Bati Bleki Buzz Weekly Recap February 24th, 2019

Tourism Minsplanation

Our MinTVS — tourism, public health and sport — published a minsplanation, ministerial explanation, about the effect of tourism on our life on the island, on October 14th, 2018.

He basically said that we benefit from tourists staying at hotels, shopping in markets, renting cars, taking tours, and dining out in restaurants. He went down a list including how WEB, Setar and Elmar benefit from tourism and repeatedly noted the fact that workers are being paid everywhere, from watersport companies, to gas stations, because of that tourist dollar income.

He listed the whole food chain.

If I were the MinTVS’ fourth grade teacher, I would grant him a 10, and a smiley sticker.

But in real life things are a bit more complex than that, more three dimensional, and layered, and we cannot sacrifice one aspect of our life, such as wilderness, to support the other; we cannot be asked to choose between our SHOCOs and a thriving economy, we want both, there is no tourism without birds, or a clean beach.

So yes, as a fourth-grade primary school student, his arguments were great, but what he might not get is that at a certain point there are NO PEOPLE to service all these additional hotel rooms, and that means that we will need to import people who will cost us money – in providing education for their children and in AZV medical insurance cost for their dependents.

The MinTVS should be clear about the cost of having all these extra people.

Once you go from the fourth grade to the fifth you are taught to THINK OUT OF THE BOX. So, maybe it’s time to start thinking about new things we can do, concepts, ideas, perhaps get a brain storming conference together, invite all smart Arubans to come for a think-tank, and perhaps from the synergy of great minds, an idea will spring forward, as suggested by the Dutch kingdom and by the IMF: Alternative energy? Something.

There will be a press conference today in San Nicholas regarding A COMPREHENSIVE TOURISM PLAN for the town, slapped together overnight by Oduber & Oduber, two ministers by the same last name.

Building another cheap All Inclusive (60 million for 600 rooms, is peanuts) will not serve Aruba’s needs!  

Let’s first start improving some things we already have. Our roads are in need of TLC, our schools require funds, our healthcare – we are again losing our cancer specialist, and will have no oncologist – the hospital is in disorder. We have umpteen empty strip malls, skeletons of building, unfinished roads, abandoned rotundas.

MinTVS: Please pay attention to what is important and leave the cheap San Nicholas hotel project to the other Oduber, let HIM crash and burn, and you work on your own legacy, developing your own ideas.

This column will make you mad, guaranteed. And it will hurt too.

The story broke about one week ago. Apparently after repeated hushed and secret complaints, the supervisory organ behind EPB Hato, our vocational school, finally succumbed to pressure and decided to investigate school management.

Namely one person, who was at the helm of the school for TWENTY years.

They decided to look at January 2016 to October 2017, with a professional forensic team, and found Awg 369,738.01 missing.

In less than two years more than a quarter of a million unaccounted for.

Imagine what went missing in TWENTY years??

How? Fake receipts, ballooned expenses, one for you, two for me.  

They also found out in the course of the investigation that school management spent more time at the Alhambra Casino and at the Stellaris Casino than at HATO.

Then they realized SHE was not alone.

She was escorted on her fun-filled gaming adventures into the island’s sin emporiums by the headmaster of the La Salle Colegio.

Two educators, gripped by gambling fever, possessed.

I asked around:

HATO is blessed by 1,600 students and 160 teachers. It is a foundation. Lack of control is innate. It is subsidized by the government, and depends on GOA for its income.

HOWEVER.

The school runs a restaurant a few months out of the year, and that income is gray. You pay cash, and the cash disappears. True, some of it goes back to the kitchen to buy product but from what I understand “WE HAVE NO MONEY” was the standard answer every time a machine broke in the shop or a teacher wanted to do something extra for students.   

As an aside:

The teachers are the ones who contribute to their own Charity Fund, to support very needy students. AND all the ones I spoke to acknowledged there were rumors of malfeasance for many years, yet they did not want to be the whistle blowers for fear of retaliation.

UNIFORMS: The school either buys from a certain supplier who kicks back – and you cannot change that, you have to buy from that particular source, even if the competitor is better and cheaper – or sells uniforms itself, and if 1,600 students are made to buy Awg 100 of uniforms, each year, some money will stick to sticky fingers. Twenty year of uniform sales…..you do the math.

I remember a while ago, we organized Iron Chef at EPB, and Romar Trading bought the chefs’ uniforms for the students at ASD, because that same woman told me they had no money and they were going to send the kids to compete in washed out rags. Thanks Milton. Now we know why they were so broke.

Venezuela, food as a political weapon

Midday yesterday we heard that Venezuela closed its maritime border with Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire and that no boats were allowed to leave the Falcon pier, destination Aruba. Flights were also prevented from coming or going to the ABC island.

At first, there was no date set to end that border closing. Then I saw a video clip of Maduro declaring he is restructuring Venezuela’s economic needs, and he said for 62 hours.

It’s all about food, and ‘humanitarian aid,’ on the surface, but it is really not that simple. And while Maduro has nothing to worry on our end, he is anxiously looking at Cucuta, on the Colombian border, and the famous bridge he blocked by shipping containers.

This Humanitarian Aid business is very political, and I understand we now have billionaires and rock stars involved in the polemic, is it a trick or a ploy, or is the assistance given at face value.

Let’s say, this humanitarian aid is indeed humanitarian aid.

BIG QUESTION: How will it cross if Maduro is determined to keep it AND the world out?

Venezuelans are no beggars, he said.

In the parallel reality, Venezuela’s interim president Juan Guaido sees a long chain of people, carrying it across, people and more people, a very poetic and symbolic image of individuals helping each other.

Maduro has always recognized food as a powerful weapon. Over dinner last week a few new Venezuelan friends described how during elections Maduro used to remind the crowd: Give me your vote and I will give you food, and how all Chavistas in Venezuela, holders of the Homeland ID Card always had access to products, and CLAP boxes – government subsidized food products – and how members of the opposition got none, losing an average of 24 pounds on the Maduro diet, last year.

Guaido promised food, he’s got people’s hope up, if he doesn’t deliver, he is toast!

So, all eyes are on Cucuta and on the Simon Bolivar International bridge.

Guaido was quoted on EURONEWS yesterday:

“The priority is to let humanitarian aid into the country on February 23rd. It will help us to contain the emergency. With this we are also testing the armed forces to see whose side they are on: are they on the side of the citizen, the Constitution, or someone who today usurps functions and who even keeps the professional troops of the armed forces and middle managers hungry. They cannot live on their salary. Today the minimum salary of the Venezuelan is $6 per month. So, nobody can live with $6 a month, they can barely survive. So, I don’t think a military man, a civilian, a nurse, or someone who belongs to the transport union likes this situation. So, the situation in Venezuela is very tense, because a small group keeps abducting part of the arms of the Republic, the state bureaucracy, and every day makes reconstruction more expensive – reconstruction of the oil industry, the process of assembling, or reassembling, the rule of law, of freedom of expression, of a truly free election in the short term…..we are going to do everything possible to kick out of this dictatorship

The Cost of Tourism

We were pained and shocked yesterday to find out that an unfortunate accident took the life of a local tour guide, 27, a father of three small kids. From what I understand he was swept off a rock at the Natural Pool, Arikok Park, by a strong gust of wind, fell into turbulent waters, and tragically drowned. The guide’s mom is a well-respected employee of De Palm Tours, and that company offered to cover all funeral costs, to help out.

The unfortunate event took place while we were photo shooting on board a Red Sail Sports catamaran, Baila, in the area of Spanish Lagoon, on the opposite end of the island.

We were tied up at Mike’s reef, named after the captain of the Tranquillo whose spot that is, and sailed away as soon as Tranquillo slipped into the bay, in the late morning.

That is such a pristine, amazing area of the island.

We sailed further down, past the still smoking dump, and back to Palm Beach at the end of the morning, having accomplished our photoshoot goals.

En-route we talked about the cost of tourism, conservation, sustainability, and a new term, coined just a few years ago, over-tourism.

According to our hosts, on a busy cruise ship day, with 3 ships in dock in the Oranjestad harbor, there are about 1,000 snorklers at the Antilla wreck, and more or less 150 divers, all congregated in the exact same spot.

The Antilla, a cargo ship that was scuttled here in 1940 was once one of the Caribbean’s largest shipwrecks, lying in the Malmok bay, in up to 60 feet of water, with a small part of its exposed above water. It became a popular diving and snorkeling destination, but over time, storms have broken the ship apart, and according to our host the wreck is slowly disintegrating and will soon have to be replaced as another underwater attraction, another near-lying wreck.

So, do all these people all have a good time, I asked, all taking a leek together.

No, was the answer. It is often too much.  And the three fish living in the wreck felt used and abused and intruded upon, and having unionized they moved to another less demanding job.  

You get my drift.

We will have to introduce some regulations. Soon.

The much-talked about, looming, Marine Park legislation.

Our hosts are of the opinion that some legislation has to be introduced, to help curb our appetite for adventure and fun, and to mitigate risks to people and our environment, but carefully and in stages, unlike the first sweeping introduction of AZV, was the comparison.

Don’t do it overnight. Pick a few areas first, write realistic regulations, enforce them, then move on further. We will need well trained personnel, and boats and materials, to police four areas to start, then take it from there.

But start somewhere.

Thank you, Red Sail Sports for a superb experience, we enjoyed everything especially the attentive and intelligent crew!

The Cost of Tourism II

This time the victim is a carriage horse.

On February 28th, 2017, I saw very disturbing images of an exhausted carriage horse collapsed, in Central Park NY. That image haunted me to the extent that I have NEVER driven through Palm Beach at night, for fear of witnessing a similar disaster here, with the ridiculously commercial rides, leaving Paseo Herencia down the dark, congested, Palm Beach road.

I just knew it was coming.

It came the night before last. One of those small horses they use to pull the old-style carriages down the traffic-choked road expired in front of the RIU.

I don’t want to know the details. I can only imagine how stressful it was for our visitors.

By the way, I never saw it mentioned in the media, like it never happened.  

I say, ban those rides.

I am starting a one-person anti-carriage protest group, but I am not alone.

Don’t you agree: Horses do not belong at night on that charmless track, they should be resting in their stables.  

We can’t allow working those creatures to death — rides in the cunucu by day and Palm Beach at night – that’s cruelty to animals.

Show your support of Animal Rights by saying NO to that kind of exploitation.

And enough. Get those horses off the road.

 

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February 24, 2019
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Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
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