Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, June 12th, 29016

YOU READ THE STRANGEST THINGS IN THE NEWSPAPER. The Consul General of Venezuela recently hosted an economic summit in Aruba, with that country’s new MinEcon in attendance. Jesus Geerman Faria Tortosa suffered 4 months from hell on the job, since he was nominated to run that failing economy. So he came to Aruba to meet the local business community for powwows at the Holiday Inn to so-called ask them to invest in Venezuela. You gotta give this guy a 10 for chutzpah, shameless audacity, for coming here and soliciting business for an anti-business regime.

It felt like a networking opportunity, says Frederick Nuboer, who was in the room, I don’t think he seriously thought we would drop everything and run to the Republica Bolivariana to invest. The room was filled with Venezuelan entrepreneurs who wish to establish here, and that was a platform where they could rub shoulders with our local MinEcon and MinLabor, who were guests on the conference. Then Nuboer, asked Jesus to show him the money. Apparently, Venezuela is holding 28 or 29 million dollars of his company money hostage, money which belongs to InselAir, from ticket sales in Venezuela before 2015. Jesus couldn’t perform the miracle of the cash, all he could say was that the government is working on that challenge, and while they are liberalizing some industries, aviation is excluded. It is good to note that effective 2015, Insel Air was allowed to sell its tickets in Venezuela, in dollars, but the money from prior sales is stuck. Then a feisty member of the audience got up, and admitted she was breaking the law every day, importing goods from Venezuela, and that she was tired of the red tape and the ridiculousness of the process. Dear Readers: You should understand that more than 2 decades ago, Venezuela enforced a “Venezuela for Venezuelans policy,” since the country was not producing enough goods, an anti-export policy was introduced. That anti-export policy is now being somewhat modified because Venezuela is seeking alternative sources of income. All because of what? Because the oil industry tanked. I have to say that I admire Nuboer for his considerable cool and restraint. If someone’d be holding MY 28 or 29 million dollars hostage, I would be throwing my shoes at them.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALEX NIEUMEYER. Alex invited a small group on friends to an intimate dinner party to celebrate the 25thanniversary of his 40th birthday. You do the math. Then also take my word for it, no one, but no one, orchestrates parties like Alex Nieuwmeyer does. The man has a gift, he thinks about every little detail from décor and food presentation to location, ambiance and entertainment. He paces his parties to last, and last week we were all thrilled to celebrate with guests and family members from 6:30pm to past midnight, on a beach, toes in the sand, over fantastic food and wine, and I arrived home safe and content. Which reminded me that at the onset of my Diario columnist career, I wrote about the just-arrived Alex. So I dug up the newspaper clipping. And this is what I wrote in April 1994, I titled the blurb HOPE: “Alex Nieuwmeyer, the new managing director of Doral Hotels in Aruba will be introduced as a top gun. While previous management was plagued by conflict, Operations VS Finance, the new jefe is an insider coming from the prestigious Doral Park Avenue hotel in NY. Our sources insist that Alex will run both finance and operations with Thor Loberg managing Divi, Tim Wolf running Tamarijn and Joe Artesch just counting beans. Alex is a highly respected hotelier having made it in NY (If you can make it there, you make it anywhere…) Divi staff members who have continuously voiced disillusionment with the company’s management style, are looking forward to change. A new boss, with a reputation of being a good guy, might just make good things happen again.” That was 22 years ago, we totally forgot, Thor, Tim, and Joe, but Alex continues to create his legacy!

If you are curious about the party menu, here we go: Duck & Foie Gras with raspberry balsamic sauce, Lobster Bisque with scallops and shrimp, then for main course at the end of the stellar entertainment, Dry Age Tenderloin, New Zeeland Rack of Lamb, Jumbo Shrimp, Smoked Beef Brisket, and most importantly Red Velvet birthday cake and petit fours for dessert. Thank you Chef Paul Zijlstra, for feeding us so well.

THE INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL OF ARUBA CLASS OF 2016. I enjoyed graduation, the 32nd annual commencement ceremony at the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino with nineteen graduates who are all heading out to colleges and universities around the globe. Such as bunch of great kids, all accomplished, eloquent and fun to be with. They all sound and look so adult, but I still remember Amanda Westrate, jumping in and out of the water at the Sheraton pool while we were doing aquarobics with her mom. I have the same random images involving small spunky kids, when it comes to the charismatic Raymond Henri Maduro, or the still-water-run-deep Dylan Guest. They were rug rats, but they’ve grown and bloomed.

Needless to say that the ISA community owes a debt of gratitude to John Douglas, for coming through year after year, and helping produce a crop of well-ground and well-rounded graduates each time. What I really appreciate about the school is its sense of community and the involvement of the parents, and the involvement of the parents’ friends, and all related family members. Somehow ISA manages to instill a community spirit, also getting the once-removed members sucked in, to help support the faculty and the kids. They spend money, they show up, they care about the curriculum and its needs, and it’s been like that since 1929. I remember being a super involved parent to a student at ISA, it was great for me, and it was good for the school. Why can’t the SKOA, SMOA or whatever other school system foster that involvement and care in the local schools? Just asking.

FISHERMAN’S MARKET AT RENAISSANCE. It was a pop up operation, there for the night, gone tomorrow, but you could see it was a lot of work to set up. The former Carpe Diem deck was laid out with different interactive food stations, offering fresh a la minute seafood specialties such as Fish Tacos, Fish Fritters, Hand Rolled Sushi, Fish Brochettes, Dutch Smoked Herring, Peruvian Fish Soup, Garlic Shrimp, with the new executive chef Maximilian, right in the trenches with his culinary brigade, cooking exhibition-style.

New Food & Beverage Manager, Sergio Pereira, here since the beginning of the year, oversaw the action, I think he was pleased with the performance of his department, yet underwhelmed by the number of people served. The Renaissance prepared for a larger crowd, but I guess there was a lot happening in Aruba on Friday, and many did not make it. Those who were not there missed a unique and local experience.

Back to Pereira, this man has been around the world a number of times, having worked EVERYWHERE between Dubai, and Argentina, true to a Rolling Stone philosophy by which he spends two to three years at a destination, learns everything about the culture and the food, then moves on with his lovely Chilean wife Paola, and two adorable kids. You got it; he is dynamic, full of ideas, and handsome, having been born in Portugal which he left at 18, no regrets. He now only goes back to visit!

I found this in an F&B publications, it sums it up nicely: “Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino is proud to announce the appointment of Sergio Pereira as the new director of beverage & food. In his new role, Pereira will be spearheading the resort’s effort in revamping restaurant menus at Papagayo Bar & Grill, Aquaris, BLUE, L.G Smith’s Steak & Chop House, The Lounge Midnight Grill, Sole and Captain’s Corner, as well as adding new refined and modern dining options to highlight the resort’s elevated offerings. Pereira brings more than 20 years of experience in various markets including the United States of America, Europe, Africa, South America and the Middle East. Looking to utilize his past cruise and hotel hospitality experiences, Pereira will introduce new worldly flavors and practices that will align and elevate the Renaissance brand. Pereira will highlight a wide range of enticing cuisines from delicate tapas served at BLUE to Aruban island soul food made available at the Papagayo Bar & Grill.

“A new dessert menu will be featured in the L.G. Smith’s Steak & Chop House to bring out a true Americana, steakhouse feel, while new mixology classes and a revamped cocktail menu help evoke Aruba’s island spirit infused with flavors from around the world. One common theme woven throughout all menus is the emphasis made on fresh ingredients, an initiative that Pereira views as essential to the success of Renaissance Aruba’s new culinary collection. With plans for a new meat-cuttery and pool front champagne bar, the resort looks forward to welcoming guests, returning and new, to experience the new taste of Renaissance Aruba.”

I am excited, in view of the fact that he promised me I will be the official “Mediterranean Taster,” when the time comes to roll out everything he learned in Jordan! PS. Sergio met Executive Chef Maximilian in Dubai where they worked together!

THE BIG GUNS. I enjoyed watching Aruba’s tourism pioneers, Harold Malmberg and Eduardo de Veer on TV. Both advocated a timeout and an opportunity for an independent study regarding the suggested change in the law of hotel licensing. I remember a poster in Harold’s old office, depicting a local fisherman and his grandson, the poster had a caption: The quiet voice of experience. I really like that saying, it reflects the authority, and credibility these two men have in our community, having successfully navigated the precarious previous four or five decades at the helm of their companies.

I liked the point Eduardo made about his company’s participation in the economy, over 20 million in water and electricity, over 20 millions in the purchase of supplies locally, and over 50 millions in wages and benefits. He is an excellent politician and he lined up all stakeholder, the MinFin, Central Bank, and ATIA, among others, stating we’re all in agreement that an independent study is required. It was an excellent strategy to show we’re all on the same page. We’re not polarized; we’re all united in favor of fact-based decision-making, rejecting decisions made based on notions. He also made a good point about the impossibility of changing the rules mid-game. Having made the investment, as the permits were granted, a change in the business-model cannot be enforced.

I liked some of the points Harold made. He pointed out that 30 years ago, we were all building timeshare resorts, and now the demand is smaller, demonstrating the capricious nature of the business and the need to go with the flow and provide the client with what he wants to buy, not just what we want to sell. He also talked about the density on Palm Beach, with many dozens of restaurants within walking distance, which has taken the taxis out of the equation. He pointed out to the many segment of the market, water sports, car rentals, restaurants, vacation rentals, condos, none of them regulated, and questioned the urgency to all of a sudden regulate all inclusive resorts.

Eduardo might have made that point, but never mind, they were both excellent ambassadors of the local tourist industry, they spoke well, and I hope Aruba listened.

The video production, granted, it was a rush job, showcased our lovely island and all that is gorgeous and right about it.

I don’t know why the serenity prayer just came into my mind but it did: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

TIRE BURNOUT IN ARASHI. We went to the Arashi Beach last Sunday, soaked up the last rays of the overcast sun and realized the sunset was cancelled. Sahara dust was in the air, but we had a good time nevertheless, except for the motorcycles which wouldn’t give us a break, they went around the parking lot all afternoon, gunning their engines and screeching their tires, gunning their engines and screeching their tires. Give me a break! By 8:30pm we folded our beach-chairs and were prepared to go home, when some souped up cars took their departure burning tires, and leaving long squiggly rubber marks behind.  I checked Wikipedia:  Burnout is the practice of keeping a vehicle stationary and spinning its wheels, causing the tires to heat up and smoke due to friction. That’s it, so imaging Arashi Beach on a Sunday night with these morons behind wheels. Gotta talk to Bert Kelkboom, the operator of the Arashi kiosk, to keep his noisy, polluting friends away, or to tell them to behave!

CUSTOMER DISCO PARTY AT THE MARRIOTT. Once or twice a year we graciously allow the Marriott Sales & Marketing team to show us how important we are as clients at an always over-the-top Customer Appreciation party where they pull out all the stops, to delight and entertain us.

Last Friday was no different, so we dolled up for a disco party at the Grand Ballroom. The members of the welcome committee at the red carpet, Stacey, Sonam, Shareska, Carolina and Aisling, Tom, Christine, Carl Ludwig, and Joerg, wore their glittering disco duds with great ease and conviction; Chef Romeo, and Chef Garcia showed up as themselves.

The ballroom was set up with two stages. DJ Edson Tromp spun disco classics from a psychedelic stage at the beginning of the evening, then we moved to the other end of the room when NBO against an ever-changing graphic backdrop provided enhanced music, with flashing lights.

The surprise at the end of the evening was talented duo Jeon & Ataniro, singing Culpami!

If you did not get an invitation, this is what you missed: Incredibly tasty and varied dishes from Goat Stew, to Chicken Curry and Beef Stroganoff, over rice, served to order, in half coconut shells. The most amazing fusion and classic sushi rolls, as far as the eye could see. A boat of chilled shrimp and crab claws, ceviche, several kinds, marinated seared tuna, an endless international cheese display, and sinful mini sliders, with  a variety of sauces, wall to wall petit fours, and dainty desserts, what did I forget? Sure, open bar with Cosmopolitans and craft cocktails.

I had a Holy Water martini. Holy Molly.

All costumed gentlemen party-goers looked like a cross between John Travolta, Donna Summer and Bobby Farrell, all ladies gave Gloria Gaynor a run for her money!

First prize winner Frank Dirksen & his wife, struck a genuine 70s tableau; Second prize winner Angelo Trimon and his groupies, stepped right out of the Studio 54; Lex de Jong, Desiree Cordose & Mirushka Trimon, had it all, the big Afros, the diamond-studded shades, the shimmering tops and bell-bottom pants!

And then they played Written in the Stone, by Earth Wind & Fire, and as we were all taught by DJ Ruben Garcia, this was the last song of the night!

FAMILY PRACTICE. I have been a patient of dentist Marcel Ho Kang You for umpteen years, and I smoothly transitioned to become the patient of his lovely daughter Dentist Marielle Ho Kang You. It must really feel great to raise your own successor, successfully, as is the case with the charming father & daughter duo. The fact that AZV sent a letter around that dad is no longer under contract doesn’t mean that he is retired. He did not go anywhere, he is still working, business as usual, and the clinic is still covered by AZV, and other insurance companies, ready to accept old and new patients. Besides Marcel and Marielle, the newest team member is Lindsey Tromp.  She studied dentistry in Nijmegen, just like the Ho Kang Yous, and she already worked in the Netherlands for five years. The service at the clinic has always been top notch, and the Ho Kang Yous keep up with innovations and new techniques. The only thing that never changes is the address. They have been on the same street for 41 years!

TALKING ABOUT TAXI DRIVERS. The way I see it, driving a taxi is a kind of concession, granted by the government. The taxi permit issued by the MinTransport should give the licensee permission to operate the cab during his 8 hour shift and then, he may get another driver to cover the other 8 hour shift. That makes the use of the cab more efficient, and definitely more profitable.

And if the licensee retires, I see no reason why not to allow another family member to step in.

So definitely, this time I am on the taxi drivers’ side, and they are right to protest against the new regulation change which dictates that once you retire or can no longer drive the cab, you lose your taxi permit.

Why can’t the concession to drive a cab be hereditary?

A kind of family business?!

If you fulfill all requirements, why not?

I need to hear a good argument in favor of revocation of taxi permits.

Except the obvious one: Granting the now available permit to a crony or a cousin.

And while we’re talking about taxi service on the island. You guys need meters, so you could properly charge for the ride and give a receipt. At this day and age, a cash business which doesn’t print receipts is not acceptable.

Att MinFin: That cash cow must be regulated; taxis should be able to print receipts.

And you don’t just need meters that print receipts you also need credit card machines so we can swipe our cards for payment.

And you also need to be presentable on the job. Some of the old timers still look like slobs!

Ok, the clean part you got alright. All Aruba’s taxi cabs are spic and span. But what’s with the air fresheners, they make me sneeze, please cease and desist.

One more thing Mi Compromiso: I saw you can now sign up for the course for Awg 95 per person, nine sessions over three weeks, I would build it into the taxi permit, you cannot drive visitors around unless you graduated that government sponsored program, which teaches about : Tourism, Sustainability, the History of Aruba, the basics for Excellent Service, the basics for Excellent Communication, and an attitude adjustment to a winning one.

A TOASTER SAGA. On March 31st I bought a toaster at Unicon, Awg 60. I have never used it, I guess we don’t eat bread any more, or perhaps we don’t toast it. Then when I tried to use it two weeks ago, it was dead as a door nail. Kaput. I took it back to Unicon and they told me they can’t do anything for me without the receipt. So I bought a new replacement toaster AND took the faulty one home, vowing to one day look for the receipt. That day came Friday. I found the papelito, and took it with the kaput toaster back to Unicon. AHA, said the salesman, not so fast kiddo, we can’t do anything for you ‘cause the warranty is only good for one month, and you bought it here two months ago. What can I say? Why is the consumer always wrong?? Mr. Unicon gave me false hopes when he sent me home to find the receipt. I really wanted to get my money back. He should have told me he doesn’t guarantee his small appliances, then I wouldn’t have bothered!

A press release by Rainbow Warriors International

Restart of Aruba refinery by CITGO Petroleum will tarnish the reputation of the Kingdom of The Netherlands and Aruba in the areas of human rights, integrity and sustainable development in Small Island Developing States

 ARUBA-9 June 2016

The refinery in Aruba which until 2012 had been operated by Valero Corporation of San Antonio, TX (NYSE: VLO) has been for sale and the Government of Aruba has been in negotiations with CITGO Petroleum, a subsidiary of PDVSA to restart the refinery.

According to the Government of Aruba the final agreement is to be signed on Friday, June 10, 2016, in Caracas, Venezuela with officials of PDVSA, CITGO and the Venezuelan government attending.

When the Government of Aruba, PDVSA and CITGO sign the final agreement, it will be without the prior approval of the Staten of Aruba, the legislative body of Aruba.

With the signing of this agreement a long and non-transparent process will come to an end, which has been marred by contradictions in terms of conditions to be made applicable to the operations by the refinery plant by CITGO.

First and foremost there is the obvious and well-documented precarious financial position of CITGO Petroleum and its parent company Petroleos de Venezuela, PDVSA.

Sources close to the financial markets are speculating that the agreement to be signed with the Government of Aruba may be used as collateral to obtain a much needed restart loan to jump start the continuity of operations of CITGO and its parent PDVSA

Such an injection of fresh cash would secure ongoing operations and the restructuring of the Venezuelan state controlled petroleum industry to ensure the generation of revenues to avoid a default in the payment of government issued bonds in Venezuela that will mature in the second half of this year

The agreement negotiations were fraught with inconsistencies, delays, and concealment of vital details to the general public, the legislative body of Aruba and stakeholders requesting and or demanding more clarity on the ramifications of the agreement.

The environmental NGOs in Aruba, Rainbow Warriors Core Foundation, and  the Aruba Marine Mammal Foundation and the two natural health and sustainable agriculture organizations Fundacion Centro Ecologico Aruba and Natural Care Aruba Foundation have vehemently opposed and condemned the negotiations and agreements.

PDVSA, embroiled in a long dispute with local Government authorities, and attacks by civil society organizations in Curacao for its apparent unwillingness to comply with more stringent environmental conditions for the operations of its Curacao Isla refinery has a dismal regional and national track record of environmental regulations compliance, in particular with regard to clean-ups after spills.

The environmental NGOs in Aruba, express their grave concerns, that in the absence of a framework Aruban environmental law, that regulates liability for environmental damages, the use of environmental impact assessments and compliance with international treaties for the use, transport and disposal of chemical, toxic and hazardous wastes, CITGO will be given an easy and very sweet deal, which will severely limit its environmental obligations,

In addition the signing of the agreement in itself will fly in the face of the carefully crafted image of Aruba as a vanguard Small Island Developing State on the cusp of the transition to an island fully independent of fossil fuels and with a 100% renewable energy base for electric power generation by 2020.

This image of Aruba, popularly known as Green Aruba , has been designed by  enlisting the likes of Al Gore, Richard Branson and the Carbon War Room, and more than two dozen research institutes and universities spanning three continents, including Harvard, and American Universities in Arizona, Maryland, DC, South Carolina, Florida and New York .

And even Vice-president Biden recently posed at a photo op during the Caribbean Energy Summit with Minister of Energy of Aruba, Mike de Meza.

See: http://caribjournal.com/2016/05/05/joe-bidens-caribbean-energy-summit/.

The problem with this saccharine imagery of Aruba as a key player in renewable energy is twofold.

First there is the court case in Houston for corruption against Venezuelan national Roberto Enrique Rincon Fernandez for an alleged 1 billion dollars in bribes paid through his Tradequip company and related holdings in the USA.

See: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-usa-corruption-idUSKCN0US2CK20160114

Rincon has been indicated by the Dutch language daily newspaper Amigoe in Aruba as the central figure in brokering the negotiations between CITGO,  PDVSA and the Government in Aruba by paving the way to all parties to meet at the negotiation table.

Rincon Fernandez,  on several occasions provided the use of his private jet to transport Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios back and forth to Aruba.

Carvajal Barrios, detained in Aruba, based on an international warrant for arrest was later let go at the instruction of the Dutch Government in The Hague.

Both Carvajal Barrios and Rincon Fernandez have holdings and properties and business associates in Aruba.

See: http://www.insightcrime.org/news-briefs/capture-ex-intelligence-chief-highlights-venezuela-military-org-crime-ties

See also: China, Oil and Cocaine-Shadow Play in Aruba

http://www.tenacitas-intl.com/news-post-7/

To make matters even worse, Aruba has been at center stage for the wheelings and dealings of corruption stemming from the Venezuelan mainland as indicated in a Venezuelan Panama Papers revelation about the Venezuelan offshore bank in Aruba, BBA Bank, owned by the Castillo Bozo brothers.

See:

http://panamapapersvenezuela.com/los-hermanos-castillo-bozo-la-reconversion-caribena-del-grupo-banvalor/

and

http://www.canalntn24.com/noticia/papeles-de-panama-los-banqueros-que-crearon-empresas-fantasmas-con-dinero-de-pdvsa-96522

During the VII Summit of the Association of Caribbean States, held in Havana, Cuba, June 2-4, 2016 Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands and Prime Minister Mike Eman of Aruba were In attendance, both representing the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Prime Minister Eman sat next to Nicolas Maduro in at least one session (see photos at the European Press Agency,http://www.epa.eu).

According to press statements made in Aruba, Eman met with Maduro and discussed the final details of the lease agreements to be signed by PDVSA/CITGO.

Neither Rutte nor Eman broached the subject of human rights in Venezuela, as it seems these took a back seat to vested oil interests, which are rumored to include those of the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell.

The final agreement to be signed in Caracas, June 10, 2016 will set the stage for continuing non-transparent dealings of Venezuelan, Aruban and Dutch Government officials at the expense of the island of Aruba, its environment, and the reputation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in both integrity and environmental issues.

But it can also be argued at the expense of the citizens of Venezuela, who, massively voted for change by assigning an overwhelming majority of seats in the Venezuelan legislative body to the Venezuelan opposition parties after a 16 year majority rule by Chavista socialist cadres..

Rainbow Warriors Core Foundation, together with 124 other international organizations issued a global statement calling for the revoking of the State of Exception and Emergency Decree in Venezuela.

See:

https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/06/06/venezuela-should-revoke-emergency-decree

It is now evidently clear that human rights in the Kingdom of the Netherlands are a secondary issue only to be used when oil and gas interests are not at stake.

By allowing the agreement to be signed in Aruba the Kingdom of the Netherlands is clearly showing a disregard for basic human rights policies in the international arena and for this reason alone The Netherlands should not be elected to take up the seat corresponding to the Western European and Others Group for the 2017-2018 period in the UN Security Council in  the upcoming June 28 elections (See: http://www.nlinunsc.nl).

Either Sweden or Italy can be considered a more suitable candidate for the available seat in the UN Security Council.

Milton Ponson, president

Rainbow Warriors Core Foundation

core_rainbowwarriors@yahoo.com

Tel: +297 568 5908

The day the music died. No writing today, I am on strike, I am protecting the picture I posted on my FB page of the man representing Aruba, our so-called MinPres, who doesn’t represent me at all, meeting with a disgrace of a politician, and a buffoon of a president, an ignorant bully who contributed to the economic ruin of one of the world’s richest countries, delivering immense hardship to his fun-loving people. The muses are quiet today, they are speechless.