Election Fever!

You know that an election is on its way when the council bulldozer, normally out of action for repairs caused by being unwise enough to start it up, is seen, not alone, but in company with the council road leveller, also usually hors de combat for similar reasons.

Not just seen as in passing the door of the council workshops…but working! Out on what are laughingly called the roads of the canton.

For the last three years the council has doughtily refused to waste public money on improving the roads….there are priorities, we are told. What those priorities might be has remained a closely guarded secret, save for a proposal to replace the current system of prowling traffic wardens with parking meters. Who is to provide these, and the relation of the firm to the sixth cousins once removed of current councillors also remains a mystery, as does the future of the current traffic wardens who must be related to someone to have got the job and so must be absorbed into the bosom of the council staff….probably to empty the meters, unless they introduce meters which only take bank cards as in San Jose, which is asking for trouble.

No! Mea culpa! I forgot…their staff have been repainting all the yellow lines in the town to improve traffic flow which was fine on the day the lines were painted and back to chaos the next day as there is little or no parking available in the centre. I solve the problem by making a small weekly contribution to the well being of the gentleman who looks after the parking lot of one of the supermarkets but most just park and hope that the traffic police don’t turn up with their crane and low loader….

A propos of parking, we have been investigating the process of having a handicapped sticker for the car…a process wrapped in mysteries like a Russian doll. I am convinced that you need a medical examination, from hints on the Ministry of Public Works website, but which institution for the handicapped delivers this remains obscure, given that their websites do not mention it and they do not answer e mails.

Seeing a gentleman sitting in a car with a handicapped sticker the other day I thought I would ask him how he went about getting it.

The process was simple, he informed me. I had to go to the MOGO print shop in town…turn right, then left and right again…and they would give me a photocopy of the sticker which would make life very simple.

The MOGO option sounds tempting….I wonder what the fine for having a false handicapped sticker might be…

Not that it is a great problem as yet…not here…but I notice that in San Jose the authorities are getting nasty with non stickered cars in handicapped parking areas so no doubt it will come here in time.

Still, roadworks are not the only sign of elections to come….the council have instituted rubbish collections for the outlying areas, not just in the town centre. We have received a leaflet detailing how to separate the rubbish into ordinary and recyclable, telling us which areas will be served…apparently on a Monday…but with no indication as to when it will start, so I suppose that we shall have to pin back our ears every Monday in the hope of hearing the dustcart’s loudhailer advertising its presence…

And, come to think of it, how come that the dustcart has emerged from hibernation, like a woolly mammoth emerging from the Siberian permafrost?

It could be because the council were threatened with an appearance before the Constitutional Court…but it might well be down to the elections.

As a friend said

‘We should elect the councils every year…that way we would get three months of action every year instead of every four years.’

Still, I bet the major political parties in the U.K. wish they only had to produce a dustcart to remove the menace of the Brexit Party and Nigel Farage in this week’s elections to the European Parliament…

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Si se puede! Si se pudo!

Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera President of Costa Rica
Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera President of Costa Rica
Yesterday, the eighth of May, Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera was installed as President of Costa Rica.
‘Si se puede’ – a chant of football fans in Costa Rica – became the slogan of the candidate that rose from nowhere to challenge and overthrow the then ruling party…’you can do it’ and the national stadium, where the official transfer of powers took place, resounded to the counterpart…’si se pudo’ – ‘and you have’… as the President elect entered the arena with his companion and his family.
As always in Costa Rica the ceremony was low key and had its unrehearsed moments….which is one of the reasons I like the country so much….as well as the usual youth choirs and orchestras and the singing of the national anthem.
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Jose was miffed that he had not been asked to officiate and conservative opinion was outraged that the new tourism minister was accompanied by his male partner…the times are indeed a’ changing.

And they need to.

Solis sees the task of governing Costa Rica as being the equivalent of taking over a farm that has been abandoned for years…fertile soil supporting parasitic plants….
He has to rebuild not only the institutions of the country, but also public confidence in those institutions and he faces an uphill task.

People expect changes…and have short memories….

The party that lost the elections have the greatest number of deputies in the National Assembly…

Institutions left to their own devices for years resent the arrival of new brooms….

The outgoing government installed supporters in key positions before leaving office…..

It’s not going to be easy.

I’ve always been interested in politics – the buggers are spending my money after all – and know just how regularly good intentions get bogged down by the sheer immobility of the government machine, let alone outside interference…but I hope that this Costa Rican spring brings forth the summer of good governance that the people here deserve.

And I can’t resist putting up another photograph from the handover of powers yesterday…. the new president and his old dad….a shoemaker.
It’s a good omen…historically it was the shoemakers who fought for civil and workplace rights in Costa Rica so it is – dare I say – fitting that it is one of their sons, descended from the Chinese and Jamaican labourers brought in to build the railways and cut the sugar cane, who is today President of Costa Rica.

Father and son... photograph from La Nacion
Father and son…
photograph from La Nacion

It Would Drive You Bananas

iwishiwasindixie.com
iwishiwasindixie.com
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.