It Would Drive You Bananas
Dragging what is laughingly called a hand of bananas down to the house, risking not only a hernia but also indelible latex stains on a clean top from the freshly cut stem I asked myself what else I expected….I had, after all, come to live in a banana republic.

And I can imagine that when I honk on about Costa Rican politics on this blog there are those who might well ask what else I had expected when moving to a banana republic with my eyes wide open.

I have to say that nothing so far has come as too much of a shock…but then before moving here I had had a masterclass in the mores of banana republics: I had lived in la belle France for over twenty years, under the reigns of Mitterand, Chirac and Sarkozy – and my friends in France keep me up to date on the doings of the latest incumbent, the Lesser Helmeted Hollandouille.

Now, while I suspect that years of contagion from the European Union has rendered the U.K. just about as corrupt as France, when I crossed the channel the process of turning a crafty private penny from public resources was in its infancy, so France came as quite a surprise.

Didier, done for having a defective rear light on his farm trailer, went to see an insurance agent who was the fixer for the local senator.
Didier undone for having a defective rear light on his farm trailer.

A neighbour’s son had lost points on his licence after driving under the influence and being tactless enough to run his car into the ditch in the presence of a gendarmerie van.
His father went to see someone at the court bearing an envelope and the points loss, awarded in court, never appeared on his record.

A maire managed, by the use of several shell companies, to buy a building belonging to his commune for a price below that offered the commune by a private buyer.

A retired senator had borrowed an enormous amount of money from the regional Credit Agricole bank, to finance the acquisition of property on the Cote d’Azur and the Ile de Re – neither area known for property bargains.
By way of security he offered some bonds…which were kept in his own safe deposit box at the local branch until the day when he walked in and removed them without a word being said on the part of the bank.

Mitterand brought about the process of decentralisation of government…by which more faces could be brought to feed at the publicly funded trough….and later Presidents extended the process, or trough, as often as needed.

But should one trough not suffice you could feed from several.

As maire of your commune, town or city you drew money related to the number of citizens you ‘represented’.
But you could also be a departmental councillor…for more dosh….and a member of the National Assembly for even more dosh and until relatively recently you could be paid for all these at the same time, and, in addition have an expenses allowance which was never checked….let alone an allowance for staff which enabled you to pay your wife for polishing her nails…and in some cases an official residence and a chauffeur driven car.

Needless to say, the egos became inflated.
The top dogs and their families were untouchable.

A chap whose car was damaged by Sarkozy’s son’s scooter found that a simple insurance job landed him with being accused of making a malicious prosecution….and he narrowly escaped a two thousand euro fine…; the Sarkozy family lawyer had even ‘phoned the chap’s insurance company to extract information by pretending to be the chap’s own lawyer.

But the top dogs fall out….usually at a handover of power, when the appointments made by Party A are joyously unmade by Party B and party A’s henchmen scramble for the seats on the magic roundabout of the well connected in France – the jobs in business which are at the disposal of the temporarily dispossessed party.

And it can prove nasty…..and is proving nasty for ex-President Sarkozy.

Escaping from charges of taking financial advantage of a senile old bat who was heir to the Oreal fortune, he applied to have his diaries, which were seized during the investigation, returned to him as he was worried that they might be used in other investigations involving him….a state pay out to a well known financial crook, and two little problems of campaign financing from dubious sources….one Pakistani and one Libyan.

He was quite hopeful…he had inside help at the court.
A well placed judge who thought he could talk his colleagues into seeing things the Sarkozy way in return for Sarkozy’s help in getting him a well paid retirement job in Monaco.
His lawyer thought it was a done deal…unless, as he said, they took a decision based on the law…

He was not only hopeful, he was cautious.
Suspecting, rightly, that his ‘phones were tapped, he got his lawyer to buy a mobile ‘pone in an assumed name – not so easy in France where they seem to want ID to go to the loo let alone buy a ‘phone – but no obstacle for this lawyer…the same who impersonated an opponent’s lawyer in the Sarkozy scooter case.

Unfortunately though, the judge investigating his little problems got wind of the mobile ‘phone and had that tapped too with the result that he now faces further charges of perverting the course of justice…..and the chase is on for the ‘sleepers’ he left in place when he left office.

So when, in Costa Rica, I hear that the candidate who wasn’t a candidate has become a candidate again…or that ballot papers for the second round of the Presidential election have been found in the street….that the warehouse where they were stored is owned by a company whose boss is a second cousin once removed of the President of the Election Tribunal, under a contract which does not meet standards of government transparency and which obliges the Election Tribunal to pay for all the services available at the warehouse in addition to the rent….I am not surprised.
Nor am I surprised when a Vice President of the Election Tribunal says that the newspaper which published the details should be sued.

I just think:

How French.


59 thoughts on “It Would Drive You Bananas”

  1. Oh it all sounds so familiar. The power of politicians, raking in money from all directions. Just like our esteemed PM, always making sure that big contracts for redevelopment go to his family. So I can see why nothing in CR surprises you in the least. France prepared you well.

          1. I don’t Tweet. Well, I have Twitter accounts in my name and the dog’s of course, (he was more popular than me). But I think it encourages mindless drivel so therefore banning it doesn’t strike me as being a bad idea. Maybe ban Facebook next?

            I take your point though when I’ve stopped being flippant about mindless social media (although I actually did learn a few things from FaceBook back in the days when I still bothered with it).

  2. The worms are really coming out of the woodwork here at the moment, and there are so many skeletons let out of the cupboard you can hear the rattling! πŸ™‚

    1. Hollande’s campaign against the UMP and Sarkozy in particular is bearing fruit……but poisoned fruit in that people are now asking what he and the PS have been up to which we are not hearing about.

  3. I had no idea things were so corrupt in France. I suppose there is corruption in every country, but what you have described seems like a way of life rather than an exception to the rule. You might still be facing corruption in Costa Rica, but at least you have warm weather and fresh bananas. πŸ™‚

    1. France came as a profound shock to me, I can tell you!
      And apart from the corruption there is the control freakery….I wanted to put surplus fruit outside for passers by to collect – as I did in England.
      No…you could not do that as the value of the fruit would have to be taxed…and there is always an informer….
      I do feel far more free in Costa Rica…despite the old Spanish customs!

  4. Oh GOD, how I love your sarcasm and your ability to paint a picture so succinct and easy to follow… Since I don’t read or listen to the news here I had no idea this crap was going on… but I’ve been here long enough to recognize the reality and love the fact of it’s transparency! Thanks again for your posts! Always entertaining and insightful.

  5. I’m sure every country has its share of back-door deals and shady politics. Makes good people avoid politics, wanting nothing to do with that arena. That leaves us with the power-hungry politicians, and thus the shadiness perpetuates even more.

    1. I’m sure they do…but good people avoiding the taint of politics isn’t the answer.
      We have to break the stranglehold of the party system to get anywhere…have a bit of confidence in ourselves and those we know to be good, honest people and give them a chance to change things.

      What interests me is how some countries are automatically labelled as corrupt while others, equally or more so, escape the label.

      1. Yes, definitely a double standard. And I agree–we want the good folks in politics. Seems when we finally do get them in office, people give them resistance if they don’t like what they’re proposing, and come the next election, they’re out again!

        1. Not so much people, but vested interests behind people….smear campaigns, misinformation – the lot.
          We seem to cut current politicians a lot of slack…but jump on the man trying to make things work – but look behind the facade and you’ll find, I think, that ‘we’ aren’t doing any of this.
          Those in power and meaning to keep it that way invest heavily in the social networks to slant things their way and we have to look behind this, to check facts ourselves and kick up when facts are mysteriously not available.
          We have to do a bit of work…or the next generation will really be down the tubes…

  6. You know, Helen, I thought of several things to say and then cruised down some of the comments and your reply and came away with this. Government corruption is cliche and that’s the most sorrowful thing. An oxymoronic cliche. Are we ever going to hear anything positive about any government, that’d would be believable that is? Wishing you and yours, in banana land, a good weekend.

    1. I’m hoping it will be! I have the men here picking the limon mandarina crop at the moment so it’s non stop between the coffee pot and the weighing machine!

      To hear anything positive and believable about a government we are going to have to change the way we are governed….
      Our ancestors did it – at a terrible cost – and we can do it again, but only if we are prepared to believe in ourselves – and take care to keep our powder dry.

      1. It could happen. My faith in what “we’re” capable of achieving has been renewed this past week with my hubby and I beginning a new volunteer gig at a free legal/medical clinic fairly near to where we live. A lot of good people in the community have come together to service close to 200 under-served/week. It’s an all volunteer effort, doctors, lawyers, well educated leaders running the show/on the board. It could happen. John Lennon doesn’t have to be the only dreamer.

        1. That’s what is needed…people to take over responsibilities that government have abandoned…and those people to help people less well qualified to take more control of their own lives.
          You don’t need a degree to smell horse shit….but you need a bit of help to know what to do about it.
          Well done you two!

  7. Your posts are good but they are also utterly depressing.
    I think I need to stick my head in the sand for a bit.

    I used to work for an international trade secretariat – even that was politics. Maybe without the blatant corruption, but still political skullduggery. The idealist coming in on the ground floor soon learned to do the dance.

    Power always corrupts, but it don’t half feel exhilarating.

    1. Of course it is exhilarating….so is the skulduggery!
      I remember preparing composite motions for conferences….some of my colleagues made Machaivelli look an amateur!

      But look again at one of Sarkozy’s little peccadillos….

      He was campaign manager for a Presidential hopeful, Edouard Balladur, who had promised that he would not run against Chirac and then changed his mind.
      As part of his campaign funding it was arranged for a hefty bribe to be paid to persons in Pakistan – ostensibly to facilitate the sale of French submarines – which would then be returned in part to assist Balladur.

      Well, he lost – and Chirac, now President of France, refused to authorise the bribe.
      The upshot?

      The disappointed Pakistanis blew up a bus carrying French engineers who were to commission the vessels.
      To this day the families have been blocked from finding out the truth….
      It’s not something we can shrug our shoulders in despair about…these dirty finances cost lives.

    1. The party system which has effectively excluded truly independent candidates at all levels…..we really do have to encourage decent people to stand, and to support them by doing the old fashioned stuff…door to door, talking to people….and the new fashioned stuff too…social media.
      Interesting what is happening in france currently – the disgust with the PS and the UMP…but what do people do? Run to another party…the FN!
      I see that you can’t write people in on the ticket for the local elections any more, either….you have to vote for those on the varying lists…

  8. With a general election due here in 14 months the next year should be interesting for more than just the politics. Every day we hear about some politician who has tried to bend the rules.

  9. I had no idea there was so much corruption in France, but I suppose it’s the norm in just about every country nowadays. Certainly as you suggest the UK is getting more corrupt. Since access to postal votes was made easier, there have been numerous tales of fraudulent voting. And more and more government contracts seem to go to private companies with shadowy links to ministers.

    1. I used to get quite a lot of flak from the ‘living the dreamers’ when I wrote about the underbelly of France in a previous blog…but not from anyone French!
      I’m aware of the problems of self appointed community leaders and postal voting in the U.K. and for not so shadowy links just look at the Mayor of London, the so called eco taxis and Tim Yeo.

      And to think we considered Reginald Maudling to be beyond the pale!

  10. questo Γ¨ molto sottile ed ironico…ma fa anche molto riflettere, infondo banane o no, il mondo ormai sembra del tutto uguale…purtroppo

    This is very subtle and ironic … but also really makes you think,
    bananas or not, the world now seems quite the same … Unfortunately

  11. I think that we, the people, know all too well…but we don’t really know how we can change things and I don’t have an answer…except find solidarity again and support honest people.

  12. A bit behind with reading and commenting, Helen but I find I am quite speechless after reading this. Your writing is, as ever, perfectly pitched and razor-sharp. But what you describe is just so incredibly depressing, outrageous and unacceptable. My husband spends his days ranting about such things and I often tune out because I am busy with the daily things and it’s all too ‘hard’….but I agree with (both of) you that we shouldn’t lie down and take it, nor keep quiet and accept it. And we should seek out like-minded folk and keep rumbling. Thank you for rumbling this way. Axxx

    1. As all Costa Rica’s volcanoes are rumbling at the moment I can only think that they agree with us….I wouldn’t mind resurrecting ancient practice and throwing a few sacrifices into their maw, but not innocent girls – politicians and the financiers who control them…not forgetting Rupert Murdoch.

  13. Are you sure Costa Rica isn’t a covert DOM-TOM, Helen? At least you can’t have been too shocked at the electoral shenanigans after 20-odd years in France.

    1. Costa Rican law has been heavily influenced by that of France……so I’m not too surprised by the similarities in political culture….there are times it almost seems honest!

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