Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, September 10th, 2017

Happy Monday Column

If anything, the new bridge proved that the locals have a great sense of humor.

The comments posted on social media were hilarious, see below at the end, some of them.

I watched a few minutes of the bridge celebration footage, and remained perplexed, how can MinInfra think that he totally fulfilled our every need by providing us with just asphalt and clinkers? How can the MinPres declare at the top of his lungs, fist clinched and raised that CAFT found our national debt the lowest in our history? What are these people drinking, or smoking?!

And the poor Padre, his vestments flapping in the wind; he is the latest recruit to the green marketing machine, talking about connectivity as if he just witnessed the Medellin Metrocable introduction linking the comunas with downtown. Are you kiddin?! Did you just have a sip of the MinPres special Kool-Aid?

The bridge is obviously FAR from being finished, but in honor of the Líder Máximo’s seven-day, fifteen-cakes birthday party, the bridge was pronounced open, though in reality we’ll have to wait until the end of the year to actually drive on it.

It was his birthday, he gave himself a party, what don’t you understand?

It reminded me of another ridiculous project, the tram, and the staged ‘inaugural’ ceremony on December 2012, while in fact the tram became operational YEARS after that.

Vale Croes, where are you when we need you. Vale would have had a ball with this kind of material.

Many people asked me where Jorge Celedon went.

Do you think I scared him off J?

Or perhaps he is still waiting at the airport for a pick up?!

(Remember this is a gossip column, not the gospel)

The highlight of the bridge production was the NINE minute MinPres screech. It wuz da bomb: He must have bus driver Nicholas Maduro as his elocution coach, it was pure *demagogy, from content to body language.

And all that hugging and self-congratulatory shoulder slapping, in the heat, with large pools of sweat under every arm pit. They were all pretending to have a fantastic time.

Our election campaign is a reality show: There’s nothing real about it.

And pay attention to the green robots, no ears, no noses, no mouths, they are the perfect party followers.

Serge Mansur: “It’s a great day. Finally, after centuries of separation the two parts of Aruba have been united. No more crossing the dangerous river in canoes being attacked by crocodiles, sharks and dragon fish.

No more standing on opposite sides of the water and communicating by morse code mirrors or smoke signals.

No more tearful goodbyes and years of living apart wondering whether the family will ever be reunited again.

There is a bridge. I can’t wait to finally see the other side after 50 years. I hear they have a refinery and a marine base there – and caves!

One small bridge for man, but a giant bridge for mankind!

Geronimo Molina: I have wanted to explore Savaneta and San Nicholas for many years, and never could, it wasn’t easy to get there, one needed a helicopter or a boat, but now all this has changed, with the bridge, I can’t wait to go on vacation, driving to these exotic destinations in my car; my dream became a reality, I will be introduced to parts of the island I never knew.  #historia

Juan Werleman: WhHahaaa 725 million for 10 kilometer that’s 72.5 million per kilometer, it’d better be marble paved, with silver handrails, cat-eye and diamonds studs.

*Definition of demagogue: A leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power.

Symposium worth attending

I did not write today’s column. I am just repeating a press release I recently got. It is worthwhile to read, retain and take action. See you at the symposium


DATE: SEPTEMBER 12-13-14, 2017

TIME: 7.00 – 9.00 PM

VENUE: HILTON Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino, ballroom

What’s the symposium about: ‘Good Governance’ is about using representative authorities for ‘doing what is right the right way’. This requires a well functioning ‘moral compass’ and a functioning system of ‘checks and balances’. This symposium, organized by Stichting Deugdelijk Bestuur Aruba in close collaboration with the University of Aruba, will provide thoughts, debates and practical workshops on these important topics.

Event 1, 12.09.2017, 7.00 – 9.00 PM. Growing knowledge about the quality of governance in Aruba, the Dutch Caribbean and the world and its consequences. What do we gain with good governance?

Event 2, 13.09.2017 – 7.00 – 9.00 PM. The actual state of checks & balances in Aruba and the importance of civic movements and women empowerment for the realization of good governance.

Event 3, 14.09.2017 – 7.00 – 9.00 PM. Interactive presentations on improving checks & balances by: designing new democratic models, confronting the causes of public fraud and corruption, commanding good governance.

The ticket price is Afl. 100, – and includes entrance for all three days, beverages and workshop participation. Special pricing for students (Afl. 50,-) and seniors 65+ (Afl. 75,-) is also available upon request.

You can register for your ticket online. You can pick up and pay for your ticket at the receptionist of the University of Aruba located on L.G. Smith Boulevard 158 (APEX) – next to Crown, during the hours of 8.00 AM – 5.00 PM. Debit card only, NO CASH!

Tickets can not be sold for one day attendance. If you’re not able to attend all three days you can transfer your ticket.

Speakers: Willeke Slingerland, Lecturer/researcher at SAXION University of Applied Sciences, Academy of Governance. Nelly Schotborgh, Researcher of fraud and corruption in the Caribbean islands of the Dutch Kingdom, Armand Hessels, Founder of Deugdelijk Bestuur Aruba / Advocate for the importance of good governance.

Bank information: RBC Bank Aruba, Italiëstraat 36, Oranjestad, Aruba
Account number 30.58.6463. Beneficiary: University of Aruba. Description: Good Governance

Yesterday was a day filled with outrage

I have reached my limit of outrage with Hurricane Irma, have a heart, the images from St Maarten and Barbuda are shocking. And the looting that followed in St Maarten only proves that we live in a society with a very thin layer of civilized veneer on top, and when it breaks down, it disintegrates fast.

My high school days as a teacher come back to me when I stood in front of a class exploring the Lord of the Flies ever-present conflict between the human impulse towards savagery and the rules of civilization which are designed to contain and minimize that.

Social media is in charge of outrage, because when provoked, we ‘like’ and ‘share.’ So our lives carry on from one impossible-to-comprehend situation to the next.

Yesterday, the opposition newspaper published a letter written in 2014, by the owner of a local radio station, a media personality that had come to represent corruption and nepotism at its worst. It gave us another outrage opportunity.

In the letter to the managing director of Divi Corporation the woman is soliciting the casino license of Divi Phoenix – in principle they should be able to get one, because of the size of the property – declaring her willingness to apply for all permits and arrange all legalities.

Divi Corporation did not respond. They have their own casino company, should they decide to start a gaming emporium at their lovely beachside resort.

So what’s the outrage? The letter is just one in a series of opportunistic maneuvers designed to make a buck BECAUSE INDEED the lady is highly connected within government circles and CAN with a bit of influence and manipulation obtain ALL permits, which would elude you and me for lack of pedigree and/or connectivity.

She gets things done, while the peasants wait at the door, hat in hand.

By the way, it wouldn’t even dawn on me to request a casino license in order to sell it later to an interested third party.  And while there is nothing wrong with asking, it’s legal, you MAY question if it is right to shamelessly exploit your connections for profit?!

I can already hear you saying: Grow up cookie, everybody does it.

Which brings me to the end of this column. There is a lot going on, in the land department, in the labor department, in the infrastructure department that’s legal, but not right. And the people living on this island follow the example of their leaders, busily developing a far-reaching gray economy, that doesn’t pay taxes, and at the same time helps usher legitimate businesses to the brink of destruction.

Under normal circumstance, a government should conduct its own audit to investigate anything seemingly fishy. But in Aruba, for fear of rocking the boat in an election year, we all wait for the public prosecutor to do the job.

HE CANNOT DO THE JOB FOR US. We really have to embrace the rule of law in order to preserve what we have.

I am outraged by what I read in the newspaper and on social media every day. So the only thing I can say is kindly behave yourself, we live in an island paradise, it is in your BEST interest not to fuck it up!

CAP = Gebakken Lucht

Last week, I saw a CAP ad appear in the newspapers, full color mind you which is more expensive, even in Solo Di Pueblo; the ad for Compania Arubano Petrolero was signed by the MinEnergy, and talked about progress with gas and petroleum exploration.

The ad printed badly in most newspapers, so I couldn’t read it – Minister, your graphic designer should have used more print-friendly fonts — but I guessed it promoted the myth that CAP is committed to invest more than US$100 million in exploration — whose money? — and the CAP has complete confidence in the investment climate in Aruba.

I asked my friends for their reaction.

Friend #1.: More proof that they greenwash rather than actually believe in sustainability. I pray there is nothing there.  Between our corrupt politicians pocketing profits and Maduro coming for us, nothing good can come of it.

Friend #2.: Problem is that the way things go here the MinPres will not involve experts such as the Norwegians and their NORAD Oil for Development Program, but will rather have Benny, Frank and Paul help him…… Besides, I do not believe a thing these ads say. All gebakken lucht as far as I’m concerned……. They call them luchtfietsers in the Netherlands.

Friend #3.: I am grateful that these are just “pie in the sky” promises…

Friend #4. He took his time and wrote a good piece about the prospect of oil exploration, so I am publishing his comments here: There are good ways and bad ways to handle these type natural resource development programs. There is something they call ‘The Norwegian Model,’ which is considered the absolute Gold Standard when it comes to overall transparency and environmental awareness in sustainable petroleum development.

Bear in mind that Norway (a country the size of Italy but with less than 5 million population…) only became a crude oil exporter in the mid- to late 1970s and it immediately enacted legislation to ensure that all of the income generated by petroleum sales is invested in a fund for future generations. And that is exactly what was done in the early 1990s.

So about 40 years later Norway has the richest government pension fund (aka ‘The Oil Fund’…) worth about a trillion U$ dollars. While this is of course the envy of the world, what I personally really respect about the Norwegians is that they have actually established a ‘free school’ that teaches developing countries around the world how to avoid the so called ‘resource curse’ that we have sadly seen in many parts of Africa, Asia and South America (read: Venezuela, Brazil…).

And it’s not just ‘lip service,’ because they have invested close to U$D 50 million annually (if not more…) through NORAD (The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation…) by establishing a program called ‘Oil For Development,’ In 2005.  Basically they try to create far-reaching relationships with countries that are on the cusp of coming into vast resource (commodity…) development riches by teaching them how to best deal with getting rich overnight.

It covers the gamut from capacity building of governmental civil servant agencies, fiscal and tax relates structures, investment advice, anti-corruption legislation etc. NORAD also places great emphasis on involving ‘civil-society Actors,’ the NGOs such as the Aruba Birdlife Conservation Foundation, Stichting Deugdelijk Bestuur Aruba, and Aruba Reef Care Foundation, who are often times overlooked and/or marginalized for political reasons by the government or dictators in power (as we ourselves only know all too well…).

So I guess what I’m really trying to say with all of this is that if by chance nature should bless us with commercially recoverable offshore oil & gas reserves I don’t think that we should pass this opportunity up especially not if we could involve the Norwegians and their NORAD Oil for Development Program to help ‘us all’ along the way.

Friend #5.:  If the MinInfra is interested in talking to NORAD, I know people who can facilitate the contact…

Almost one quarter of the voters are females 53 years old or older.

Jim Hepple circulated some information among AHATA members. I think it is of general interest.

Some background information for the election which takes place in two weeks time.

According to the following website there are 70,749 eligible voters for Aruba’s 2017 election.

The following table breaks them out by age and sex.

Born prior to 31 December 1964,53 years old or older    14,41020.4%    16,95524.0%       31,36544.3%
Born between 1 Jan 1965 and 31 Dec  198037 to 52 years old       9,35613.2%       9,74613.8%      19,10227.0%
Born after 1 Jan 198018 to 36 years old    10,17514.4%    10,10714.3%       20,28228.7%
Total    33,94148.0%    36,80852.0%       70,749100.0%

Some key points.

  • Almost one quarter of the voters are females 53 years old or older.
  • Just over one quarter of the voters are Gen X (37 to 52 years old).
  • Millennials (18 to 36 years old) comprise 29% of the electorate.

In 2013 there were 68,758 registered eligible voters so that means in 2017 there is a net increase of 1,991 voters. Between 4th quarter 2013 and 3rd quarter 2017 about 2,630 persons have died (so are no longer on the electoral register) so then you have 1,991 + 2,630 = 4,621 new young voters eligible to vote for the first time, about 6% of the electorate.

And these are the 2013 election results.

AVP    33.10356.7%13
MEP    17.65330.3%7
PDR      4.5187.7%1
Others      2.5204.3%
Invalid         5561.0%
Total Votes    58.350100.0%21
Total Eligible    68.758
Per Cent Turn Out    84.9%

And these are the 2009 election results.


Per Cent Turn Out              86.30%

Dinner & Escape at Taste of Belgium

In need of diversion we turned to Dinner & Escape at Taste of Belgium last night, and never even mentioned Irma or the elections. Apologies, it was truly irresponsible of us, but it felt good.

After a delicious Caesar salad, flavored with Menno’s secret anchovy-loaded dressing, we were kidnapped for ransom by the Italian Mafia. Michel from the Escape Room, located next door to Palm Beach Plaza Mall, behind Legends Pub, organized the game and left helpful clues for our release all over.

We found a cigar, a cut-off finger, the gangster’s John Dillinger police record, and a ring, that somehow led me to find a key in a planter. Ok, Michel helped. The key opened a blue safe, that produced a black-light flashlight that revealed the invisible-ink letters scribbled on a wooden box that provided the code to open the plastic-vial shaped portable safe. As we lined up the reels at the bottom of the vial, it opened, providing us with a screw driver, ready to take a large picture frame apart, by removing the screws to expose a perforated WANTED poster that when superimposed on John Dillinger’s police finger print record, revealed 8 letters, the code to unlock the steel suitcase, containing the money to bail us out.  Forgive me if some clues escaped me, but they were many, and the sequence finally set us free.

Relief. We were now ready to resume dinner. Michel says we cracked the code in record time. He was fibbing.

It is a fun group activity, combined with a 3-course dinner, and may pick from a number of menu options. We had an amazing combo platter of red snapper Creole with funchi, egg fettuccine with creamy mushroom sauce and beef teriyaki, vanilla ice cream and fresh fruit for dessert.

The escape room itself offers more elaborate CSI murder mysteries which you can solve with up to 25 friends in a room especially outfitted for that


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September 10, 2017
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