Tuesday, December 20, 2016

2017: Fasten Your Seat Belt

This is my last blog of 2016, the 14th of the year. My blogs are written to entertain my friends and stimulate my intellect. Conveniently, inspiration comes a little more than once a month. I like to share attention-grabbing tidbits, and endeavor to give a new spin to better known facts and information. My blog’s topics are eclectic at best, but Brazil, my primary residence is a bottomless source of inspiration. Blogging is an unpretentious therapeutic exercise started six years ago out of boredom and curiosity. Sadly, my blog mentor has passed away, but I like to think that I continue blogging as a tribute to his memory. Blogging is first and foremost a vehicle to stay in touch with my friends.
My blogs are dispatched to some 30 friends and acquaintances. I have no way of knowing if they are read and clip_image001 . I obviously appreciate receiving comments. Most are posted anonymously, and keep me guessing. At the same time, I understand that the innocuousness of some of the blogs doesn’t deserve any reaction from my busy friends.
In Brazil, 2016 is ending the way it started, enmeshed in the jumbo Lava Jato (car wash) corruption scandal. Car Wash is the most stimulating and probably the longest Brazilian telenovela (soap opera). But contrary to soap operas, Car Wash gets better as it progresses. Since I wrote the Tropical Marie Antoinette blog in November, two Marie Antoinette reincarnations are now in jail: Sergio Cabral, the former governor of Rio de Janeiro and his jewel-obsessed wife. For good measure, another ex-governor of Rio de Janeiro was also dispatched to jail: he stands accused of vote buying.
Brazilian male prostitutes are world famous. The highest concentration of them is found in Brasilia, Brazil’s capital where congressmen and senators have been falling over themselves to trade their favors to the highest bidder, mainly construction companies. Odebretch, Latin America largest construction conglomerate not only bribed politicians to win contracts but it paid lawmakers from all sides of the aisle to pass legislations favoring the company’s interests. The kick-back money (US$ 599 million according to the investigation) was mainly used to illicitly finance their election campaigns and occasionally line their pockets. Michel Temer, Brazil unpopular substitute president (after Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment), is also on Odebretch’s beneficiary list.
All the juicy tidbits came out in the wash, namely through the hundreds of testimonies for plea bargains tycoons and executives have signed. Bribing was so institutionalized that Odebretch set up a special division to handle it. It is estimated that during the last decade, the company paid US$ 30 million in bribes to Petrobras executives, the state-owned oil company at the center of the Lava Jato probe. Lawmakers received even more. For expediency sake, Odebretch purchased a bank in a fiscal heaven solely dedicated to its money laundering activities. Brazilian conglomerates exported their bribery expertise to Latin America and Africa. This business extension was allegedly orchestrated by former president Lula da Silva.
Schell shocked by the result of the American presidential election, I wrote a short blog titled The Fox In The Chicken Coop. As I suggested, Donald Trump has selected men (mostly rich men) to head departments they wanted to dismantle in their previous lives. The president-elect could just as well have selected thieves as bank tellers! I also hinted that Trump will run the White House like a casino. He regards himself as deal-maker-in-chief; his cabinet picks have a combined wealth of US$ 14.5 billion (WSJ), more a Fortune 500 club than a cabinet. A Trump administration will certainly expose clashes of egos, expect some rough and tumble like his real estate business. For a start, autocrat Putin who openly bet on Trump and helped him win may soon ask for a pay back. As the bloodshed in Syria indicates, Putin takes no prisoner and the bromance may end before it starts. I have no crystal ball, and your guess is as good as mine, so fasten your seat belts. The world is probably in for a rough ride.
I don’t mean to be a party pooper, so enjoy the holidays, and start the New Year with optimism. I plan to keep blogging and promise to write shorter blogs. Last but not least, I would like to thank my friend Caryl who, during all these years, has had the patience to edit my writing, even when the subject was of no interest to her or she did not agree with my comments. The red pencil has been replaced by computer track change: however new editing technology does not make the exercise less time-consuming.
Merry Xmas and Happy New Year to all.
P.S. Cartoon freely copied from O Globo newspaper.