Election Fever and Marriage a la Mode

CR presidential candidates

Election time in Costa Rica!

On Sunday people will be voting to send deputies to the National Assembly and electing a President.

There is plenty of choice…thirteen candidates….and no real way of knowing how people will vote on the day.  The polls show that an increasing number of those who intend to vote are not at all sure for whom to vote…..though there is a suspicion that those who intend to vote Liberation are afraid to say so, linked as that party is to institutionalised corruption, but will vote green and white, the party colours, once in the privacy of the booth.

Liberation’s candidate, despite being a front man for the Oscar Arias tendency – think mining concessions in protected areas – claims to be ‘a man of the people’. Well, given that his family let out offices to government institutions on the grand scale I suppose he is a man of the people who let out tower blocks…

The defeated Liberation candidate, an ex President who thought it wise to sit things out in Switzerland for several years after his term of office ended, obviously felt sour as he has been financing a noisy demagogue from a tiny party made up for the elections who wants to rule with a firm hand and is notable for announcing that female judges could only get advancement by giving senior male judges oral sex.

An indignant retort from senior female judges rebutted his claim but, as has been noted, only in respect of oral sex….no all embracing rebuttal has been forthcoming.

Then we have the evangelical whose wife speaks in tongues…the video on Facebook has been removed but not before it had gone viral…and a horde of more mainstream candidates.

No Screaming Lord Sutch for Costa Rica.

The local internet groups have been infested by paid ads from those wishing to represent local people in the National Assembly…an ex mayor proclaims that it is time for a native son to represent the canton, forgetting that people have far from fond memories of his mismanagement of its affairs when in power.

What has he done for the canton? Filled in the holes in the athletic track, apparently. So that’s where all our taxes went…

Another bright spark is using the slogan which brought the retiring President to power  – despite representing a rival party – in the hope that people will think it is more of the same….

And the omnipresent candidate for Liberation is promising water for all.

Water is a sore subject here. Thanks to dire mismanagement and neglect there is a water shortage, incredible as it may seem in an area alive with springs and rivers. So we have been treated to photographs of said candidate standing in front of waterfalls and crouching in front of water tanks…when asked on a ‘phone in exactly how he intended to provide water for all he said he would have to study the question with the Water Board, the very people responsible for the mess up….

But people here have other things on their minds…that public nuisance The Neighbour, he of the crisp white hat with the curly brim, has surfaced again.

He had been quiet, not to speak of invisible, for quite some time, given his problems with the various local Mr. Bigs  after losing their money in a casino, but he has emerged to public view once more…on the arm of a lady in her thirties who had consented to marry him.

To general astonishment as she is

A, half his age and

B, generally held to be in possession of her senses.

He had been seen a couple of times, driving round the Three Valleys in her company, but he had installed himself in her comfortable house on the other side of the town while waiting for the ceremony, following which, totally pie eyed and full of himself, he brought her on another tour to introduce her to those who were still on speaking terms with him.

A distinct failure of judgement on his part as she thus learned that the farms he had pointed out to her as being his were, in fact, those of the people whom they were visiting…

It is possible that the atmosphere had chilled somewhat after that, but The Neighbour, of course, had to excel himself.

A couple of days later he was eating the dinner she had prepared when he took a telephone call on his mobile from one of his barfly friends.

Yes, he bawled, he was set up for life now! It was like  having a free pass to a brothel with the food thrown in….

The food might have been thrown in, but The Neighbour was thrown out, on the spot, on his ear and his possessions thrown after him.

The marriage lasted five days.

The lady is breathing fire and loaded for bear.

Much more exciting than some bald bugger crouching in front of a water tank…!

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Feet of Cement

cementazo

An earthquake of 6.5 shook the country recently.

We had had an early night as we had a crack of dawn start for a hosital appointment the next day but had hardly settled down before the dogs started yodelling. We thought they must have heard the coyotes who have been roaming the mountain behind us for a couple of weeks now but then they fell quiet as the house began to sway back and forth. It was like lying on a jelly.

It lasted a few minutes only and we had no damage. Friends have told us that the danger comes when the action is percussive and we did experience one of those in the original house down below…it was like a hammer drill doing its worst, but luckily, as the epicentre was only ten kilometres away, it was deep, at seventy five kilometres down, unlike the latest one whose epicentre was off the Pacific coast, and only ten kilometres down.

Still, it took the country’s mind off its problems for a moment.

Problems, you ask? In the land of Pura Vida where the people are amongst the happiest on earth according to some survey which is no doubt selling something?

I don’t know where they find these people as most of my friends are usually moaning….perhaps they  interview politicians.

Others interviewing politicians at the moment are the police. It is fairly normal for previous presidents to be investigated by the police, but only after a discreet passage of time when the proceeds have been salted away, so what has occurred to upset the applecart?

Cement…that is what.

No, not cement as in disposing of bodies while road building – the time it takes this country to get a road built the body would have disintegrated enough not to need burial anywhere – but cement as imported from China.

A happy duopoly controls cement sales in Costa Rica. It has no doubt paid well for its position over the years so was far from pleased when it looked as if the President was encouraging the import of cement from China with the aim of lowering prices.

Intolerable! Have his guts for garters!

So the duopoly set the hounds of the press on the job…or at least those parts of the press where it had influence….and finally they dredged up  one of the bosses of the Customs department who said that he had an e mail from the Deputy Finance Minister telling him that the ‘Big Chief’ – supposedly the President – wanted any shipments of Chinese cement to get through Customs without the usual old Spanish practices so that it would still be fit to use when released.

Shock horror!

Then the hounds went further. They discovered that one of the state banks had made a huge loan to the importer – with the cement as security –  the major part of which loan had ended up in his private coffers, while no cement ever arrived in Costa Rica.

And this is where things started to  go wrong.

Aiming at the President, the duopoly accidentally put one of their own in the frame.

The Chief Prosecutor.

This man, a stalwart of the old regime in Costa Rica, was an expert in delaying and burying unwanted dossiers and had been found with his fingers in the bank’s affairs, dividing the investigation into a myriad of mini investigations which would run into the sand, leaving those responsible at the bank to live a quiet life in the offices which had been refurbished recently at vast expense from the bank’s money…..i.e. public funds.

He was suspended and a young lady was appointed as interim Chief Prosecutor.

She seems to hold the view that prosecutors should prosecute and to that end has put the would be importer and the bank officials into preventive detention while she investigates.

Further, she has unearthed links between a magistrate, the Deputy Finance Minister and several politicians which she believes may give rise to prosecutions for the traffic of influence and has, with the consent of the courts, proceeded to seize their offices, computers and cars in search of evidence.

Mark you, this being Costa Rica, where the sublime usually descends to the gor blimey, the cars of the police seizing the gear of the Deputy Finance Minister were nicked for parking offences by the Municipal Police in San Jose.

She has also had a look at the mosaic of dossiers prepared by the Chief Prosecutor over the years in other sensitive matters, the upshot of which is that said Chief Prosecutor has decided to retire and a recent President is being summoned to explain how a mining company managed to get a permit to mine in a conservation area.

The country is reeling.

Action on corruption! Whatever next!

It does not come at a good moment for the politicians. Any of them. Because the Presidential elections are coming up in February and corruption is a major beef for the electorate.

Normally the level of enthusiasm of Costa Ricans for elections equals the energy of a crocodile in the early hours of a chilly morning, but this case has roused people to resemble crocodiles at midday, ready to wolf down anything in their path.

And what is in their path?

Politicians.

I can bet that the man who put up this poster is not going to vote for the PLN.

PLN elections

He seems to have strong feelings on the subject.

Historically the PLN held a firm grip on the vote as they were the party of the President who abolished the army and set up the CAJA – the NHS of Costa Rica. People were grateful and remained so for years.

Further, under the same recent President who is now being summoned to explain the mining licence, the civil service was expanded beyond anything that was necessary in order to form a client vote of those who benefited from the excellent wages, perks and pensions  – and their extended families.

Occasionally the PUSC, sort of Christian Democrats, would get a look in to keep them sweet, but basically the PLN had it all their own way, including in  local government.

The last elections brought a change….the people elected an almost unknown candidate, a university professor, who stood on a platform of opportunity for all, not the few.

Thus the enmity of the cement duopoly who regard such views as heresy.

He has had a hard fight. No majority in the National Assembly, ministries stuffed with partisans of the outgoing party….but the ship is slowly turning round. People are discontented with the slow pace of change but with the cement case there is a chance that they will see that change is possible…if they will back those who work for it.

Locally, too, politics is in the news.

This town is built on ground that is unstable…underground water courses run all over the place, let alone fault lines,  so holes tend to appear in the roads without warning. Ideally the council would use a study done by the University of Costa Rica which showed how to channel  and drain the area, but, of course, that would cost money and the council never seems to have any of that for infrastructure problems despite having a dedicated budget for same.

So the holes tend to be there for a long time.

puris holes in road

 

Exasperated by the inaction of the council a group of businessmen got together, hired an engineer and the necessary equipment and did the job themselves in the course of one night when they could reckon to be undisturbed by council workers or police who tend not to venture out after dark.

The alcalde – mayor – outraged by this demonstration of citizen power announced that the work was shoddy and would collapse within a week. Furthermore it would all have to come up anyway as the council was about to start a programme of repairs!

Several weeks later the holes remain mended and the council has managed to repair one road…the one leading to the fiesta ground which has been done in time for the annual high jinks surrounding the celebration of the town’s patron saint’s day.

Clearly it is not for nothing that the alcalde is a member of the PUSC.

I have been a trifle unfair to the police here.

They have a new boss. He is a local lad who has worked in other areas for years before being drafted back to his home town.

He wishes to clean up the place, but is a realistic gentleman.

No point rounding up the drug dealers and the wild young men who make the roads dangerous by doing wheelies, etc on onlicensed motorbikes during the week, as the resident judge for criminal affairs has a great respect for the presumption of innocence and tends to release anyone  daft enough to be caught by the previous police chief.

No…save the effort for the weekends, when a duty judge comes down from San Jose and jugs the lot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holes in the road.

Close the door, they’re coming in the window…

Second round of the French Presidential elections coming up….and Macron is well in the lead over Le Pen according to the polls.

How could he not be? The press – whose present ownership was assisted to its position by Macron when a minister of Hollande – is behind him and the established political forces are calling for that hoary old standby – the ‘front republicain’  – to preserve France from the shame of a victory by the Front National.

Vote Macron to keep out Le Pen.

It is 2002 all over again when people walked into the voting booths with pegs on their noses to vote Chirac in order to crush the other Le Pen, this one’s father.

There was even a man who took his wish to avoid contamination to the lengths of going to vote in the full fig of a deep sea diver…boots, helmet, the lot.

And, the power of the ‘front republicain’ behind him, Chirac won 82% of the vote.

But will Macron win by a similar landslide?

Should he?

Before examining the current state of affairs, we should take a look at the rise of the Front National.

A tiny Poujadist movement, it would probably have died out early in its life if not given impulsion by that most sinister man, President Mitterand.

First  President from the PS (Socialist Party) in the Vth Republic he was determined to beat off the challenge from the traditional right wing parties and maintain the PS in power. To that end he promoted the Front National.

He instructed the television channels to give more air time to Jean-Marie Le Pen, so raising the profile of the FN which then profited from Mitterand’s imposition of proportional representation in 1985.  Thirty five deputies from the FN were elected in 1986, giving the party a presence in the National Assembly which it would have been unable to achieve under the previous system.

The Front National was on its way. Thanks to a Socialist President.

In 2002 the FN had again to thank the PS whose candidate, Jospin, was so arrogant – entitled, one might say – that he thought it useless to spend money campaigning in the first round…he was sure to be put through to the second.

I can see him now…self satisfied prat…. pictured walking to his campaign H.Q. called L’Atelier – the workshop. He wouldn’t have known what a real workshop was like if it had bitten him and bite him it did.

The workshop – the real life one – sat on its hands. recognising what the PS was becoming – a party for the entitled where the locals did the  work and the golden boys and girls were parachuted in to safe seats.

As Jacques Brel notes so well, the bourgeoisie can make all the right noises in its youth…but it remains the bourgeoisie.

And with the end of the trente glorieuses – the years of the post war settlement – well behind it, the workshop started to wonder about its future.

Was it safe in the hands of the PS?

Clearly not with Jospin….but it rallied to the call for the ‘front republicain’ to preserve the values of French society when faced with Le Pen senior.

Chirac was succeeded by Sarkozy, whose opponent from the PS was Segolene Royal: her campaign was run by her ‘partner’, the father of their four children, Francois Hollande, First Secretary (boss) of the PS.

He sabotaged her campaign from  first to last. Sarkozy won.

Next time round the PS candidate was…Francois Hollande.  Quelle surprise.

He won, by not being Sarkozy. By saying that he hated the rich. By promising to bring Merkel’s Germany to heel.

We all know where the last promise went…a capitulation on the lines of Petain in 1940.

Hating the rich? Another capitulation.

But at least he was not Sarkozy.

Under Hollande France has stagnated. Unemployment has risen. Ordinary people see no future for their children.

Support for the FN has burgeoned in these circumstances…promising as it does a return to old values….to stability…to the known, rather than the uncertainty of modern life …..and Hollande has been content to see it burgeon because, like Mitterand, he sees the FN dividing the right.

But Hollande sees further than Mitterand: he sees the FN dividing the left as well, to the benefit of the established….the bourgeois, the servants of the banks.

Not content with demolishing the campaign of Segolene Royal, he has demolished the campaign of the current PS candidate, Bernard Hamon, by giving his support to Emmanuel Macron….the man who sunk his own ambitions for a second term.

Hollande has, once again, betrayed his party. One wonders who has bought him…..and for how much.

I find it shameful that these politicians not only sell themselves…but sell themselves so cheaply.

So, we turn to Macron.

The next president of France.

He has a ready made party – En Marche.

Funded by? His well connected friends in finance and the media.

His programme? To gain power.

His backing in the National Assembly? To be determined…..his party’s candidates in the forthcoming national elections have not been announced. Possibly because enough rats have not deserted their sinking ships yet.

Except, of course, from the PS.

At his rally in Lyon all the well kent faces were there….Hollande’s ministers,  looking for another safe billet….those right wing politicians who opposed Sarkosy…

Shown the door by the people…they climb in through the window.

Le plus que ca change, le plus que c’est la meme chose…

Vote Macron and you vote for the incompetents whose rule has led France into the impasse.

Vote Le Pen and you vote for another corrupt party.

Mindful of the struggle to obtain the vote, were I able to vote in France I would vote blanc.

Support neither candidate.

I could not vote Le Pen…but neither would I wish to see Macron with a vote which would legitimate his presidency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Flowers That Bloom in the Spring, Tra La..

I have just returned from an unexpected trip to England and blearily reviewing it a day after my return the images that remain have been those of the flowers that bloom in the spring.

When I left, the trees were blossoming here.

The llama del bosque

flamboyant tree llama del bosque

The roble

roble

The cortez Amarillo

cortez amarillo

On arrival in England the roadsides were covered in gorse in full flower – though its coconut scent was dulled by the chill – while  swathes of Spanish bluebells were taking over  from  tulips in the suburban gardens. Trees displayed that freshness of leaf undulled by the summer heat to come, the structure of their branches still visible under the sheen of green and, to my surprise, the horse chestnuts were coming into flower in the London parks where clouds of blossom were cast into relief against the Cambridge blue skies.

 

hyde park in spring

I remembered then Browning’s ‘Home Thoughts from Abroad’..

OH, to be in England now that April ’s there
And whoever wakes in England sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough         5
In England—now!
II

And after April, when May follows

And the white-throat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossom’d pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover         10
Blossoms and dewdrops—at the bent spray’s edge—
That ’s the wise thrush: he sings each song twice over
Lest you should think he never could re-capture
The first fine careless rapture!
And, though the fields look rough with hoary dew,         15
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children’s dower,
Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

There spoke the exile in his Florentine retreat – though goodness only knows what he found to be gaudy in the flower of the melon, that most unpromising  harbinger of sweet delight.

I was happy to see England in the springtime again, but cannot feel the regrets of an exile. I was privileged to have grown up with it, to have known it, shall never forget it, but cannot say that I hanker for it, any more than I hanker for England itself.

There were other flowers in evidence during my trip: those laid by people in memory of the policeman murdered at the gates to the Houses of Parliament.

Poor devil: he died, as have so many of his colleagues before, at the hands of a deranged person while doing his duty – in his case, guarding an entrance whose gates had to be left open to permit ministers to be driven to the Commons in time to cast their votes in a division.

Perish the thought that a minister should wait for an instant at a gate closed in the interests of the security of all those working in the Palace of Westminster.

They might be shot at if kept waiting? Good. The world would be a safer place if ministers were forbidden to have protection. Might give them pause for thought before putting the rest of us in peril and I suspect that – to paraphrase another song from ‘The Mikado’ – they’d none of them be missed.

In the aftermath of P.C. Palmer’s death we had the politicians braying that ‘terrorism’ had not succeeded in bringing down British democracy….

Of course terrorism hadn’t brought it down: the same politicians and their ilk had already done for it with their slavish adherence to the dogma of ‘public bad, private good’ when it came to principles of government, with the gerrymanderings of the Boundaries Commission, with their interests (paying) outside the House.

Such a parcel of rogues in a nation.

Currently, like Ko-Ko in the second verse, there are plenty of people whose attitude to the flowers that bloom in the spring is to say that they have nothing to do with the case.

The Prime Minister has called a snap election, putting her trust in the British media to depict her as a female Moses who will bring her country to the promised land…..the land promised to private enterprise, where access to health care and education will depend on the ability to pay for it; where those thrown out of work will be demonised; where those too ill to seek work will be driven to suicide.

Given her proven ability to change tack while at the Home Office I imagine that once she has gained victory the new Moses will reveal herself to be Aaron, presenting the golden calf  for public worship.

I cannot fathom people….more and more of them are living with the effects of unemployment and the resulting lack of tax revenues to fund proper services and yet the turkeys still vote for Christmas at the bidding of the butcher.

Flowers in France too, for the policeman killed on the Champs Elysees as the country goes to the polls in round one of the Presidential election.

The outgoing President Penguin congratulates himself on his record…yes, well done, thou good and faithful servant of thyself. As first secretary of the Socialist Party you sabotaged the campaign of that party’s candidate (and the mother of four of your kids), Segolene Royale, to gain the presidency and now as President you have sabotaged your entire party and given your support to the bankers’ candidate, Macron, whose chief claim to expertise in economic management seems to lie in having transformed the millions he made while working at Rothschilds bank into wallpaper for his flat.

Panic in the dovecotes at the thought of Marine Le Pen gaining power or, probably worse for the powers that be, Jean-Luc Melenchon  who said of the press reaction to his growing presence in the polls:

“Once again, they are announcing that my election win will set off a nuclear winter, a plague of frogs, Red Army tanks and a landing of Venezuelans,”

Roughly the sort of thing that the British press says about Jeremy Corbyn.

One thing is sure…if the British vote for May and the French for Macron then both countries can forget the years of social justice…..the golden calf will be a full sized Minotaur before they can blink and the hopes of themselves and their children will feed its maw.

Thoroughly depressed I set off on my return….U.K. to Costa Rica via the Netherlands and Canada. Yes, I know….but Scots blood will out: the fare was less than half that of the direct flight.

A change of flight time at the last minute left me with an overnight at Amsterdam Schipol, guarding my luggage like a broody hen its egg as the check in would not open until morning.

It was a salutary reminder of how nice people are: a young woman offered me one of her biscuits and accepted a cucumber sandwich in return; an armed policeman looked after our bags while we went to the loo and the gentleman at the coffee stall brought our drinks over to us to save us  from moving our mound of cases.

And then the flowers that bloom in the spring reappeared. As the dawn broke, the tulips in the tubs outside the Departure area began to glow with what looked like an internal light…strange, other worldly and utterly beautiful.

A good note on which to leave Europe….a reminder that while all seems dark there is yet hope.

And to greet me on my return….sitting on my desk….this little orchid. A true welcome home.

IMG_20170421_150525

 

 

Continue reading “The Flowers That Bloom in the Spring, Tra La..”

Here they come again…

 

The local elections are upon us…..February 7th is D Day and all the candidates are out trying to secure the confidence of the electorate. If confidence is the right word.

Cars flying party flags are to be seen in the streets…vast posters of the features of the candidates leer from hoardings – though those promoting one candidate in a neighbouring canton have been attacked by an aesthete who has carefully removed said candidate’s head from each one…..

There are not just party candidates…there are independents too.

In the capital the man who stood as presidential candidate for his party and then withdrew in mysterious circumstances has not been dismayed at being banned from standing for the party again for some years. No, far from it. His podgy features beam from posters funded by his personal election committee and only the least charitable of persons could give credence to the rumour that he has to get his hands on the town hall funds  in order to pay off the Mexican syndicate which funded his presidential run….

Just as in the U.K., the candidates are chary of trying door to door canvassing…too many people have pit bulls and those that don’t have machetes.

Wild promises are being made by our local heroes: more employment…roads  to be repaired…the erratic public water supply to be improved… which is generally translated as meaning

‘When I get into power the council will make jobs for my family and friends: sons of friends will be employed to carry out the necessary preliminary studies for road repairs which will take all the years of my mandate with no perceptible improvement in the situation and the only improvement in the water supply will be me, my family and friends pissing on the population from a great height.’

So, recognising that enthusing the voters is a lost cause the candidates have resorted to the tried and tested method of carrot and stick as exemplified in another neighbouring canton where those on low incomes applying for grants to build a house are given to understand that the outcome of their application will depend on the way they cast their  vote…

And don’t talk to me about the secrecy of the ballot….

I lived in a French village where the maire knew exactly which forty four people had voted Front National and thus also knew which car tyres to let down on the night of the election…and if France can  do it Costa Rica will not be far behind.

The social media are busy…publicity, of course, but plenty of accusations of dirty work at the crossroads too – some backed by proof, others solely relying on innuendo – which are inevitably subject to comments expressing shock that the person concerned has been so lost to all sense of decency that they could even contemplate publishing such material in the period before an election….the said comments usually being followed by others pointing out the family relationship shared by the person making the comment and the person commented upon in the initial post.

You will note that I have given examples only from neighbouring cantons….

In our own dear canton, of course, all the candidates are as pure as the driven slush…

 

Bring Back Gladstone

candidatesWill it be the man in the suit who buggered up my mobile ‘phone or will it be the one who looks as if he has just been ejected from Tracey Emin’s unmade bed?
The woman who knows all the facts, or the silver haired man ‘who has consented to stand’?
The man who has just hired a bulldozer to repair the road to town which has been impassable for three years – and in so doing has been threatened with legal proceedings by the Roadworks Agency who should have done the work; the woman whose main claim seems to be her extensive family connections, or the man with the clipboard?

Yes, local elections are coming up in February and the candidates are doing their best to raise the political temperature in the area from somewhere near sub zero to something approaching the blood heat of a crocodile in the dark hours before the dawn.

The seven candidates have one thing in common….no, two things: they all want to be mayor and they are all shocked to find that the populace demonstrates a certain cynicism as to their motives for so doing.

Of course, they all want the best for the local people…the cynicism of the populace lies in the determination of who, exactly, counts as ‘local people’…
Is it local people in general, or is it certain people who live locally?

In order to bring things into the open the stringers for the national press organised a meeting, live online, where the candidates could answer questions and express their views.
Needless to say we saw a great deal of the said stringers congratulating themselves on organising the event…and a lot of camera time dwelling on the backdrop with the names of the local businesses sponsoring it…but we did also see the candidates.
All seven of them.

Eventually, things began with a rendition of the national anthem sung with enthusiasm.

As it was being distributed live online only the seriously narcissistic were present to watch the event, which, given past form at council meetings might have been an advantage. (The action on the video starts at four and a half minutes and involves the intervention of the police a minute later…)

Matters proceeded with a rendition of a ghastly ditty celebrating the area and they were off!

The candidates introduced themselves, talked about their families and then answered questions which were of two types: the first being written questions submitted to the stringers and the second being questions about the area and the work of the council written by the stringers themselves.

While the answers to the first batch of questions were the usual mix of wishful thinking and back handed swipes at the outgoing regime I was delighted to find that most of the candidates answered most of the ‘general knowledge’ questions correctly…apart from the one about the number of employees the current regime owns up to which produced a fair amount of wild guesswork as while some are visible and occasionally active others seem to live in a shadow world where only their paycheck is real.

So, whoever we get, the new mayor will have some idea of what he or she will be dealing with.

The same could not be said for Myriam El Khomri, France’s new Ministre du Travail (minister for employment) who made a real ass of herself in a recent television interview.

The lack of stable employment is a serious problem in France
If you are lucky – or started work in the Dark Ages – you will have a permanent contract, a CDI.
If you started work after Personnel Departments started calling themselves Human Resources then you are more likely to have a temporary contract, a CDD.
While the latter are supposed to be only for short term specific jobs, in reality they are about all you can get these days, because they allow employers to get rid of staff without the costly rigmarole of warnings, assessments and compensation afforded the holder of a CDI, and can be renewed without having to be converted into a permanent post as long as there is a break in or change of terms of employment.

There is, of course, abuse of the system.
La Poste holds, I believe, the palm, having employed someone for twenty five years on temporary contracts by moving the unfortunate worker from one office to another….but they are not alone – notably the Pole Emploi (Labour Exchange) in the public sector, the banks in the private, so for the person on a temporary contract the matter of the renewal of contracts is most important.

Not, it seems, for the Employment Minister.

Asked how many times a temporary contract could be renewed before having to be transformed into a permanent contract she dithered and dithered..and finally admitted that she did not know.

Not that it mattered, of course. The next day she said that she had been deliberately trapped…as had other politicians before her..it’s happened before and it will happen again, said she insouciantly.

This from someone who has never held down a proper job in her life.
From university onward she has lived from the public purse…from cronyism… flitting from one political job to another until the need to appease those of immigrant stock who still vote for the Socialist Party arose – and there she was: a woman of Moroccan origins. Ideal!
Does it matter that she has no experience in the field? No.
Does it matter that she appears incapable of acquiring any? No.

Because modern ministers are for the most part figureheads…the policy is decided elsewhere, by the global businesses who now control politicians, and all that is required is to toe the line and accept the handout on retirement from office.

We, the people, do not matter – except as a Human Resource.
And we, the people, have no power except at the changing of the guard called elections when one uniform replaces another to continue with the same policies.

The last Presidential elections in Costa Rica produced a nasty surprise for entrenched power: an outsider came to power borne on people’s resentment of corruption and cronyism.
He says he will not stand again…it has been a constant struggle to start the process of change; setbacks and ambushes at every turn…but there have been changes and people have seen that they could make their voice count and that they can do it again if need be.

I note the way in which Jeremy Corbyn has been demonised in the press; how the New Labour elite are organising to overthrow him as leader of the party…
But many people voted him into that post, people who, like Costa Ricans, had given up on politics. They voted for change once they had the chance.
Voted, like the Costa Ricans, for honesty and competence over entrenched privilege.

Enter Gladstone, monument of rectitude.

In the wake of the disastrous campaign in the Crimea his government resolved to shake up the armed forces…to make them efficient, competent and open to talent. His War Minister, Cardwell, abolished the purchase of commissions bringing fresh blood into higher command….a process gently mocked by Gilbert and Sullivan in ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ in the Major General’s song:

Gladstone shook up the Civil service too…entry only by competitive examination.Goodness only knows what he would make of the tribe of ‘consultants’ leeching the public purse these days….

We need another Gladstone…but unless we combat the influence of global business’ lapdog, the media, we won’t get one.
We need to talk to each other, encourage each other, help each other to bring people back to voting again…to back candidates with whom we do not agree on all points but who are honest and willing to stand up for all the people, not just the privileged.

Open the Cage and Let Them Out

open the gates
Politics is in the air at the moment.

If it’s not Donald Trump in the U.S.A. then it’s Jeremy Corbyn in the U.K. …and here, in my little town, the candidates are squaring up for the local elections in February next year.

So far, only one party has announced whom its candidate for mayoral office will be: the party currently holding power.

The party whose representatives are responsible for the ever immobile bulldozer, the dustcart that collects more dust than rubbish and – latest item, remember you heard it here first – the payment of over two million colones (some four thousand dollars) to an enterprise appropriately entitled ‘El Gusano’ (The Grub) for cutting down a tree.

Be that as it may, the party faithful, all sixty three of them, assembled this weekend to elect their candidate for February.

The list had been whittled down to three….the current alcalde (mayor) – pink shirt; a gentleman who had given long service to the party both in the council and the National Assembly – blue shirt and a hair style expertly imitating a wig – and a large gentleman distinguished mainly by his striped polo shirt, resembling a navigation buoy swept inland by a tsunami.

Now, the party nationally runs the rule over those of its members who wish to stand for office.

It doesn’t like to endorse those who have previously stood for office for other parties….or those who have less then two years’ membership of the party.
No problem for the local candidates there.

It will not endorse those who contravene the requirements of its ethics committee.
No problem there either.

It will not endorse those condemned by the justice system…
Ah! A hitch!
One candidate was refused the party’s approval on these grounds.
The one with long years of service at local and national level.

It appears that this gentleman had been an agent for the then monopolistic state insurance company INS. Apart from his other activities.
As an agent for INS he had accepted payment for car insurance and had duly delivered certificates of insurance to his clients.
Unfortunately, he had forgotten to inform INS of his transactions.

It all came to light when a client, passing the head office of INS in San Jose decided to check his policy…only to discover that INS had no record of it.

The state prosecution service became involved and eventually the forgetful gentleman was hauled into court.

The Costa Rican justice system allows for a conciliation process before action proceeds, and at that process, the future candidate offered to refund the nineteen million colones (some thirty eight thousand dollars) identified as entering into his possession but not into that of INS and was given three years in which to do so, in addition to a payment to benefit the National Children’s Hospital and the obligation to do one hundred hours of community service.

Simple, you would think. Condemned by the justice system…can’t be a candidate.

But this is to underestimate the abilities of this gentleman.

Instead of appealing against the decision of his party immediately he waited until the day before the election and took his case to the national Election Tribunal who decided that, as a long serving party member and not otherwise disqualified by internal party regulations, he could proceed with his candidature while he appealed his party’s decision in an internal tribunal.
No time for the party to disqualify him again, then.

First round of voting….the navigation buoy is eliminated. Pink shirt and blue shirt tie.

Second round of voting….blue shirt wins.

Deep unhappiness among those whose candidate was not successful…..who have launched an appeal to overthrow the decision.

With a bit of luck this series of appeals will last until after the elections…or they might do a re run and elect the navigation buoy.

Needless to say, the social media are fizzing…..very good for my Spanish vocabulary, if somewhat repetitive.

I have no idea what the reaction in the U.S.A. to Trump might be…I just wonder if he reminds anyone else of a troll (Norwegian variety, not internet)….but Corbyn’s candidacy for the leadership of the Labour Party certainly seems to have enlivened political life in the U.K.

It appears from the reaction of an unholy combination of press and politicians that his election will end civilisation as we know it.
Looking at said civilisation as exemplified by the U.K., I tend to think that that is no bad thing.

There have been years of privatisation – both openly and by stealth – of public assets. Sheer daylight robbery.

Years of kow towing to the U.S.A. government- the follies of whose evil policies are plain to all.

Years of grinding the faces of the poor….no proper employment resulting in artificially induced dependency; education designed to depress, not encourage talent; inadequate housing, poor nutrition.

But what seems to worry the powers that be the most is that Corbyn would like to hear what ordinary people think, what ordinary people want….and proposes to try to put those wishes into effect.

Shock horror!

Democracy!