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PostA Trip to Colombia and Brazil (Istvan Simon, USA, 11/20/18 4:33 am)
JE asked a couple of times for my comments on my recent visit to Colombia and Brazil. Here are my impressions:
Brazil had a runoff election in which it had the choice between poison and venom. Haddad of the Worker's party represented the thieving corrupt leftist Worker's Party. Bolsonaro is the right-wing populist, sometimes called the mini-Trump of Brazil.
The good news is that Haddad lost. The bad news is that Bolsonaro won.
Haddad had been a mayor of São Paulo, and was not one of the worst as such, but he was perceived as a puppet of Lula who sits in jail. The Worker's Party first tried to make Lula run in spite of being in prison, apparently his last hope of being freed and elected again, in order to steal the people's money some more.
Running while in prison is against the law, and fortunately the law prevailed, and he was prevented from running. Haddad was then nominated to be the mini-Lula. He visited Lula in jail several times, which did not endear him at least to those who have some sense of ethics and a functioning brain within the electorate.
I wrote about this in WAIS while I was in Brazil, and reported erroneously that Haddad had lost even in the Northeast, where the political strength of the Worker's Party is concentrated. I was wrong in this. Haddad actually won there, but lost elsewhere in the country, which shows that the Worker's Party lost its appeal with much of the country, a result of continuous scandals and deep corruption while it was in power.
Bolsonaro won for his fiery speeches attacking the Worker's Party corruption. He strikes me as a demagogue, and the problem is that he was elected with no one having the slightest idea of what he will actually do in government. He got a blank check from the electorate, which is always a very dangerous thing to do. Economically, his advisors talked about reducing the deficit, which in my opinion would be disastrous in the current economic crisis and recession. There is unemployment and lackluster growth in Brazil's economy, so an austerity program would make that much worse.
Bolsonaro invited Judge Moro into his government. Judge Moro is the judge who investigated the Petrobras scandal and put Lula in jail. I have great hopes and faith in Judge Moro, but it remains to be seen what he will do in the Bolsonaro government.
Now on Colombia. I spent two weeks in Colombia, where I visited Bogotá, Medellín, Cartagena, Pereira and Cali. Colombia is an extraordinarily beautiful country and it seems to be just waking up to its enormous potential for tourism, which could replace the drug trade as a source of money for its economy. I saw much poverty with people sleeping on the street in downtown Bogotá. I am told that the country has 3 million refugees from Venezuela, officially 1 million, and that much of the poverty I saw are Venezuelan refugees. I did not ask for their passports, so I do not know if this is true or not. It seemed to me that Colombia is actually moving in a positive direction which would be great in today's world, where in so many places the very opposite is true.
In Cali I saw a lot of graffiti-type art on the walls. I also saw signs of communist propaganda, including messages against Trump. As WAISers well know, I am not a fan of our criminal president, so this certainly did not offend me, but being anti-Trump does not mean I am pro-communism.
I took a guided walking tour in Cali. At one point we were led to a mural which depicted about 6 people who had been murdered in the last year alone. The mural talked about education for the people, and other such goals that I fully endorse, and depicted the people killed as having been martyrs for these causes.
I asked our guide who was responsible for their murder. I was told that "multinationals" were involved. I told our guide that I very much doubted that, and that this sounded to me like so much communist bullshit propaganda that I heard plenty of while growing up in Brazil. At one point in Brazil's sorry history, "multinationals" were the source of all evil, a ridiculous proposition, that Brazil fortunately grew out of since. Maybe Colombia is 40 years behind Brazil in its political and cultural development.
I had a surreal experience leaving Cartagena. Our flight took off from the Cartagena airport towards Bogotá, and a few minutes after takeoff, we heard what seemed to us an abnormal noise and felt some vibration in the plane, an Airbus 321. I was sitting next to a German young lady, on the right side of the plane. She was part of a group that were headed to the Amazon. Some of this group were sitting on the other side of the plane, and they saw a lot of smoke from the left engine and got quite alarmed. After 10 minutes or so, the captain announced that we were returning to Cartagena. The plane landed remarkably smoothly with the remaining engine and taxied to the middle of the airport away from the terminals near fire engines. There was no fire and we all safely left the stricken plane. Once on the ground, we were all rerouted by Latam. As a result of the delay caused by all this, I arrived in Bogotá only in the evening on an Avianca flight. Latam paid for my dinner, hotel, and breakfast. The Hotel was Aloft near the Bogotá airport, definitely the most luxurious Hotel room I have ever been in.
JE comments: So glad you arrived safely, Istvan. Avianca actually has one of the longest and safest traditions of any world airline. (Founded in 1919, it's also the world's second-oldest after KLM.)
I'm likewise elated we have another Colombia fan in WAISworld. Last night we were watching Colombian news on the Caracol network, which we receive at WAIS HQ. One of the lead stories: the Venezuelan refugee situation is reaching crisis proportions, with widespread reports of street crime coming from the "Humanitarian Camps." Just ask any taxi driver in Colombia what he (or she) thinks of the Venezuelans. You'll get an earful.