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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post Pedro Castillo, Peru's Leftist "Peasant President"
Created by John Eipper on 08/07/21 4:33 AM

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Pedro Castillo, Peru's Leftist "Peasant President" (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela, 08/07/21 4:33 am)

Nothing has been mentioned so far on WAIS about the controversial outcome of the recent presidential elections in Peru. I have been following the developments with interest and concern.

For those who do not know, in mid-July, a month after the elections were held, Pedro Castillo was finally declared president of the country by a narrow margin. His rival had been Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of a former Peruvian president currently jailed for corruption. 

If it were not because Castillo is a confessed communist, the news would not go beyond being a normal political transition in the region. Indeed, the issue has significance and deserves some reflection. In the past I would have dared to affirm that this process in Peru responds to a political cycle of power alternating between the traditional historical left and right, frequent in past times. Today I am not sure that this is the case.

Castillo is an elementary school teacher, a trade unionist, of humble origins, with little or no political experience.  His ideological motivations, as a good communist, are emotionally fueled by social resentment and an ambition for power, similar to those that Hugo Chávez had at the time, although Chávez's ideology was deeply confused.

It is enigmatic for a country that has had in recent years the greatest economic growth in Latin America, to suddenly see its democracy and emerging prosperity threatened if the political proposals of Castillo and his ministers are materialized. This path follows the absolutist, totalitarian or dictatorial trends of the regimes in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, and of the risky potential threats in Argentina, Bolivia and Mexico.

The new Peruvian government has already threatened radical transformations and the repeal of its constitution, sidestepping Congress, together with reforms in the army and the dismissal of its high-level commanders, measures similar to those of Chávez in Venezuela and Ortega in Nicaragua, which were carried out under the supervision of Cuban strategists.  At the same time, Castillo has stated that he will respect the institutions and the constitution, similar to what Castro said at the beginning of the Cuban revolution, that he was not a communist, or when Chavez affirmed that he was not a socialist when newly elected president.  In all these cases it was merely a tactic to gain time and reduce opposition.

Except for some very specific exceptions, it is revealing to discover that the path traveled by all these authoritarian regimes is similar. They have arisen when society was enjoying relative prosperity, taking advantage of a crisis, and in weak, relatively immature democracies. 

The new "left" has reconverted its traditional political and social ideology of supposed justice and social equality, adopting the modern values of progress, abortion rights, gender equality, euthanasia, pacifism, indigenous nationalism, the environment, and other fashionable ideological slogans, all of which continue to be in their political ideology a formula for reaching power and consolidating their true aspirations, namely to become absolutist regimes and perpetuate themselves in power.  Obviously it is very difficult to disagree with these slogans, as besides being politically incorrect, you would run the risk of being stigmatized as a conservative and reactionary fascist. And it is precisely in this unscrupulous and populist use of those values and proposals that the strength and potential risk of the new Latin American left lies. I would add that this is also the case in Europe.

The fact is that they have learned the examples of Cuba, Venezuela or Nicaragua, assaulting power through electoral processes and taking advantage of democratic instruments and freedoms. This is the current situation in Argentina and Bolivia, as well as the violent widespread protests in Chile and Colombia, as well as aiming at democracies in Brazil,  Mexico and other Central American countries. I do not believe there is an international conspiracy of the left, though many argue that these strategies respond to the Grupo de Puebla, but this issue is perhaps a subject for another post.

Some authors, Camus among them, have affirmed that totalitarian regimes are built on the weaknesses of democracies. This seems to be very true in the Latin American context, where its democracies, frequently overwhelmed by corruption and incompetence, have neither known nor been able to resolve their social conflicts, nor build solid and lasting institutions. That is why this risk is much more threatening and dangerous.

JE comments:  Nacho, I'm grateful you've turned our attention to this significant development in Peru.  The best comparison to Castillo's rise to power is probably Bolivia's Evo Morales, who rose up as a labor unionist and defender of indigenous rights.  The question:  will Castillo be able to avoid Morales's mistakes?  The biggies of corruption and cronyism come to the forefront.  Of course, as a fellow teacher, I'm sympathetic to Castillo's triumph and wish Peru every success.

We'll be closely following the events in Peru.  When Castillo took power last month, the Peruvian stock market responded with steep declines.


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  • How Do We Know that Peru's Pedro Castillo is an "Evil Commie"? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 08/09/21 3:52 AM)
    José Ignacio Soler wrote an interesting assessment about Peru's recent election of a nasty, dirty commie called Pedro Castillo. I don't know this person but he must be horrible, according to the description offered in that post.

    I do have a few questions though. The first is whether Castillo is a bad teacher also, or just a dirty, dishonest commie?


    José Ignacio stated that "Castillo's ... motivations are emotionally fueled by social resentment and an ambition for power, similar to those that Hugo Chávez had at the time." So besides being an evil person, Chávez was also a confused communist. Why did so many people elect these commies?


    José Ignacio also wrote that "a country [like Peru] that has had in recent years the greatest economic growth in Latin America, suddenly has its democracy and emerging prosperity threatened if the political proposals of Castillo and his ministers are materialized."


    Apparently, the majority of the citizens did not like the old government as much as José Ignacio suggests. Further, we will never find out if the new government will be good or bad because it will probably be crushed by the US government just like countless other leftist Latin Americans have been toppled historically.


    José Ignacio talks about weak democracies versus strong democracies, while one should remember that American democracy, supposedly the strongest, is not very democratic. It really is a Plutocracy like many others. Besides, the last US president did precisely what José Ignacio accused the "new left" of doing, preaching motherhood and apple pie, freedom, and MAGA while embracing a "political ideology... for reaching power and consolidating their true aspirations, namely to become absolutist regimes and perpetuate themselves in power."


    I would love to hear José Ignacio's explanation for the recent coup attempt in the US.


    Are popularly elected leftist governments automatically evil? I agree with José Ignacio that "totalitarian regimes are built on the weaknesses of democracies. This seems to be very true [all over the world, including the USA], where democracies, frequently overwhelmed by corruption and incompetence, have neither known nor been able to resolve their social conflicts, nor build solid and lasting institutions." 


    We Americans and many other "democracies" are suffering from the same problem. The important question remains: what should we do about it?


    JE comments: Four years of Trump probably presented the biggest challenge to US democracy since the 1860s, but the institutions held firm. He was removed the way we always remove bad leaders: at the ballot box.


    Peru's leadership of the last generation has one constant:  corruption.  How many former presidents have been indicted or imprisoned?  Since Alan García and Alberto Fujimori, nearly all of them.  The bar is set very low for President Castillo.  His choice:  to bring a newfound integrity to the office, or follow the path of his predecessors and line the pockets of his cronies and himself.

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    • For Voting Rights, Peru is More Democratic than the US (Carmen Negrin, -France 08/10/21 4:01 AM)
      Just a little note, on John E's comment: "Four years of Trump probably presented the biggest challenge to US democracy since the 1860s, but the institutions held firm."



      I would not use the past tense here, we are still going through the tempest of the damage caused by the "big liar" and all his creator(s) and supporters. The system worked but it is still quite fragile.

      As far as democracy goes, the Peruvian democracy is far more democratic than our American one: one vote is equal to another.  It doesn't matter whether your province is urban or rural, populated or not, whether you are indigenous or not, illiterate or not. Your vote will count as much as your neighbour's. Not only that, if you don't vote, you can be fined. This is more than we can say about the USA, where more than 40 states are doing the impossible to try and prevent people from voting.


      JE comments:  A curiosity:  is there any nation besides the US where a president can be elected despite receiving fewer votes than his or her opponent?  As we know, this has happened five times, twice in recent memory:  2000 and 2016.  The only examples I can think of are in parliamentary systems, where a coalition agreement can bring a lesser candidate to the prime ministership.


      Yet another example of American Exceptionalism?


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    • I Never Called Pedro Castillo a "Dirty, Evil Commie" (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 08/11/21 3:50 AM)
      I was dismayed by Tor Guimaraes's reaction to my post about Peru and its new president, Pedro Castillo. His exaggerated comments suggest to me that he did not understand my central argument.  Rather, he focused on isolated points, placing them out of context.  Possibly, to give Tor the benefit of the doubt, I did not express myself clearly enough.

      The general meaning of my post was to point out of what is happening in Peru.  Namely, that the country is on a path that is very similar to that traveled by other countries in the region, where through electoral processes, some democratic and others less, leftist governments have triumphed and have eventually become autocratic and dictatorial regimes that economically ruined their countries. This is an indisputable fact, and I pointed out several historical examples, as well as the things in common they have with Peru today. Hence the risk and threat to that country and its weak and immature democracy.  



      The conclusions I reached are the product of Castillo's own statements and that of his controversial ministers.  Some of them are former members of Sendero Luminoso, the infamous terrorist group, and others are highly suspected of corruption. I invite Tor to listen to or read their speeches so that he may draw his own conclusions.


      Tor made some out-of-context, disproportionate claims and interpretations that deserve to be addressed. He seems to have quoted me and assumed that I affirm that Castillo is "a bad teacher, dirty and dishonest ..evil...commie," a diabolical figure because he is a communist, or because he is resentful. If you read my post carefully, you would realize that those were not my words or my intention but his interpretation. In fact, in the original text that I sent to John, I admitted the merits that a humble school teacher must have for having achieved such a political success, without qualifying him as evil.  


      Time will tell whether Castillo will be evil or disastrous for his country or not, but if he continues along the announced path, it is very likely that he will become so.



      Tor also affirms that I accused Venezuela's Chávez of being a "evil... .confused Communist."  In fact I never said that, though in this case, Tor is correct about Chávez's unquestionable evilness, and he was never clear about his ideology but embraced the doctrine of so-called 21st-century socialism, a mixture of socialist ideas with militarism and autocracy, inspired and in many ways similar to the communism dictated by Cuban strategists. Likely Castillo is full of good intentions, as much as Chávez may have been at the beginning, but if he continues on this path he will produce a ruined country, a parasite society and a legacy of corruption. It is a common and proven communist strategy to reduce and "equalize" the population to poverty levels to ease control over it. 


      I have never denied that right-wing governments in Latin America can become dictatorial regimes.  On the contrary and unfortunately in this region there have been many examples of that, although I can also claim that very few, or none, have left their countries with such a disastrous legacy.   


      On the other hand, it is surprising that a mind as sharp as Tor's asks the question of why a supposed majority voted for Castillo, and continues to vote for left-wing candidates who embody so much risk for any country. To begin with, the supposed majority in Peru that gave Castillo the victory was very small, 50.10% for him and 49.5% for his opponent, and that close result has been disputed due to alleged fraud in many electoral districts.  



      Secondly, Tor should perhaps also remember that very often in any country, particularly in immature and weak democracies, electoral processes are not as fair and clear as they should be. People can be easily manipulated by propaganda, and in the particular case of Latin America, we should keep in mind the great social resentment that still exists within society, a sentiment which can prevail over any rationality and objective evidence of progress and economic well-being. Did something similar not happen in the US with the election of Trump?


      Tor asks, "Are popularly elected leftist governments automatically evil?" Of course this conclusion is his own. I did not affirm such a thing.  As I said before, my conclusion is that the leftist regimes of the region, possibly even worldwide, have been particularly "evil," using Tor's own term. If Tor has any counterexample to make me change my mind, I will be more than willing to accept that I am wrong. 


      Finally, Tor asks me what I think about the recent coup attempt in the USA. I have already expressed my condemnation of this event. However I do not see why that matter is relevant to the Latin American context. Whether the US is a democracy or not, however imperfect, is something already discussed before on this Forum and only is questioned by Tor and, perhaps, some other radical leftists in the US.


      JE comments:  Nacho, I'd like to shift course towards Castillo's ministers.  What can you tell us about the ones with a past in the Sendero Luminoso?  They were a particularly nasty group that left a legacy of public fear and a devastated economy.  Has the SL changed its path?  In particular, Peru cannot afford to slay the golden goose of international tourism.

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      • Inconvenient Truths vs Callings of the Heart; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 08/12/21 4:05 AM)
        Gary Moore writes:

        José Ignacio Soler's articulate defense (August 11th) of his posts on socialism and its directions contained a phrase that reminded of my own efforts, on quite another topic, to defend evidence against mystifying enthusiasm. That phrase (with apologies for specificity) is: "it is surprising that a mind as sharp as Tor's asks..."


        Sounds like the words I used to another WAIS colleague when surprised that indisputable intellectual sharpness could produce something that looked a bit like froth--and this was irritated, antagonistic froth, using little knowledge of the subject matter to snipe disdainfully at elaborately researched facts.


        Apparently both cases awoke the demons of ideology, specifically sympathies on the left. Evidently there can be an element of faith in such sympathies that demands allegiance, to the point of qualifying inconvenient news as non-factual.


        Both cases suggest the power of ideological enthusiasm, an X-factor in debate that seems able to hijack erudition and intellect, somewhat as Creationists can hijack certain emotionally chosen facts to prove, they insist, that the earth is only 4,000 years old.


        Our hard-working moderator JE, in his sometimes-impossible role of offering an encouraging word to everyone, does seem at times to go beyond that tightrope and into the mysterious enthusiasm, part of its nature being to defiantly stand on faith, on the callings of the heart, no matter what the faithless might offer as supposed mountains of evidence. Sort of like the Creationists stand on faith. They can hear the callings of the heart. Are they supposed to deny that?


        JE comments:  For those new to this discussion, Gary Moore is referring to his dissection of the Derek Chauvin case, and in particular Gary's comparison of the trial with that of Alfred Dreyfus in Belle Époque France.  Likely from a fear of being viewed as "with" Chauvin, I was dismissive of Gary's careful analysis.


        Gary, you're not the only one to label me frothy--you should visit WAIS HQ and meet Aldona...


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      • Was US Social Security Inspired by Italian Fascism? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 08/13/21 3:47 AM)
        It has been said that the excellent institution of Social Security has a socialist inspiration.

        Frankly, I believe that US Social Security got its inspiration from the visit of Rexford Tugwell and Raymond Mooley to Mussolini in 1934 (see Roosevelt Library), and the Italian Finance Minister Guido Jung's visit to FDR.


        Of course in Italian Fascism there were a lot of socialist elements, especially at the beginning and at the end of it.


        JE comments:  Even the staunchest haters of the "S-word" (socialism) defend Social Security, although there are those who would privatize it.


        Entitlements (or freebies or what have you) have a way of normalizing themselves over time.  What starts our as a radical measure eventually is taken for granted.  Ever notice that the debate over the Affordable Care Act is now rather subdued?  If only, alas, it were actually affordable...


        Returning to the historical roots of Social Security:  Eugenio, can you walk us through the old-age pensions offered in the early Mussolini years?  Was there no such thing in Italy prior to 1922?  And how were the pensions paid for?


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        • Mussolini's Socialist Programs (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 08/15/21 4:31 AM)
          Following the request of our esteemed moderator, let me present the situation in Italy encountered by the two members of the FDR "Brain Trust," Rexford Tugwell and Raymond Moley, on their visit to Rome in 1934:

          Italy's Social Security started in 1898 with voluntary insurance for invalidity and old age by a free contribution by the employees and private employers.


          In 1919 there was a tentative correction but it was only in 1923, one year after Mussolini became prime minister, that saw the founding of the "Cassa Nazionale Fascista della Protezione Sociale," creating a compulsory pension for invalidity and old age (60 years).


          Its payments required a sharing by both the employees and employers.  At the same time all hospital treatments became free.


          In the same year, the working day was reduced to a maximum of 8 hours.  Some years later the work week was reduced to 40 hours. The free Saturday came to be known as "Fascist Saturday."


          The year 1926 brought the creation of the "Opera Nazionale Maternità ed Infanzia," by which the state gave complete assistance, medical and otherwise, to mothers and children, especially for working mothers. Free kindergartens were established. The attached "Ente Opera Assistenza" was responsible for organizing summer and winter holiday camps for the kids. Special schools and residences were also organized for those suffering from tuberculosis or thalassemia. The tuberculosis residences were built on mountains in the forests.


          Great care was also given to the orphans and abandoned children.


          The "Carta del Lavoro" of 1927 sought to create parity status for both employers and employees according to a project of collaboration and solidarity, an attempt to transcend the materialistic philosophy of class warfare.


          The "assegni famigliari" (family allowances) came in 1928. These were payments to families with children plus a wedding bonus and family loans which could be gradually reduced according to the number of children, up to nil with four children.


          Further, 1929 brought the law for compulsory insurance against work-related illness and accidents.


          The reconstruction of the country was making giant steps.  Just see the reclamation of the Pontine Marshes while Arnaldo the brother of the PM, an excellent agrarian scholar, worked to improve agriculture and complete the full reforestation of Italy.


          Such achievements inspired Tugwell to write in his diary on 22 October 1934: "They tell me that this afternoon I will have to meet with Mussolini. His strength and intelligence are evident as his efficiency of the Italian Administration. It is the cleanest, more linear, the most efficient example of a social machine that I ever saw."


          If Tugwell came back now to Rome, he would be horrified by the present conditions of the city--lay, democratic, antifascist--submerged in moral and material refuse.


          Oh, by the way, I assume that Bernie Sanders would support some of Mussolini's programs.


          JE comments:  By way of a comparison, it was not until the 1960s that the US offered Medicare to its seniors, although Social Security was established in 1935.  The US was one of the first nations to "socialize" education in the 1800s, but in every other area it lagged behind.


          Eugenio, why does it seem that Italy's social progressivism stopped in the 1930s?  Is it because there was nothing new to add, or because Mussolini become distracted by militarism and empire-building, which ultimately led to his downfall?


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          • More on Mussolini's Social Programs (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 08/18/21 3:51 AM)
            The great social programs of Mussolini did not end with those indicated in my post of 15 August. However, some of the others, even if I liked them all, may have had a light political smell.

            There were excellent education reforms prepared in 1923 by the great philosopher Giovanni Gentile, later killed by partisans. Now the Italian schools are in a mess, especially my alma mater, the Nautical School.


            Another great institution of 1926 was the "Opera Nazionale Balilla" (ONB) for the assistance plus moral and physical education of youth. In 1937 it became the "Gioventù Italiana del Littorio"(GIL). Practically all youth were organized by the regime, a fact which annoyed the Catholic Church which immediately forgot the great privileges received up to that point under Fascism. The Catholic Church through its organization Azione Cattolica had a great influence on many young people. Fortunately, a compromise was reached, and the Azione Cattolica continued but should have been involved only in the service of the Church. The Church soon cheated and the Azione Cattolica became the basis for building the future political party of the Democrazia Cristiana.


            If the OB/GIL was for youth, the Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro (After-Work Organization, 1925) was for adults.


            Such an organization brought culture, sports, and entertainment to the workers. It created 1227 theaters, 801 cinemas of which 40 were mobile, 6427 libraries, 994 schools for dancing and singing, 11,159 new amateur sports associations, 2700 amateur dramatic societies, 3787 musical bands, 2130 orchestras, and 10,000 cultural associations.


            In 1926 the Real Academia of Italy was founded to highlight Italian culture. science, arts, etc.


            The Ente Comunale di Assistenza was founded in 1937, to give local administrations the funds to assist individuals and families in need. Probably for these reasons, there were practically no homeless in Italy.


            The law of 5 February 1934 created Corporativism. It had several inspirations, such as the medieval Italian corporations (but those corporations were closed, replaced by the new Corporativism). Corporativism was also based on the ideas of Giuseppe Mazzini, as well as national Syndicalism (Filippo Corridoni) and the Carta del Carnaro (D'Annunzio a Fiume).


            Finally, the best one was the Law for the Socializzazione of 1944, but by this time it was too late.


            Unfortunately, two reforms were not enacted:


            1) The abolition of the monarchy, really loyal only to its throne and not to Italy.


            2) Reform of the Armed Forces to eliminate the many generals and admirals who had reached such positions thanks to their class background and not because of military abilities.


            Unfortunately, Mussolini was always loyal toward the king and as a good former corporal, he was very respectful to the military high brass.


            About the cheating Church: In the final years of WWII, the Savona Seminary was emptied, with the seminarists sent inland for safety while the building was partially occupied by some armed forces of the RSI and a few priests. One of the latter joined the leaders of the group commanding the partisans' forces in the province. The smart priest found the best place to hide the commanders of the partisans inside the Seminary. The commander of the Fascist Militia was just next door.


            At the end of the war, the good priest was terribly disappointed by the criminal actions of his travel companions and his actions to save the innocent were useless.


            JE comments:  Eugenio, can you fill us in on how Italy's Nautical School has become a mess?  This educator is always intrigued by such subjects.


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            • Nautical Schools in Italy, Then and Now (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 08/19/21 7:06 AM)
              John E asked me to further discuss Italy's Nautical Schools, and the reasons I claimed they are presently in a mess.

              It used to be that the skill to become a ship captain was learned on board. Maybe the captain would take his son with him and teach him to become a captain too--the hard way.


              The first official Nautical Schools were in Naples in 1623, then Marseille and Le Havre 1728, Hamburg 1749, Trieste 1754. and also England. After Naples the Nautical Schools spread all over Italy: The Naples school was also the first to divide courses into navigation on the high seas, coastal trade, fishing, and ship construction. The Grand Duchy of Tuscany in 1748 proclaimed a modern Codex of Navigation.



              Of course, the great Italian Maritime Republics: Genoa, Pisa, Amalfi, Ragusa (now Dubrovnik), and Venice had already their Codex and Navigation books, for example the Genoese Liber Gazarie of 1341.


              The Liber Gazarie takes its name from the Gazaria, the Genoese colony on Crimea, prior to the invasion by the Tatars. The Genoese remained in Crimea from 1266 till 1475.  This counters the thesis of Erdogan and scholar Sezai Ozcelik that the Tatars are the autochthonous people of Crimea.


              During the 1920s and '30s, due to its great importance for the country, the nautical school was under the supervision of the Ministry of the Seas.  Finally, it was placed under the Ministry of Public Instruction.


              Italy at present has 38 state Nautical Schools plus some private institutions, divided into four main areas--Deck, Engine, Construction, and Logistics.  Thirty-seven subjects are taught but only one foreign language, English (in my time we also studied French; one foreign language is not enough).


              To become an Officer in charge or Master required two very rigorous examinations administered by the Coast Guard.


              When I finished the Nautical School in 1954 I had an examination in 18 different subjects, now reduced to four of which only two are written and oral. This year due to Covid-19 the exam was only one conversation between the candidate and the professors.


              Now the International Convention on Standards of Training (STCW; 1995) and International  Maritime Organization have special requirements, on safety, firefighting, first-aid and medical, crude oil washing, and many other topics not covered by our schools.  This requires candidates to attend such courses privately, and paid for by them. My company Amoco paid for me.


              The Nautical School of Savona for many years was one of the very best.  Proof of this was that in the in the 1950s through '80s, the Savonese former Captain/Chief Engineers became Company Inspectors of companies like ESSO, FINA, SHELL, ARAMCO, PHILLIPS, GETTY, AMOCO, etc. and when there was an International Meeting on safety, crude oil problems, etc., we used English but we were the greatest majority and could have used the Savonese dialect instead.


              The various reforms of the new Italy from the postwar years have completely degraded the level of teaching.  Consider the various policies of "democratization" like the new belief in the US that math is racist, or the adoption of politically granted minimum passing grades.


              The last reform is shameful, as it has eliminated the grade of "candidate for the command of a ship" to "candidate for the conduction of a naval vehicle"--the ministry Mrs. Gelmini probably knew only the conduction of tramway or bus.


              Oh, by the way as geography has supposedly "nothing" to do with shipping, the teaching of such a "negligible" matter is only in one of the first years out of five years.



              There is now a private small college, said to accept a maximum of 60 people and very expensive, that in three years gives the possibility for any candidate graduate of any high school, also from agrarian school, to get an officer license. "Good free enterprise."


              In Savona, Captain (sorry, Conductor) Riccardo Roem de Rabenstein, who has been copied on this discussion, is pushing to have the local Nautical School cover all the courses required by IMO/STCW, and maybe he can write a post about such an important matter.


              JE comments:  Last year Eugenio Battaglia sent this piece on Gazaria in Crimea.  Click below.  And Eugenio, please tell us more about Captain Roem de Rabenstein.  The name alone makes him a very interesting guy...


              http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=137818&objectTypeId=101379&topicId=123


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