Bati Bleki Buzz Weekly Recap, January 13th, 2018

Parada di Flambeu – One Happy Island Den Dje, in Carnival

Two symbolic live fire torches, were lit by the Minister of Culture, and Shannon Henriquez, the president of the Carnival Foundation at the opening of the Torch Parade and the island’s much-loved Carnival season.

The parade on Saturday night attracted 15.000 revelers, in twelve different groups, following a great number of popular island bands, along a 4 to 5-hour route, in the heart of Oranjestad.

This year’s edition, part of Carnival 65, was bigger than ever and at Awg 100 registration fee per person, and perhaps another Awg 100 spent on makeup and costume bling, the economic impact of the parade is enormous, and then add the spectators and their assorted bar purchases!!

This is how it went:

Los Laga Bai – LLG opened the parade with its band of 25 years, Robert JeanD’or & Su Solo Banda Show, on a brand-new trailer, with 700 Prominent Bandits in tow. The group, sporting purple and black tee-shirts with running lights in their fedoras always has a fabulous time. They were among the first ones to sell out mid-December.

TOB Carnival Group – Dedicated 1,200 followers of N’Fuzion, the band whose leader Ofo Escudero had his broken leg set in a blue cast, nevertheless, the show went on with group members bedazzled in gold and black, each wearing a golden crown, waving golden scepters. N’Fuzion Royalty was truly impressive in numbers.

Royal Carnival Group Aruba – Trailing the NBO band, with just 150 diehards, this group also enjoyed the entertainment of Royal Brass one of the two brass bands on parade. 

Champagne Carnival Group – This was the group’s tenth year in the Torch Parade and their popularity was indisputable with 1,400 members inspired by Brazilian artist Romeo Britto, combining elements of pop and graffiti on their vibrantly colored tee-shirts. Accompanied by Tsunami, their house band, the Champagne Facebook page included a DIY pictorial with 222+ creative ways of cutting, weaving and upgrading tee shirts. 

Infinity Carnival Group – This was the group’s third year in Carnival with 600 members trailing the D’Licious Band.

Majestic Carnival Group – The Finishers by Majestic followed BMW, that promoted a special rate for students and was rewarded by a young and enthusiastic crowd, also entertained by the Massive Brass band.

Dushi Carnival Group – With 400 Dushi Madness group members, they have been participating for the past ten years. Dushi Band with crazily colored neon tee-shirts always sells out among the first groups.

Empire Carnival Group – Backed up by Buleria, the island’s number #1 musical ensemble, the On-Fire group continued to sell ticket to the last-minute heading out on parade with 1,500 flamboyant members, who wished to go on at 2am, when the parade came to a stop, they argued with the Police, they wanted a little more! This year, they also added Musical Times, a giant band from the 80s and enjoyed a mega following of older and younger Carnival fans.

Sapphire, Socakingdom Carnival – A newcomer to the parade with glowing blue caps, they enjoyed the Soca music of STEAM, Gleaming like Sapphires.

OPC Group Aruba – Under the leadership of a Father & Son musical combo, Mighty Talent Sr. & Jr., the group came up with a strong musical message: No ‘D’scriminate.

Pink 4 Life Carnival Group – LG-P4L, under the colorful leadership of Internet Marketer, Songwriter, Chef, Pastry Chef, Designer, Interior Decorator, Tailor & Band Leader Antonio Gario, this was the largest group on parade also the last one, thanks to Le Groove, its ever-popular Soca band. The trailer handed out Family Planning, Ami Ta Dicidi, “I Decide” condoms, as an effort to crack down on Carnival babies, born just 9 months after the Hot Carnival Season. Because they were the last group and because the Last Lap tradition was scrapped, LG-PINK4LIFE found itself with a monster trail of people at the end of the night. Gario issued a protest, in his view, those who pay, play, and the Carnival Foundation should spring for the Last Lap band, to accommodate the free-loaders! 

We all had a fantastic time, including those watching at home, on TV, with TeleAruba commentary by father & son duo, Ivo Yanez and his adorable son Zayon.

Super Saturday with a Price Tag

Reina Beatrix International Airport experienced a Super Saturday last weekend with a record number of 13,000 passengers passing through, 5,200 arriving and 7,800 departing.

According to a press release published by the MinTour all Saturdays in January are forecast for 65 arrivals, and 65 departures, of which 53% of all aircraft hail from North America.

And just when we were basking in the glory of the colossal moment, and mutually admiring the performance of all AAA stakeholders, a Trip Advisor report published in the USA told the flip side story, of long lines, congestion, four hours processing time and twelve passengers left behind on a midday flight, because they couldn’t make it to the gate on time. Whoever wrote that Trip Advisor report was mad, really mad.

I asked AAA management for its response, and I believed it when I heard that the report was greatly exaggerated and that indeed it was congested, but “management was monitoring all of the processes and the longest time appeared to be around 2 hours, and substantially less for most passengers.”

According to the airport, that eloquent writer of the negative Trip Advisor report probably arrived at the airport two hours ahead of time, which was not enough on Super Saturday.

The week started with a false bomb alert and ended with a bottle neck, it must have been stressful, and we can’t wait for the airport expansion to conclude. Gateway 2030 is supposed to solve all that, but meanwhile Reina Beatrix International Airport seems to have arrived at its handling peak, reaching and exceeding its own carrying capacity.

BEST PRACTICE: Tell you friends, family members and clients to do themselves a favor and show up at the airport 3 hours ahead of flight time, check in, clear that, clear the other, and get to the gate on time, this way their fantastic vacay experience remains intact!

The MinTour also published another press release crediting his expert office management to the fact that Aruba’s hotels made up for the loss of the tourist Venezuelan market, and practically replaced it with North American travel. Indeed, an incredible accomplishment, but it is largely due to the catastrophic hurricane season of 2016, that hit the northern Caribbean so hard. And the fact that Aruba is one lucky destination with some Je ne sais quoi factor that cannot be explained or described, but is attractive and appealing to many. We’re blessed.

This was published on Nov 1st but got little publicity, it deserves attention, the numbers are staggering!

November 1 2018

Dear Supporters of Stimami Sterilisami, Veterinarian offices, and all animal foundations,

It is with regret that I need to inform you of the cessation of our Stimami Sterilisami Program as of immediately on October 31st 2018.  We have run out of money! 

During the year 2018, we have been bombarded with a grand total cost of Awg 591.949 to the end of September.  The majority of the costs went to operate cats and dogs brought on by the different foundations. Over 4,000 of them.

With much regret, I have to inform you that we are unable to continue. this program. We are simply not able to do so financially.

Attached please find the numbers:

Operations for private individual persons in 2018 where we pay the bulk of the costs: 2,169 

Operations by the various Foundations in 2018 for which we paid the total cost: 1,862                                                                                                                        

Total operations carried out and paid for up to September 30th 2018 = 4,031

The total cost billed to us by the veterinarians to date 2018 is Awg 591.949.00.  (See audit by Leysner & De Cuba Accountants attached) 

We did similar numbers in 2016 and 2017 at a cost of Awg 300,000.00 each year or a total of Awg 600,000.00

The exact amount of operations in 2016 = 3,688

The exact amount of operations in 2017 = 2,478 

This unsustainable and we are forced to stop – regrettably!

Please take note that we will only pay only for operations up to today.  Pending operations for November & December and later will have to be canceled.

Attached please find the registrations and the audited payments / amounts

Regretfully yours,

StimaMi SterilisaMi

I didn’t know if to laugh or to cry

First of all, the story that our MinEnergy who also serves as our MinPres, did not know about the parting of ways between Utilities Aruba NV & Frank Hoevertz, is not possible.

She must have been involved in signing the walking papers, it was an agenda point for the board meeting since December, perhaps earlier.

So, she told an untruth. Out of my deep respect to her personally and her position, I refrain from using the other three letter word for untruth, the one that rhymes with why.

Why didn’t she own it? She should have just said yes, I have full knowledge, and I assume responsibility, I am the MinPres and it is within my power to make personnel changes.

It’s the second untruth she has told. The first one was in October, she had a similar response when Robert Henriquez was suspended.

She keeps the POTUS company. The Washington Post headline yesterday stated that according to the Fact Checker database in 710 days, President Trump has made 7,645 false or misleading claims, that’s more than 10 a day.

But what made me want to laugh and cry at the same time was the interview Speed conducted with Henriquez’ parents. I could not believe my ears.

The elderly Aruban couple, on their rocking chairs, sitting on the porch, mom in a house dress, dad in an undershirt, no special hairdo, no make-up, no lipstick in honor of the camera, shared the pain they are experiencing over their son’s suspension.

It was as if he was suspended from school for smoking a cigarette at age 12.

Mom was fighting back tears, he is an educated boy, she explained, he has a family to support, two children to raise, how can ‘they’ suspend him so unceremoniously, after all mom talked to the MinPres in church, asking if rumors about an upcoming suspension are true, and the MinPress dismissed them, telling mom not to worry her diabetic, blood-pressured heart, Unions will talk, she said, nothing to it.

Mom lives in a world long gone, where people have jobs4life, after all, Henriquez is the cousin of the MinFEC, and in her view, that by itself should have mitigated the situation.

So, my first reaction was laughter. Mom has no boundaries, her son’s career belongs to her, and she takes the liberty to discuss his private affairs with Speed, in the public domain.

But as dad all choked up expressed his public humiliation, I was reminded that Henriquez’ engineering education and his 35 years with Lago was a family accomplishment, not just his own, and that families here are enmeshed, entangled, your business is my business, you have no privacy, and I do not respect your separateness, alas, we were all suspended.

So, I felt sympathetic to the gentle, sweet parents and wanted to tell them to cheer up, it’s just a job, the man is qualified, and will find something else to do, it’s not the end of the world, we all know it was a political decision, please, don’t be so humiliated about it.

On the other hand, this job4life belief system… how can the country get ahead if the public sector has to employ every cousin of the MinFec, and is morally obliged to support his family and to shoulder the burden of raising his kids.   

Again, License Plates

They have arrived, in all their orange splendor, we made some progress with windshield stickers for the last three years, but no, thanks to a fee-collection failure, we’re back where we started, and I am talking about the wasteful, expensive, metal license plates for 2019. They landed here via container.

Basically 85.000 vehicles now require to fetch new plates and in order to claim them from the tax department, DIMP, we must pay the 2019 registration fee, including fees in arrears for 2018/2017 & 2016 perhaps, all outstanding amounts must be settled, and we are obliged to present valid third-party car insurance.

DIMP is hopeful that this move will improve the rate of paid registrations.

And there is a vague promise for 2020, that DIMP will be looking into some other cost cutting, environmentally-friendly measure, to re-institute a sticker system, perhaps on the physical plate on the visible front bumper.

This issue of regressing to metal license plates pains me. And it is due to a total breakdown in payments, people just didn’t comply and continued to drive around and nothing happened.

Up until October 2018, 23% of vehicles are not in compliance.

FACT: Setar manages to collect its fees on time, because of a merciless, no wriggle room collection policy, why can’t DIMP learn?

I believe that WEB and ELMAR are equally efficient.

Why is DIMP different.  

They should tie in registration, and insurance, no mercy, scan roads and highways, and take a few vehicles off the road for nonpayment, keep things simple and enforce, says one of my friends, a guy with a systematic world view.

From a column in 2016: No job is finished until the paperwork is done

I was stunned to read this week when a spokesperson for the tax office declared that 65% of all motorists driving in Aruba, haven’t paid for their license plate number for 2016. It was in the newspaper. I swear. The following day, the MinFin corrected that declaration and said, not true, just 5% are driving without having paid the last portion of the levy!

So, which is it? Mind you, that’s a huge discrepancy!

But something is going on. One of my fellow press members reports that the reason the license plate levy is in arrears is that it’s not anchored by law. When we changed the system from wasteful new metal license plates every year, to windshield stickers, they did not finish the paperwork and did not take it to parliament to be ratified. In the absence of a law it’s a free for all, since the police cannot enforce it. Don’t you know that no job is finished until the paperwork is done? 

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January 13, 2019
Rona Coster