Well, there’s not much new going on in my life but, here’s the latest:
On Sunday, there was a major volcanic eruption in Guatemala which killed many people. This, on the heels of the Hawaii eruptions, has caused me to wonder if we are in for more dramatic events. There are two major volcanoes in Costa Rica, Arenal and Poas, which blow off some steam from time to time. Perhaps I’ve been reading too much science fiction, much of which deals with a future earth destroyed by tectonic events, environmental collapse or other catastrophes. I guess it’s time to start squirreling away resources like canned goods, bottled water and flashlights. Oh, and I’ll need a gun.
The following is a news update for my part of the world. Whereas news from the US is reported here, very little of what happens here is of interest to “North Americans.”
Politics in central America are always interesting, but, after years of increasing stability and prosperity, I fear the situation is degrading. In Venezuela, which for years had a successful economy with a stable middle class, has been reduced to a post-apocalyptic nightmare. It started with Hugo Chavez, now deceased but forever remembered for announcing at the UN that he knew George Bush was in the room because he smelled sulfur. He campaigned and accumulated power as a man of the people. In reality, he squandered millions of dollars and enriched himself; but he got away with it because of the country’s oil-wealth. After he died, his successor and former foreign minister Nicolas Maduro inherited a trashed economy and a huge drop in oil revenue. His people are without food and medicine, and many are fleeing to neighboring countries. The biggest problem is that, instead of attempting to fix the economy, he has become a demagogue whose primary concerns are maintaining power and silencing dissent and protesters.
Nicaragua, once known for the US and Cuba’s proxy war between the Contras and Sandinistas, over the past 20 years has become pretty stable. While still poor, it’s been at peace. Daniel Ortega, the former rebel/president, ceded power when Violeta Chamoro was democratically elected. After her, Ortega was himself reelected and has continued his leftist policies. The problem here is that he now has become a demagogue as well, and certain ill-considered policies, such as pension reforms, have generated massive protests in Nicaragua and in Costa Rica, where many Nicaraguan immigrants come to work. Yesterday, I heard a rumor or a chemical attack in a small town which objected to Ortega’s presidency; not sure if it’s true or a not-so-urban legend. By the way, in recent years, Nicaragua has become an attractive option for expats; you can rent a huge colonial home for $500 per month. I have considered it, but, first of all, it’s really hot and, second, there isn’t great medical infrastructure; there are many communicable diseases there which have been eliminated in Costa Rica and Panama.
The joke above, which I’ve heard in other iterations, translates as follows:
A plane was about to crash. On board were Nicolas Maduro, Pope Francis, and a Colombian child, and there were only two parachutes. Maduro rushed over and grabbed one of the parachutes and, before jumping, exclaimed “I am the most intelligent politician in Venezuela and I cannot die now.” The pope looked at the boy and said “Child, take the parachute, I am already a very old man.” The boy looked at the pope and said “Your holiness, you take one parachute and I’ll take the other. The most intelligent politician in Venezuela just jumped with my school backpack.”
Pro-church and anti-government seems to be the prevailing attitude.