Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, February 15th, 2016

MY SENSE OF DESPAIR, real or unreal

So the government budget was ratified in Parliament last week by a small margin, at 1am, 11 pro, 10 against, and we all noted with great interest that two strong-willed ladies voted against it, and against party line. That by itself is admirable, and unusual in our universe, to vote with your common sense, and consequently, against consensus, and against the party’s dictate.

One of the renegades, our President of Parliament, is super educated, smart and well-endowed in the political courage department. Her fans report she has balls. I voted for her a few years ago, I felt she had promise and talent, she does, and thanks to my vote and the votes of other optimists like me, she went far, becoming the minister in charge of the infrastructure portfolio.

As the MinInfra of yesteryears she went on to bless the development of Palm Beach. All of that congestion we today dislike and abhor, spanning from the Village Mall to the Palm Beach Plaza Mall, was signed and delivered during her reign. It was her vision as MinInfra to clutter our golden mile.

The media at the time, was filled with accusations and insinuations, about privileged friends in a nepotistic network and slowly but surely turned the image of the candidate of promise and talent into the devil himself, who was so-called giving away this country’s riches and mortgaging the future of development for alleged nickels and cents.

As a reader, and an outsider, I felt a great sense of despair, at the time, when reading those reports, and witnessing construction, and I was relieved when her party eventually lost the elections, to another set of operators, of another color.

Then by some magic trick, our super educated, smart and ballsy politician switched sides, dumping the losers, sticking with the winners. As expected, she was well received, treated with the utmost respect, and given a big job as the President of Parliament.

Recently we have been reading the newspapers filled with accusations and insinuations, about the current MinInfra, hearing about privileged friends and a nepotistic network that is so-called giving away this country’s riches and mortgaging the future of development for alleged nickels and cents. This terrain has been granted for pittance, that terrain worth umpteen florins handed over for a fraction of its realistic worth while ignoring zoning suggestions and previous guidelines. I have to admit that reading the newspapers today, I have that same exact sense of despair, and I will be very pleased when our currently in-charge party loses the elections, to another set of operators of perhaps another color.

So, what do you think, is my repeated sense of despair fact or fiction? How can it be real if it repeats itself every four years? Is it just media manipulations, or indeed these people are irresponsible?

Anyway, besides voting against the proposed budget the President of Parliament also voted pro motion #17 which was to impeach the current MinInfra for lack of confidence. That motion to send the minister packing failed with 9 votes pro and 12 against. I was convinced that the current MinInfra would remind the past MinInfra of her nickname at the time, Mrs. Real Estate, but nothing, the current MinInfra remained mum.

So, again, is my repeated sense of despair fact or fiction?

Just for the sake of reporting, that second member of Parliament who voted against the budget is related by marriage to legendary Oscar Wyatt, American businessman, founder of Wyatt Oil & Gas, involved at one time or another with the Coastal refinery and with El Paso, the man who inspired the fictional TV legend, JR Ewing. She voted against the proposed budget, thus against the reopening of the refinery. If she is against it, I believe she has good reasons.

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Battling addiction in the public domain

In principle we should welcome all educational initiatives designed to raise awareness of the use of drugs; we must also welcome all preemptive strategies, and every attempt to curb the world’s appetite for an altered state of mind.

That said I read about the latest FADA campaign, Fundacion Anti Droga Aruba, challenging anyone who drinks alcohol to “take advantage” of the upcoming Lent period, and try to abstain from alcohol for 40 days.

The campaign AWE NO is about to become a Facebook event, and will deliver daily “tips & tricks” for those brave enough to answer the challenge. While FADA reports their focus will be alcohol, those who want to focus on fast food, or smoking, the consumption of coffee or soft drinks, are also welcome.

I dare say that anyone who came up with this cock·a·ma·mie plan, knows nothing about obsessive compulsive behavior, and the compulsion to drink. They also know zero about the disease of addiction, and zilch about alcoholism.

I can explain. True. If you are battling with the question whether you are an addict or not, you could try put down drink for a while, see if you can stand it, see how you feel. If you won the inner battle and abstained from drinking as a proof that you are not an addict, it still doesn’t mean anything, you might have white-knuckled the desire to use. However, it would be safe to assume that by the mere fact that you are questioning yourself, something is amiss, a red light should go off in your head, you should ask yourself what is happening here.

For people who are not addicts, 85% to 90% of our population, why should they give up drinking for 40 days? Their drinking has no negative consequences, so why would they stop. It makes no sense, unless they are religious, and then of course if you would like to observe Lent, go ahead you have our blessings.

Incidentally, it is also a very flawed practice to attach religion to our war against drugs; one has nothing to do with the other.

Finally, if you are an addict, 10% to 15% of our population, the last thing on your mind is stopping. You have tried stopping many times, and you never stayed stopped. The stopping is never a problem, the staying stopped is. So on their own without spiritual help, emotional support and some medications, no addict can ever get off the juice for 40 days just because FADA suggested it.

To summarize: For non addicts, the idea to stop is ridiculous. Why would they? Their drinking has never been a problem

For addicts, the idea to stop is ridiculous. They tried many times, it’s an obsessive compulsive behavior, how can they just say NO, it doesn’t work, it never did.

Besides, who wants to battle addiction in the public domain, on a FB page, with tips and trick, are you kiddin’ me?

And, for religious individuals who give something up for Lent, FADA is an irrelevant organization.

The campaign that no one wants to follow starts on Feb 10th and lasts until March 20th.

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My Report on the Monument Unveiled

It was a festive afternoon as the Ike Cohen monument dedicated to the island’s Pioneers of Tourism was unveiled at Plaza Turismo, with speeches by the CEO of the Aruba Tourism Authority, the MinTour and the MinPres. They each went on to say pretty much the same,  that we owe our solid tourism industry to the founding fathers, visionary politicians Juancho Irausquin and Oscar Henriquez, the entrepreneurs and businessmen who figured out mobility with De Palm Tours, Wichi de Palm, Ramon Richardson and Harold Malmberg, hoteliers and developers Ike Cohen, Raymond Maduro, Eduardo de Veer and Ewald Biemans, marketing guru Eline Bartels-Daal, Calypsonian Lloyd Baptist, musician Jesus Kock, show producer and emcee Louis Pavlis, colorful bar owners from San Nicholas Charlie Brouns Senior and Charlie Brouns Junior, the man who created our first glass-bottom boat, Herman Ponson, and the father & son duo who gave us our first beach hotels, the Coral Strand and the Basi Ruti, Chaubin and Maurice Neme, the island’s first home-grown F&B director and restauanteur Eduardo Ellis, and the man who saw the future in group travel, Simon Oduber Jr.

Left out unintentially, and will be added to the monument sometimes in the future, I am sure, Rory Arends, Adwina Arends and Walter Wiggins. And if we dig deeper, we’ll find a few more deserving founding fathers, but the monument is big enough to accommodate them all.

The credit for the project initiative goes to Myrna Jansen who has been trying to get it done since 2009. Nice project Myrna, you deserve to have your name there, too.

Tim Werleman, a late executive with the Aruba Tourism Authority who had a small plaza dedicated to his name in Eagle, and lost his monument to a buldozer, could fit in with the Ike Cohen monument as well.

Missing from the festivities, Oscar Henriquez. According to what I hear from tourism historian Event Bongers, Oscar wrote a thundering-report on the potential development of the Aruba Caribbean, when in 1956, the island government approved the plans for the building of a luxury tourist hotel on the still totally empty Palm Beach. Oscar together with Juan Enrique Irausquin did all the legwork, gathering the information to make sure the project delivers what it was designed to do. To complete their market-research, they traveled to Miami and Puerto Rico, to benchmark, and see what the other islands are up to, and they understood ahead of anybody else that the beaches should become the focal points and that by building a first class luxury beach hotel they stand a chance of taking the Caribbean travel market over, and firmly establishing the island as a tourist destination for ‘upscale’ clients. By pushing the construction of a luxury resort they were light-years ahead of their contemporaries. Remember these were the austere 50s, and luxury was an unfamiliar concept. Juancho Irausquin, a politician from the ruling PPA party, got the boulevard named after him. Oscar Henriquez is still waiting for his.

I also missed hotelier Ewald Biemans, who has always been Ike Cohen’s fierce competitor. Ewald recently received a lifetime achievement award from the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association, and perhaps didn’t want to double-dip.

We had a great time after the official portion of the ceremony, it was a kiss and hug fest, a unique social opportunity with lots of commemorative photos. The cultural program that proceeded the unveiling was pitiful. Downright pathetic, though the little kids were cute. I believe entertainment and catering should be left to the private sector and government should stick to its core business which definitely doesn’t included event planning and coordination.

The monument, while a bit graceless and soviet in style – solid, heavy, no frill, two tone gray and black, is not the sort of monument which tourists visit, but it fits the plaza and pays homage to deserving individuals.

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Is it the case of the boy who cried wolf, or is it a false alarm?!

I spent the morning reading about the Zika virus, considered among the lightest viral diseases, the others two nasty ones are dengue and the vicious chikungunya. I learned that Zika’s #1 patient was a Nigerian in 1968, but the virus was identified much earlier, in Rhesus monkeys, in 1947. Sporadic outbreaks were reported in French Polynesia, and in South Africa, and other tropical places around the globe in the past 60 years but then in May of 2015, Zika popped up Brazil. In December it was pronounced an outbreak, and the Brazilian health authorities “have temporally associated the transmission of the virus in some settings, to a significant rise in babies born with microcephaly, and Guillain- Barre Syndrome.” They reported about 2,400 suspect cases in Brazil, but oddly enough microcephaly and Guillain- Barre Syndrome were never declared on the rise in any other places where Zika virus transmission occurred. Many questions about this potential link between microcephaly and Zika remain unanswered and that is why it is safe to say that there MAY be ANOTHER underlying reason for the increase of babies with microcephaly in Brazil, perhaps it’s not Zika at all, moreover if you read the World Health Organization report you will see that they warned us against the virus but they did not impose ANY travel restrictions nor any emergency measures. Relax, this is not an international health crisis, don’t panic, just reach for the bug spray and continue to practice good public health measures.

So what’s happening? It is totally possibly that because it took the World Health Organization five months to organize the fight against the deadly Ebola virus, for which they received buckets of criticism, they now do not wish to dillydally. A week into the announcement of the Zika virus transmission outbreak, they are scaring us all into spraying, and cleaning up the clutter, but not really doing anything more drastic about it. This is what they say:

There should be no restrictions on travel or trade with countries, areas and/or territories with Zika virus transmission.

Travelers to areas with Zika virus transmission should be provided with up to date advice on potential risks and appropriate measures to reduce the possibility of exposure to mosquito bites.

Standard WHO recommendations regarding disinfection of aircraft and airports should be implemented.

Which means business as usual!

Just compare the level of reaction this time, to all the other times. How we covered our mouths and noses for fear of SARS, how we slaughtered all cows in England because of Mad Cow disease, how all pigs were killed in Mexico in honor of Swine Flu, how all turkeys were sacrificed in Canada because of Avian flu; we even prevented a cruise ship from entering the port of Oranjestad because of 2 passengers with symptoms, but that was a while ago and I forgot why. Why did we do all that?

So please don’t worry your pretty heads, just take reasonable precautions and spray against mosquitoes which you should be doing anyway.

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THANK YOU, HELENE CROES, AT SETAR PALM BEACH. My home internet service reached pathetic speeds so I stopped by the TeleShop on Palm Beach for a CableNet upgrade. Take a number and a seat, your turn will come. When I got to the counter I experienced ID card issues, as you know, our ID cards have expired a long time ago, and the Censo is not issuing new ones, BUT a customer-friendly supervisor, Helene Croes, accepted a digital copy of my passport, which I sent from my cell phone to her Setarnet address. She printed a copy off her e mail account, and allowed me to complete my CableNet paperwork successfully. She deserves compliments for being super helpful. Your take-away? Bring your passport along, every time you visit Setar, and don’t go there if you’re on a schedule.

A SHOUT OUT TO THE TAX OFFICE. Just for fun, I started counting the number of green/red stickers visible on car windshields, yesterday. I dare say two out of ten passing cars had their stickers properly glued to the glass, as proof of car registration payment. How are you going to process 60.000 vehicles until tomorrow? My friends report a LOOOOONG waiting period at the cashier, and even LOOOOONGER lines at the pick up window. How are you going to “encourage” motorist to comply with the law, by Monday… ADDITIONALLY, you asked us to pick up our AANGIFTE papers, our tax forms for the year, on Thursday and Friday, between 8am and 8pm, and to have them ready for payment on Monday February 15th, before deadline. Wow, that was some hassle. I think you are over your head, you have NEVER been so late, heads would be rolling in the private sector, for such a miserable administrative performance. You should be given a BELASTINGZITTING in court yourself for being so delayed and so behind.

THE TEQUILA WHISPERER. Hubert, the bartender at Mexicado restaurant, Hyatt Regency, is the Tequila whisperer. I sat down at the bar, waiting for friends. I don’t like Tequila, I told him. Have a glass of wine then, he suggested. When he saw I was settling down comfortably, he challenged me for a taste test. There is no such thing as “I don’t like Tequila,” he said, you just didn’t meet the right one. So he gave me a complete presentation regarding flavor, aroma and style, poured me a noble shot from some super-duper, cognac-like bottle, nicely aged and triple distilled. I liked it. I sipped and sipped, and then it kicked my butt. What’s there not to like, at $40 a snifter? I guess you can seduce wine lovers with blue agave. To conclude, Hubert is the up-sell king. He should be giving classes about the subject to other island bartenders, the sooner the better.