came to realize were some very familiar ‘Aruban Family Surnames’ such as Hodge, Gumbs, Carty, Richardson, Webster and quite a few others actually had their origin, but I’m sure that you are very familiar with all of the back stories and history of our fascinating Caribbean Diaspora!

Prime Minister Eman, given our collective Dutch/English Caribbean history I hereby kindly and respectfully request if your Government would be willing to extend a ‘helping hand’ to Anguilla also during tomorrow evening’s Sint Maarten fundraising telethon to be held in Aruba. Anguilla is after all a fellow ‘EU-OCT’ (for the time being, at least…) and furthermore a Member in Good Standing of OCTA. Note too that Anguilla is considered one of the ‘Least Developed OCT’s,’ with a per capita GDP of around U$ 12,500 per annum (i.e., about 50% less than Aruba’s…). May I respectfully ask if your Government would kindly consider reserving up to 10% of the funds raised during tomorrow’s telethon for the benefit of the Anguilla Red Cross?

I have taken the liberty of copying the Right Honorable David Lammy in this email too. David is a highly regarded and distinguished Labor Member of Parliament here in the United Kingdom who, coincidentally, has degrees from the University of London and Harvard University. David is furthermore a ‘Fellow West-Indian,’ who traces his family roots back to Guyana (which, as you know, is where our highly respected Aruban-American international broadcast journalist’s Maureen Bunyan’s family also happens to be from…). David Lammy called me earlier this morning by telephone to ask how he and other British Members of Parliament may assist the UK Overseas Territories most affected by Hurricane Irma in their rebuilding efforts, and it goes without saying that I appreciated his kind and considerate gesture very much.

In February and July of this year I had the opportunity to meet with Chief Minister Victor Banks whilst he was on working visits in London. During our meeting we talked extensively about Anguilla’s ambitions to implement renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power and he mentioned to me that Senior Anguilla Government officials had been invited to Aruba’s Green Conferences which has proven extremely helpful to them. So far Anguilla has a total of 2MW of installed solar power plant and is looking forward to increase this to as much as 10MW by 2020. Chief Minister Banks furthermore mentioned that Aruba’s ‘example’ in the area of renewable energy development in general, and your firm and Progressive Leadership in particular, has been an invaluable catalyst for other likeminded OCT’s in the Caribbean region!

In short, I hope that you will give fair and ultimately favorable consideration to my humanitarian request on behalf of the people of Anguilla and the local chapter of their Red Cross relief organization.

Kindest regards,

Paultje Sjiem Fat

London, UK

Saturday Night in Aruba

The best joke of the evening belonged to Joe Najjar who stated that between paying for Harvey’s flood damages and for Irma’s path of destruction, there will be no money left in the treasury for President Trump’s Mexican border wall.

Another duh-insight I found on social media stated that the storms and quake are Mother Nature’s form of punishment for abandoning the Paris Accord.

While Irma was travelling to Florida and Jose was making its way through the Caribbean, Aruba continued to campaign Carnival-style and to party!

One of my friends sent me the #3 on AVP jingle which the MinEnergy calls: “A wonderful song, you going to love it and listen to it over and over.” I listened. Just a below average, machine-made, cheesy  tune, with the lightning bolt repeated by a cast of motley characters, in the video footage.

I imagine it is supposed to serve as a cool throwback to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Or what? Why are they doing the bolt? Should we start worrying about their strange illuminati hand gestures??

I was glad to see my friend Errol de Freitas looking so well. He says the MinEnergy rounded up a bunch of talented musicians and singers and decided to also participate in his own commercial, rocking a flat newspaper-boy cap. Tell me, when was the last time he distributed newspapers? I also paid attention to the way he consulted his phone for the challenging and complicated lyrics, which he had to remember, standing in front of the mike: #3 on AVP.  He made it. Relief. With 71 shares and over 9K views that rhythmic noise made the rounds tragically confusing politics for carnival, promising “prosperity for you and me, getting soaking green,” at least that’s the noise I managed to decipher.

What can I say? Silly fake song, with a silly fake promise, and posturing musicians. Watching the MinEnergy political career, he debuted at the PPA in 2001 with 634 votes, moved over to the AVP list, landing 1,217 votes in 2005, peaking at 2,805 votes in 2009, then suffering a bit of a setback in 2013 with just 2,100 votes, that’s a 26% decline. Is it a trend? It means just 1,554 votes in 2017. Perhaps less? Do people really believe the prosperity message?

And talking about parties, I went to one at Tinashi Lounge on Saturday, Virginia’s surprised birthday get-together. When I turn 40, this is exactly the type of party I would like to have: Hosted by Jacky, with beautiful people, delicious home-made cake, Villa Sandy Prosecco, catering by Peanuts restaurant, and a cast of personalities: a mix of business, politics and media.

Tinashi belongs to Darren or Kevin van Ommeran. Or both. So don’t say that Paradera is dead. It’s not. It’s rocking with live DJ spinning Thursday, Friday and Saturday, in an intimate cocktail lounge, tiny but cute. I think the big, expensive monsters are too much of a gamble and the van Ommeran twins are now busily collecting a chain of small places, Hamaka, Tinashi, and one coming shortly into Weststraat, where the defunct Carlos & Charlie’s once operated.

I met #29 on the AVP list at the party, tall and handsome Marksonn Maduro. Being good looking is definitely an asset. Known as the Richard Visser effect, it is never a political obstacle. Most female party-goers went absolutely gaga, when he stepped in.  I found out that the opportunity to join the AVP list presented itself after his team Monument, won the Hackathon Oranjestad in May, introducing technology to main-street in an effort to attract more traffic. The Free WiFi just became a reality this weekend, Marksonn informed. Anyway, our foxy MinPres asked him to get on board, which Marksonn’s aspiration, to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit in his fellow millennial, empowering them, and encouraging them to live an active lifestyle.

As I moved on to chat with fashion goddess Diana Lerma, Marksonn introduced himself to MEP Princess Lalo Croes. I like that about Aruba. Rivalry is only skin deep, and it immediately washes away over Prosecco and birthday cake.

Virtual electoral reality on video

I just watched a video on social media of the MinInfra and the MinPres dramatic appearance at Villa Floralina, a dust bowl of a horse ranch, in the countryside. They were heaping inflammatory, horse manure on their audience, a mix of Latin and Caribbean immigrants.

I have to say that our MinInfra commands an excellent Spanish and can eloquently spew outrageous promises, shamelessly spinning a fictitious tale, for Aruba’s recently arrived, vulnerable immigrants.

Examples?

DIMAS will be getting a new state of the art computer system that can process permits for those who need them, within three days. At this point my jaw dropped and remained there.

After three years of residence, he continued, all immigrants will be granted family unification permits, allowing them to bring their left-behind family members here, in the name of a humanitarian government. (I understand the Kingdom, its jaw dropped too).

That humanitarian government, MinInfra continued, listens to immigrant mothers who find it difficult to enter their kids into local schools, and who struggle to obtain the AZV medical insurance for them. That same government comes to the rescue of unemployed immigrant fathers, finding jobs for those encountering hard times.

We have money he screamed, and projects, schools, and education, combined with a heart to welcome you all as brothers and sisters.

I almost cried. It was so touching. The crowd went bananas.

It was such a beautiful speech. So accommodating, so inclusive, it almost made me forget the ELEVEN plus years I waited for an AZV card for my foster daughter, a Casa Cuna graduate. I went through the regular channels, and that Via Dolorosa took forever. (In retrospect, I should have just gone directly to the MinInfra, stalked him at his house, or at parliament with the rest of the immigrant community, suffering from the chronic breakdown of regular channels.)

The crowd was lapping every word up, as the MinInfra and the MinPress painted a black and white picture of a xenophobic former government, discriminatory and abusive,  and a good, democratic and inclusive current government, where the MinPres looks at the kids as his own children, and every member of the audience as his own brother or sister.

It was an outright crazy video. I must be hallucinating. This cannot be real, it’s just virtual electoral reality.

Gas & Petroleum Exploration

It looks like RDA has a new fancy building, filled with office furniture and equipment. Where did the money come from? From slashed budgets of social organization, who will receive just about half of what they budgeted to stay alive, in 2017. Meaning Casa Cuna Progresso, Pasa Dia Brillo, SABA (Stichting Algemene Bejaardenzorg Aruba), will have to get by with less. As you know, the badly-printed ad in the newspapers just recently, touting Gas Y Petroleo, signed by the MinEnergy, tickled my curiosity. So I asked a few people for a report on the refinery.

Here are my findings:

“Rona, we also keep asking where the worker bees are, the so called boots on the grounds, which were supposed to open, clean and inspect the refinery process equipment. Well, it seems now that the date has been pushed back to Oct 1st. Y & V, from Venezuela, makes up part of the consortium, the other contractor is Technip from France. Their joint venture is called YTT Y&V, they also brought a sub-contractor in from the U.S., Bay Ltd. out of Corpus Christi, Texas. We have a mothballed refinery in need of rehab, and GOA is determined on upgrading it to a facility capable of upgrading 209.000 barrels per day.“

As I reported in December 2016, the rehab was delayed by eight months to July 2017. It’s September now, and with the first boots on the ground on October 1st, the planned restart of the refinery will be postponed to late 2018 from an original earlier target date.

It’s been almost two years since CITGO, the US subsidiary of Venezuela’s financially quagmired nationalized oil company PDVSA agreed to lease RDA, which closed in 2012. It’s a 15 years lease.

And because RDA was closed for 15 years, major upgrade work must take place, so that the extra heavy useless crude oil from the Orinoco, can be commercialized.

If this happens it’s good for Venezuela, if they handle the business in an ethical, transparent manner, which is practically impossible as Venezuela is only concerned with prolonging the life of the Maduro regime, NOT the improvement of the lives of its citizens.

To date, logistical and financial obstacles prevented the work from starting, but we now have a number of companies involved, Y&V from Venezuela for detailed inspection, construction and repairs, and a French contractor Technip France JV. They are both jointly referred to as YTT Aruba NV, they say they need about $600 million as a budget, but the number is probably closer to $700-$800, maybe much more, to overhaul the rust bucket.

The project is complex and it also requires the construction of a man camp, temporary accommodations for up to 1,500 workers, that’s an approximate investment of Awg 12 million. The contract to build the man camp was awarded to a Venezuelan company by the name of Constructora Azzurra, C.A. The catering of the project, feeding all these people, went to Manpotech. Have no clue who they are.

Not surprisingly, the man camp, a serious construction project of dormitories has been delayed. Think about it. The WEB and ELMAR infrastructure also requires millions.

Naturally, no financial plan is available anywhere. There’s talk about a bridge loan, but the money, the financing scheme of the whole shebang is still a mystery.

But we at least we know who is in charge: VP & GM, the man at the helm is Raymon Buckley with the upgrade leadership by GM Raul Baradat.

Talk is cheap. And they are talking about natural gas as the main source of fuel for the Aruba upgrader. So they still have to develop the required infrastructure, install the famous pipeline from Venezuela’s gas system, run an on shore pipe on 90-km, and an off shore pipe for 32 km. Not to forget the engineering and environmental impact, which must be studied.

Do you believe in Santa?

Then you will believe all that. You understand that the project cannot start until the financing is in place. So far No Hay Dinero.

CSJF, the greatest concert of all times

The 11th edition of the Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival unfolded last night at the Renaissance Marketplace and it was all around spectacular.

Erick Jan Eman and his crew delivered excellent entertainment despite some weather hiccups last moment with hurricane Irma trashing flight schedules around the Caribbean. I don’t know what program adjustments they had to make, but they were flawless.

Ruben Blades was the crowd favorite, the musician/activist turned politician/movie star had many fans on the island last night, and the public danced and sang for two hours, as the salsa specialist performed his “Caminando, Adiós y Gracias,” program, one in a series of world stops, said to be his last concert tour.

You still have one night, tonight, to join. So do yourself a favor and come out, the night breeze is back, the heat subsided, and all your friends will be there, from as early as 6:30pm, when the music strikes.

The festival was meticulously organized with a diverse art exposition featuring top local artists. The sprawling food court, we got stuck at the French Fries and will continue exploring today, was stocked with fun eats.

The impressive set up, with the VIP and press sections raised above the  arena and flanking it on both sides was genius. Was it exactly like that last year? I don’t remember but it was just perfect from every angle, from gorgeous stage, to rich sound, to clean toilets.

We also liked the Habana Vieja all stars, Buena Vista Social Club project, orchestrated by Eduardo Proveyer,  Kriss Kross, and Oruba, two stellar ensembles of regional, local, Dutch talents, with many musicians double dipping and contributing to both performances.

Did not see any ministers of government officials in the VIP section, I wonder why.