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: