A Gaiden Called Butthurt PART FIVE: Paul And The Devil Blues

A Gaiden Called Butthurt PART FIVE: Paul And The Devil Blues
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Ah, butthurt. The Internet’s ultimate expression of its cognitive dissonance. As a rule, it should never be responded to directly, lest one feed the trolls and become the source of their lulz. But that doesn’t mean it can or should always be ignored. Just look at Chile. Augusto Pinochet scored his place in Latin American history as the strong man who showed the world how to successfully run a dictatorship. Despite the worsened inequality (not to mention the torturous oppression), Nobel laureate and asshole economist Milton Friedman referred to the economic policy as “the miracle of Chile” and there are still a lot of people in that country who would defend the actions of the regime. 

However, the butthurt that led up to Pinochet’s 1973 coup d’état was caused by the secret economic war waged by the U.S. against the leftist government of Salvador Allende. The “progress” afterward was achieved simply because the gringos stopped squeezing. So to the left leaning Chilean, the Kremlin’s meddling with the American presidential election 40 years later is just karma being a bitch.

Just before dying, Pinochet stated that he accepted political responsibility for his rule. But he didn’t live long enough to have him acknowledge the suffering of the thousands of his tortured compatriots. Or explain how come a Hong Kong bank was holding 160 million dollars’ worth of gold in his name. The secret ingredient to his recipe for “success” (besides being a client state of cold war America) can be described as the cognitive dissonance of accepting his despotic rule being outweighed by the dissonance of accepting that supporting Pinochet’s rule was like being complicit in its atrocities. So praise for the results got (heavily) exaggerated by the likes of Friedman and inconvenient facts were trivialized, suppressed or ignored. The net result was decades of butthurt. So much butthurt in fact, that the subject of inequality in Chile has only in recent years been taken up again by its political elite.

So, how about the here & now? What makes Tatitan’s patriotic hemorrhoids flare up? Well sit back, grab a drink and bare (the pain) with me. We’ll have to do this in parts.

PART FIVE: Paul And The Devil Blues

By: Jonathan Mejia, AKA ‘Tatitan’

It began early in the morning, just like in a blues song. The Devil always lets you have a good night’s rest before he comes for you; to give that false sense of security, you dig? He knows you won’t be getting much sleep after he pays you that visit. Last month, the Public Prosecution Service (Dutch: Openbaar Ministerie, commonly abbreviated as OM) entered and searched 13 locales, including the residence of Minister Paul Croes, looking for evidence of corrupt practices regarding waivers for people from abroad seeking to get a work permit from DIMAS, Aruba’s foreigner administration & integration department. Talk about cataclysmic news.

Apparently, petitions for such a permit must be tested against the needs of the island’s labor market by Minister Croes’ Labor Office (DPL). Exceptions are made amongst others for investors pumping 10 million florins or more in the economy and people who have received a waiver of this labor market test by the Minister of Labor. Although this layer of control arguably serves a purpose, it also very obviously creates the opportunity for economic rent, which is to the corruptible what stagnant fresh water is to mosquitos. The Devil catches most souls in a golden net.

But a case like this one would be very hard to prove, especially if the OM’s head officer Eric Olthoff intends to take it all the way to the top, which makes it all the more unbelievable when he indicated to the press that the initial fact-finding began because of Facebook posts and witness accounts. I mean, what witnesses? Who would willingly snitch on a perfectly good hustle (this is cynicism, BTW) in Aruba? Not even the haters do that; it’s against ghetto rules. Arubans are ghetto, immigrants even more so. And Facebook posts? For real? My BS-o-meter went off the scale when I heard that.

Olthoff takes a risk with these searches, but he doesn’t have to prove Paul Croes is guilty of corruption and money laundering. Just being able to prove there was reason to bust into the Minister’s home should be good enough. The thing is that Facebook posts or witnesses aren’t good enough and there’s no way the OM could have been that effective with its initial fact-finding without triggering an early warning on this small, gossipy island.

There has to be more. Something so the judge-commissioners would sanction the raids. Maybe a sting operation that is still going on. Or maybe it’s true the rumor I heard that some people were brought in for questioning before the searches went down. That is, some people got arrested, but weren’t charged because they agreed to become “witnesses” and act like the arrests never occurred. What’s obvious here is that the flunkies will now be the scapegoats or the snitches that either save or ruin their masters. The Devil has his martyrs among men.

The Minister himself has gone into full radio silence since the raids, coming out only once in a recorded statement. Standing side by side with the Premier, he explained that given the difficulty and delicacy of the situation, it was best to make no comments on the situation, take a leave of absence until things have been cleared up and temporarily pass his daily functions over to Minister Bermudez of Finance.  At the end of his delivery he let out a little smile like he felt he nailed it (I wonder how many takes it took), then quickly corrected himself back to a solemn grimace.

They didn’t bother to give the video clip the customary appearance of a press conference or an interview. That would have required somebody to ask questions and not even Speed Andrade would have been able to pull that off. You see, the Minister didn’t actually explicitly deny anything in the statement and no self-respecting journalist would have let him get away with that.

Brushing off insinuations by a Dutch newspaper a year ago is one thing, but it’s a whole different affair when the OM announces that you’re officially under suspicion of corruption and money laundering. Then you must deny right away any allegations of wrongdoing, especially if you’re going to try to keep the job. Later -if necessary- you admit that “some mistakes were made”; as simple as that. It’s telling that Minister Croes is not following this classic political two-step.

Look, I know Paul personally. That’s no surprise since Aruba is so small and we’re the same age. That and the early stratification of academic talent in the Dutch educational system which pretty much assures that the smart ones will meet up after elementary school in sweet, sweet purgatory (Colegio Arubano). To some extent, I admire the fact that he’s the first one in my generation to make a name for himself in public office. And no matter what happens next, I will still consider him a friend.

But what truly flares me up is Paul’s overt disregard for his peers’ intelligence when he copped out from outright denying the allegations by stating instead that there are:

“Procesonan di integridad cu semper nos salvaguardia…”

Really? So the one cop-out in the whole damn statement is a blatant lie? I mean, confirming a pattern of irregularity would have been step number one in the OM’s initial fact-finding. Even if Paul is completely cleared of the matter, no one can assert that internal procedures safeguarding the ministry’s integrity haven’t been compromised, least of all the Minister himself, since a failure in those procedures maybe the explanation that saves him from actual jail time. You can’t dance with the Devil and then try to convince the world he doesn’t exist.

It might be that I’m in a bubble, but I was thinking of a different minister when I first heard of the raids on the morning in question, before it came out that it was Paul’s house they were searching. And when I started asking, it turned out that everybody around me thought of the same guy initially. That tells you something. For years there has been evidence of a structural flow of immigrants that’s been centrally planned for (and covertly stimulated) all along and that implies a lot of opportunity for economic rent.

The labor market test is but one layer of control, there’s a myriad of them in the system. Hell, the coveted work permit isn’t even issued by Paul’s Ministry of Labor. Actually, the whole point of having control mechanisms across different ministries is to avoid the free-for-alls of the past, right? Well apparently that didn’t stop the Devil. He just made sure everybody got invited to the party. There’s always room for one more in his golden net.

Everything’s awfully political these days. I see the Devil’s hand in every occurrence. Busting into Paul’s home, busting into Gerrit Schotte’s home. I get the feeling the OM had to wait till after the elections in the Netherlands before they could make use of a Dutch FIOD team for the raids. And Sybrand Buma, the leader of AVP’s sister party who must try to get the most out of what’s already a complicated four-way negotiation to form a cabinet, is now with these developments less likely to put his hand in the fire for his Aruban homologue.

Maybe that’s where it’s meant to hurt. Like they’re trying to isolate this so-called stable factor of the Kingdom. I mean, look at how these incidents made nigh undetectable blips on the Dutch news radar. And Facebook posts? For real? I’m sorry, but I still can’t filter past that BS, for real. Last year, the OM embarrassingly hit the “undo” button on a dismissal (Dutch: seponering) of a corruption case (the Hard Rock Café case), but only after the concerned citizen who put the case forward complained in court about the dismissal. So maybe he should have used Facebook the first time?

So what’s next for my friend Paul? Well, I can’t speak for the man and I can’t see into the future, but one thing is obvious. Like the preceding Minister of Labor Otmar Oduber, Paul Croes is a career politician; in it for the long haul (Hey that sounds good. And it can be made to rhyme. You’re welcome). Even the exit strategies require endless politicking; just ask JDY, Otmar, Marisol… I could go on. Fine, I will: Mervin Wyatt-Ras, Alfonso Boekhoudt, Edwin Jacobs, Nel Oduber, but my favorite will always be Andy Lee. I mean, that dude got out fast. “Who the hell is Andy Lee again?” you may ask. Yeah, that’s how fast he got out. Smart guy.

One other thing is obvious in all of this. Insomnia is the Devil’s weapon of choice in this case. Lack of sleep can bring down even the most powerful of minds and it’s in this moment of weakness that Paul can be turned into a scapegoat or a snitch, as if he were a flunky. So all negativity aside, the advice I would give to my friend would be to eat well, read well and exercise all he can. To balance mental and physical exhaustion to the point he can hit the sack and get as much of that natural, recuperative sleep he’s going to need the coming months. From there, everything’s possible.

While it’s still not clear if Paul will be on the ballot this year (probably not), his stated mission to overcome this challenge makes it seem he and his party will be going for it. I’m sure Paul was hoping to grow his base voters this year, perhaps even score enough for a seat in parliament, which politically on Aruba is like truly becoming a household brand name. But now it will be about survival (cue the song “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child).

It’s not hopeless. Some established household names have cautiously come out in Paul’s support and that helps. Success will depend on the people’s willingness to mentally spray-paint gold over the shitty parts, like they do in our sister island for Schotte. It can happen, I mean, people rooted for the thug Yellow and he killed a guy. I’m telling you, Arubans are ghetto. So turn that frown upside down, Paul. But be careful with the insults to your friends’ intelligence. We can be worse than the Devil.

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