Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, February 9th, 2016

Poker players’ appeal

On October 26, 2015 an armed robbery took place at the Excelsior Casino located at the Holiday Inn Resort.

Subsequently, the management of the Excelsior Casino decided to temporarily not make available the Bad Beat Jackpot at the live poker game.

The Bad Beat Jackpot is a jackpot that is being built by the poker players. Two dollars is taken out of every pot to make this jackpot grow.

At the Excelsior Casino this jackpot had not been hit since March 2014 and therefore it had grown to an extraordinary high amount.

To be precise 129,294 US-dollars. We know this amount to be accurate because two days prior to the robbery one of the poker players requested this information.

Because of a rule that the maximum jackpot awarded is 50 thousand US-dollar, there was already enough money available for a second jackpot of 50 thousand US-dollars and a third jackpot of 29,294 US-dollars.

On December 7, 2015 the management of the Excelsior Casino decided to make the Bad Beat Jackpot at the live poker game available again.

However, they decided to start a new jackpot with an amount of 10 thousand US-dollars.

On December 11, 2015 there was a jackpot hit and only 10 thousand US-dollar was paid out. The next day the jackpot started at an amount of 5 thousand US-dollar.

On January 24, 2016 there was another jackpot hit. The amount paid out was 31.959 US-dollar. The growth of this jackpot was the result of the 2 dollar that was raked out of every pot in the previous weeks. The money that was present in the Bad Beat Jackpot prior to October 26, 2015 remains missing.

We – the poker players at the Excelsior Casino – have the opinion that the management of the Excelsior Casino does not have the right to take away the money that had been accumulated in this jackpot.

We demand that the full amount of 129,294 US-dollars becomes available again to be awarded as Bad Beat Jackpots.


Oil Is thicker than water
I usually like to tackle an issue, say my piece, and move on, for fear of you getting bored with me. I don’t want you to say “she always harps on the same subject,” so I rarely visit the same topic twice but here I have to make an exception. The winning issue with multiple entries is the questionable reopening of our refinery. That issue is not just “relevant” today; it’s pivotal, critical and central. I love my thesaurus.

So you heard of course, that the Aruba government, spearheaded by the MinEngergy has been “negotiating” with CITGO Petroleum Corporation, an American refiner owned by the national PDVSA oil company of Venezuela. I have to place “negotiating” in parenthesis because oil contracts are very complex, imagine, a few pounds of paper, describing the so called takeover of an oil refinery on third party soil, that’s a heavy-duty legal document. And I can only conclude that there is no real deal in the making otherwise our government would have placed some experienced people on this, some heavy-hitting Dutch lawyers with solid expertise on the subject. So the fact that the ‘deal’ in being ‘negotiated’ by a person without professional or specialized knowledge in that particular field, our MinEnergy, already tells me that this is not serious. It’s an election ploy. Designed to placate us that the 50 million missing to balance the country’s 2016 budget will be paid for by the company running the refinery, and thus Parliament should get the voters’ blessing and ratify the proposed budget without any additional taxation, because the money will be coming…

Just for the record: CAFT or CFT, a Dutch financial watchdog organization, imposed on Aruba by the kingdom, insists that the government must introduce the new ABB tax, to fill the 50 million gap. So the frantic search for that money begot the ‘refinery reopening’ story. I commend our leaders on their stubborn refusal to raise our taxes even higher, but that future refinery income falls into the category of wishful thinking.

Got it? Secondly, they are ‘negotiating with a company and a country that are as good as dead,, over an area on the island that can be likened to a nuclear wasteland, the defunct Valero Oil Refinery in San Nicholas.

Why is the county, Venezuela, as good as dead? Because oil prices slipped below $30 for the barrel, and Venezuela’s budget was based upon black-gold fetching three times as much. Also the head of state for our tragic southern neighbor, President Nicolas Maduro, is a poor copy of his mentor president Hugo Chavez. Both have been driving Venezuela into ruin with their misguided policies/politics, for the past two decades.

So why am I telling you all that. Because I see the government-generated press releases in the local newspapers with headlines such as: A special CITGO desk is planned by MinLabor to encourage and support workers signing up for work at the refinery; And: The MinEnergy meeting with Repsol in Houston was positive, the parties will meet again in three monthWhile in Houston the MinEnergy also visited CITGO for a fruitful meeting. (Repsol is the company granted the gas exploration contract, that’s another story.) Another one said: Aruba will not have to pay anything to modernize the 100 year old refinery, if CITGO reaches an agreement then all costs are on them. And just the day before yesterday: CITGO is taking the refinery in Aruba over, investing $700 million in renovations. The press release went on to explain that the refinery will use natural gas to operate the plant, and that it may run a pipe from Venezuela to Aruba.

Are you listening? Really? Just like that, run a pipe. Where is the money for pipe laying coming from? The article continues stating that the refinery will be leased for $20 million, plus $10 million in taxes, take out your calculator, that is exactly the 50 million missing florins. Magical thinking works every time.

In view of what I told you, it is beyond me that the legend persists. It’s a disgrace.  Instead of reducing government overhead and making real changes our beloved amateurs go to bed, so to speak, with crooks*, signing an MOU, memorandum of understanding with them, just so they can say to CAFT or CFT: Here is your 50 millions. We got it. We have a balanced budget.

Regarding crooks*: The engineer of that refinery deal, Roberto Rincon, a bona fide crook, is in the slammer, in the US, and on trial. But that you know already. 


I wanna live in a gun free society or assault on a taxi driver

We were all horrified to hear about the unfortunate incident in which an American tourist vacationing on the island attacked a local female taxi driver. He first beat her up badly, including broken ribs and nose, then he ran over her leg as he was stealing her cab, and driving away. I wish the lady who defended herself and her property valiantly, a speedy recovery, those of you reading this column your take-away should be the following: Don’t ever get out of your car, don’t leave the safety of the cabin if menaced by a stranger, hit the gas pedal, speed away!

The assailant is now in Police custody, he drove himself into a dead-end street and was apprehended but true to news reporting in Aruba the Police did not provide us with any more details about his state of mind, or his motive, or what he said to his defense.

We didn’t have to guess long. And I believe that Patrick Maxwell, 30, a former US marine, has both alcohol and drug abuse issues, obviously PTSD. As described by the US media, he is not an ordinary person, but a deeply disturbed one, and I am quoting: “After a solid career in the military, he left the Marines in 2011. He drifted from job to job, working construction, tending bar and pedaling a bicycle taxi. He also worked as a security contractor guarding a U.S. Consulate in Afghanistan, but left after seven months.”

So, we’re not dealing with a criminal, we are dealing here with a lost soul.

The local taxi drivers’ union had held a meeting in which they pleaded with the minister in charge to allow then to arm themselves, from now on, so that they could “defend” themselves working nights and picking up strangers.

Then another reader reminded me of another attack on a taxi driver that did not result in an arrest, since the tourist perpetrators just left on a plane to go home, the following day.

I regret both incidents, but they are the exception, not the rule. It’s the second time in one month that I am saying NO to arms. You do not need firearms in your cabs. At the time, the issue of guns concerned Customs Agents and what I said about them, is relevant here:  Arming customs agents with firearms is a very bad idea. Our community will be better served with fewer guns in circulation. Besides you will now make customs agents more expensive with more training and more pay, and most importantly if they carry a gun they must be emotionally and physically prepared to use it, and that is a HUGE added moral burden. Repeat after me: Fewer guns, more better.

Moreover, you certainly do not want Nancy Disgrace, Dr Phil or any other rating chaser to hear anything but positive stories about Aruba, don’t draw their attention, don’t talk to them, for fear it will all end up to be our fault, for not extending more compassion and more hospitality to an American war hero.

Bottom line: Keep Aruba gun free, and just because some low lives forced a slot machine open, to tinker with its guts, it doesn’t mean that we need to install metal detectors at the entrance of our fun casinos, it just means that we have to train employee to be more vigilant, so that red lights go off in their heads as soon as they sense or see some unusual activity, and most importantly we must penalize those caught committing crimes here, heavily, so their fellow hoodlums know that you cannot come here and get away with that sort of despicable conduct.


NEWS FROM HOTELIER ROB SMITH. Rob was promoted to Senior Vice President Operations with Aimbridge Hospitality who now boasts an increasing-in-size resort portfolio and he has been tapped for future assignments as the company continues to grow the number of resorts it manages in the USA including Puerto Rico. Insiders report that it is only a matter of time till the imminent together-again-team joins forces on this Dushi Island!

POST-PARADE BLUES. The area of the Surfside Beach was in dire need of cleaning post-parade last Sunday. Plastic was blowing everywhere, down from the street into the bay. Please help us keep it clean the weekend!

 ISLAND HOSPITALITY. I went with friends to CBS, Cos Bon So at Jaburibari on a Sunday night. We were greeted by Buchi, Rochi and Juacho, it doesn’t get any better than that. Apparently the restaurant owners appreciate their incredible Aruban team, serving dushi cuminda crioyo, tur dia. On the menu Boonchi cu Rabo, Sopi Galina, Steak di Weya, Bacalao, Picuda Tempera, Balchi Carni and the house signature dish the whole red snapper, fried with creole sauce. Open from 11am to 9pm

 THE HART GALLERY AT THE RITZ CARLTON. I visited the gallery tucked away in the shopping gallery at the Ritz Carlton Aruba, the space is not too big, but it packs a considerable punch. The gallery advertises art for Profit and Pleasure, which means that they carry pieces of excellent commercial value, just in case you are sick and tired to just stuffing your cash into the mattress. [email protected]

BEST COCKTAIL. I recently had a Lemonade Serenade, at the Hollywood Smokehouse, a craft cocktail created by the restaurant’s creative director and co-owner, Tina Bislick, head bartender Danny van der Linden who won the Iron Bartending title this past October for his Aruba Aloe cocktail, and co-bartender Danvid Webb. It was the best libation I have ever had. And I am not the only one who liked it. The craft cocktail will be served at a destination wedding on the beach next June, booked by a bride with a passion for originality. The restaurant team will be setting up on the beach and shaking it off premises, for the pleasure of the romantic wedding guests. Cocktail ingredients include fresh squeezed lemon juice, simple syrup, sliced and muddled cucumber, Tito’s Vodka, ginger soda or ginger beer and fresh basil for garnish. Served in a rocks glass, the drink may be ordered as a bar special at the Hollywood Smokehouse, Alhambra Casino & Shops.

PRINTING A BANK STATEMENT. I have been experiencing difficulties printing RBC bank statements since November. Net banking simply refused to do it. I called the bank, I wrote, I visited four times. Finally in late January, Prisca suggested a cure. And it worked. It’s a pity it took two months of inquiries, and a number of trips to both the main branch and Noord, to alleviate my stress.

FORMER MINISTER NILO SWAEN MIGHT BE KICKING INTO GEAR. I met the former minister looking rested and fabulous, having coffee at Juan Valdez. I am rested indeed, he said, and am considering to perhaps re-enter the political arena.  The way I see it now, MEP had it easy at the time, as a caretaking government, things were nice and slow in comparison to the 2016, current, full-steam-ahead, and frenzied economic effort.


Vanessa Paulina presents the inner goddesses, who make the sun come up at night

Last Friday, the tree just outside the Museum Historico Aruba, played host to a modest happy hour VRIJMIBO, Vrijdag MIddag Borrel, given by the museum and made possible by generous sponsors such as Romar Trading, the Aruba Chamber of Commerce and High Performance.

The guest of honor, local artist Vanessa Paulina is well known in our community for her very cute and life-like paintings of her siblings and cousins as kids, growing up in San Nicholas, playing in the dirt in the front yard, with the chicken, barefoot and happy. The paintings, part of Vanessa’s Childhood Memory series, and another series, Indigo Kids, depicting the same subject matter in monotone, blue, endeared Vanessa to her island community, and shaped her signature style which is both naïve and sophisticated at the same time.

She then went to a darker place and presented us with the Schizophrenic series, depicting the dualities of her own personality, the dark side and the bright side, the hurt and the healing, actually slicing her  canvases in two and stitching them back together, showing the scars. The paintings are deep and layered and are filled with symbolism drawn from ancestral sources, from Indian, black and white mythologies.

In the space in between collections, Vanessa explored her Caribbean heritage and created the famous Virginia, a brave, beautiful, rebellious and tragic Aruban slave, whose life story represents the struggle of Caribbean women over the ages.

Vanessa is quick to give her time to youth art projects and murals in the public domain and as of recently to a series of art courses, Soul Art, in which she showed her students that when they “connect with their spirits, they connect with their genius.”

Her latest works presented under the tree and against the historic walls of Fort Zoutman explored her inner goddesses, so far just four of them, as she searches her different incarnations through the ages, and the different roles she played in the universe, starting with her Egyptian self, her arch angel self and her island princess self. True to her original love to fabrics and colors, she even painted her own gown for the VRIJMIBO, and put on display some of her favorite books, crystals, earth samples, souvenirs from her childhood, her tarot cards, and the best compliment she ever received, framed, “You Make the Sun Come Up at Night.”

VRIJMIBO is a monthly recurring afternoon drink event hosted at Museum Fort Zoutman, and organized by Joase-Ann van der Biest, Manager, Museo Historico Arubano.  Every last Friday of the month, this gathering brings together entrepreneurs and the art/cultural world. Starting at 5:00pm, you can meet and network with other business professionals, share ideas with other startups, and exchange views with established entrepreneurs.

Related links:!vanessa-paulina/gi7k5


Carnival 62nd, spectacular final weekend

We liked our Carnival weekend so much that we took a decision to go into the parade next year. I have been in Carnival before, but for many years, despite gazillion opportunities to join friends on parade, I stubbornly stayed on the sidelines with a camera. But now that everyone has a camera, I leave mine at home, and try to take in as much as I can, in order to be able to write about it. It gets more difficult as the hours go on, as drinking and dancing get in the way of paying attention! As for next year, who knows perhaps by the time Carnival comes around we’ll forget our beer-induced so called decision, and we’ll find ourselves on the sidelines again.

Allow me to quote one of my friends: We are a much disorganized island but when it comes to Carnival all of a sudden we can move mountains. And it’s true, just 5 weeks into the New Year, this island Carnavalistas manage to put 2,000 decked-out individuals on the road, and it’s no small feat, it requires buckets of passion and a good measure of organizational skills.  Carnival 62 will also go down in history as the Nagico Carnival. The insurance group was generous enough to share its fleet of brand new vehicles with the parade organizations and the familiar logo of the green umbrella appeared in every Carnival picture we snapped.

TOB, Taste of Brazil, opened the parade both days, Saturday and Sunday, having earned both Carnival queen crowns with their resplendent candidates. Their band N’Fusion also earned the Road Jam title with their cheeky “Inside the Thing!” The individual sections within this group were phenomenally designed. Janine Huistra and Isabelle Welage you were gorgeous! From just watching Queen Buti Yoga gyrating on her float, I say, where can I sign up!

Pleasers and Teasers is a group with a rich history, and their costumes are always the most intricate and detailed. All teasers and pleasers are from San Nicholas, the cradle of Aruba’s Carnival, and they all started their “Carnival careers” with the Esso Club and later with the fondly remembered and handsomely sponsored Coastal Carnival Group, delivering spectacular presentations, year after year. This group is made up of true Carnival artisans and their band Le Groove, also from San Nicholas, is blessed by a particular sweet Soca sound. Band leader Antoni Gario is proud of his young band member musicians, and believes that if you haven’t visited San Nicolas you haven’t been to Aruba.

Los Laga Bai is a well oiled Carnival machine and they do it to perfection each year, with just floor members, no special sections. They even had their own very shapely female catering crew, serving drinks and snacks along the parade route. True to their credo, they are a nonprofit organization that “works as a family to put energy, fantasy, music and AMBIENTE in Aruba’s Carnival.” Their band, Robert & Su Solo Banda Show, is the island’s most consistent group of music makers with band leader Robert Jeand’or, a legend in his own time. This group’s costumes while following a theme and a color scheme, are all individually decorated and adorned, and allow members to express their own creativity in the final product. With the “All eyes are on us,” theme, their peacock feathers, shimmered iridescently in the sun, proved that there is strength in numbers.

Empire Carnival Group is one of the most recently created ones, operating under the slogan fun for all, all for fun. Their costumes representing Love, Peace and Passion, in Silver, Black and Red inspired a terrifically animated group. Empire enjoyed the music of Band of the Year, a group of talented, sexy musicians by the name of Buleria, and the company of NUTZBEATZ a talented DJ with a large, loyal following.

What OPC and Dushi Carnival Group have in common is the fact that they started with a band. OPC with singer, composer Claudius Phillips and his band OREO; and Dushi Carnival Group with Dushi Band, a well loved ensemble of music-makers. Last year, shortly before Carnival Dushi Band lost its leader and musical inspiration to illness, but the group rebounded, maintaining his legacy and his love for Carnival intact. One must appreciate their resilience and their spunk. We loved OPC’s costumes; they were on fire with spectacular flaming red and yellow, body, shoulder and head pieces.

One of our favorite groups delivered a sea of white feathers floating the breeze. The white peacocks of the Royal Carnival Group, were just drop-dead gorgeous. The North Fantasy Carnival Group, made up of Noord residents, made a name for themselves this year, they started their own Lighting Parade in their neighborhood, which was very well received.

Champagne, always a powerful Carnival player, as one of the last groups in the parade lineup, started moving late and probably concluded its parade experience after dark. By the time they came around, my mind was already set on departure, beating the traffic, in search of some food and quiet sustenance.

Is it our imagination that the parade got on the road late, and was plagued by flow interruptions? But the weather was great and the hospitality of Romar Trading stellar!

Viva Carnival, Viva Aruba.

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February 08, 2016
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Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
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Bati Bleki by Rona Coster