Tag: corruption

Flocking to Spain

Wednesday, 1 August, 2018

Holidaymakers in Spain are getting more than they bargained for these days. Typical seaside scenes now involve African migrants jumping off dinghies onto packed beaches before asking stunned tourists for food and then heading over the dunes.

But it’s not just the victims of Africa’s dysfunction that are flocking to Spain. Venezuelans of means, fleeing the ruinous chavecismo of their homeland, are pitching up on Madrid’s property market. According to the New York Times, On Spain’s Smartest Streets, a Property Boom Made in Venezuela:

“During a walk around Salamanca, an upmarket district of the Spanish capital, Luis Valls-Taberner, a real-estate investment adviser, pointed out on almost every street a building that he said a wealthy Venezuelan had recently acquired.

Mr. Valls-Taberner would not identify the buyers. Some properties, he said, were purchased through investment companies based in Miami or elsewhere — but the money always came from Venezuela.”

By dinghy or by jet, many of those wishing to escape the most corrupt and decrepit places on Earth, especially the failed states north and south of the Sahara, are streaming into Spain, and the country’s new socialist government, like most of its EU counterparts, seems unwilling to discuss the fact that Africa’s population, now about 1.26 billion, is expected to double by 2050. Expect bigger dinghies.

FIFA officials were “Russia’s people”

Friday, 5 June, 2015 0 Comments

The FIFA scandal is breaking news, as they say, so anything published on 29 May looks decidedly old by now. Still, Putin and the FIFA scandal by Kadri Liik for the European Council on Foreign Relations offers useful background and insight on how corruption has become “a constituent pillar of the system” in FIFA/Russia: “If a free press in the West is a means by which societies can control their elites and rulers, then in Russia corruption is the means by which the Kremlin can control the elites as well as societies. It is used in an almost institutionalized manner.”

And this brings us to Blatter and Putin, two sides of a very bent coin. Snippet:

“This system explains why Putin reacted to the FIFA scandal as he did. It is hard to say whether Russia bribed FIFA; however it is evident that an implicit but very clear mutual understanding was established between Russia’s and FIFA’s leadership. So for the purposes of the situation, FIFA officials were ‘Russia’s people,’ and Western authorities had launched an attack on them. For Putin, that means effectively an attack on Russia — an attempt to impose alien rules if not exactly within Russia’s jurisdictional boundaries, then at least in the sphere where rules established by Russia carry the day.”

The FIFA scandal is much bigger than football. It is now about international relations. Putin was unable to save Sepp Blatter and that sends a chilling message to those who want to believe that America no longer carries a big stick. You know all that Kremlin guff that gushes out of the Russia Today sewer? It sounds far less convincing now.

Tim Roth as Blatter! Sam Neill as Havelange!

Tuesday, 2 June, 2015 0 Comments

Oh, the timing! Exquisite. United Passions, a French drama about the history of FIFA, with Tim Roth as the corrupt Sepp Blatter, Sam Neill as the corrupt João Havelange and the corrupt corpulent Gérard Depardieu as the organization’s longest–serving president, Jules Rimet, is making news just as its main character is the news.

This rubbish was 90 percent funded by FIFA, cost an obscene $27 million to make and was directed, to his eternal shame, by Frederic Auburtin. The film was released in Serbia only in June last year and deserved the singular honour, but in light of recent events, the time has come to spread its absurdist message beyond the Balkans.

The unsavoury World Cup runneth over

Monday, 2 June, 2014 0 Comments

The ongoing debate about the holding of the World Cup in Brazil, a country challenged by poverty, inequality and crime, has moved to the back pages following the weekend’s revelations about the costs of staging the event in Qatar in 2022. These costs are not just measured in infrastructural expenditures, but in lives lost and destroyed and rampant sleaze in the run-up to the awarding of the tournament to the emirate. The alleged corruption is breathtaking:

“The Sunday Times said it had obtained a cache of hundreds of millions of documents and emails, which detailed conversations about payments and money transfers from accounts controlled by Bin Hammam, his family and Doha-based businesses. Among many other alleged payments to mid-ranking football officials and figures including the former footballer of the year George Weah, Bin Hammam paid a total of $1.6m to the disgraced former Fifa vice-president, Jack Warner, including $450,000 before the vote. Warner has always denied any wrongdoing.”

For the past four years, the world has been looking forward to a football festival in Brazil. It could still turn out to be a marvellous spectacle but there’s an uneasy feeling abroad that the game has sold its soul.

Corruption and collusion in Ireland

Wednesday, 4 December, 2013 0 Comments

“The Corruption Perceptions Index 2013 serves as a reminder that the abuse of power, secret dealings and bribery continue to ravage societies around the world,” so says Transparency International in its latest report. Ireland finds itself in 21st position on the list, behind Uruguay but ahead of the Bahamas, but how accurately this reflects the situation in Uruguay or the Bahamas is difficult to judge as the difference between perceived corruption and actual sleaze is hard to define. The humiliation of those who suffer at the hands of dishonest bureaucrats cannot be rendered statistically; the loss of faith in governance is impossible to quantify.

In the case of Ireland, the latest blow to the credibility of its institutions came with recent revelations that charities in receipt of €1.5 billion in state funding were awarding their executives huge extra payments on top of their generous salaries. That those who make a living pleading for money to help the poor and the sick would turn out to be among the most avaricious and cosseted of fat cats is repulsive, but it neither surprises nor shocks. Much more shocking, however, are the findings of the Smithwick Tribunal, which were published yesterday. The tribunal found that Irish police leaked information to the IRA that led to two of Northern Ireland’s most senior police officers being murdered.

The tribunal was established in 2005 and spent six years examining intelligence and witness statements from police, undercover agents, IRA members and politicians during 133 days of public hearings. Three former members of An Garda Síochána, Ireland’s “guardians of the peace” — Owen Corrigan, Leo Colton and Finbarr Hickey — were granted legal representation at the tribunal but all forcefully denied allegations of collusion in the murders. The costs of the Smithwick Tribunal have been estimated at €15 million, with some €6 million going on general legal fees. But despite all the evidence and all the money, it was still unable to name those who enabled the killings. That’s shocking, but it’s not surprising.

Hugo Chávez left a legacy of ruin and hatred

Wednesday, 6 March, 2013 2 Comments

The Venezuelan despot, Hugo Chávez, spent much of his time stoking class hatred and abusing his control of the judiciary to persecute and jail his political opponents. He seized millions of hectares of farmland and hundreds of businesses, with little or no compensation. The result was that Venezuela became an even more oil-dependent economy, which instead of the “endogenous development” promised by the so-called Bolivarian Revolution, increasingly relied on imports of the most basic foodstuffs that were once produced domestically. Meanwhile, Chávez, his clan and his corrupt cronies, the Boligarchs, amassed huge fortunes. Without a hint of irony in his tribute, President Michael D Higgins of Ireland said: “President Chavez achieved a great deal during his term in office, particularly in the area of social development and poverty reduction.” Oliver Stone and Sean Penn were said to be equally grief stricken.

Hugo Chávez lavished praise and aid on ideological allies such as Bashar al-Assad, Robert Mugabe and Muammar Gaddafi. The dead despot’s generosity was worth billions each year to the Castro tyranny in Cuba and was vital in helping its economy recover from the depression that followed the collapse of its last patron, the Soviet Union. Subsidies to the autocratic government of Daniel Ortega are estimated to be worth around eight percent of Nicaragua’s GDP. The best obituary for the man’s wretched misrule is provided by Bloomberg: “Chavez the Popular Autocrat Leaves a Legacy of Ruin.”

Girlfriend in a Coma

Wednesday, 20 February, 2013 0 Comments

“Our aims are to build awareness in Italy and around the world of the true nature and severity of the decline of this once-great western democracy, to warn other countries that a similar destiny could await them, and to serve as a call to action, at all levels of society.” So say Italian journalist Annalisa Piras and Bill Emmott, former editor of The Economist. Between them, they have made of Girlfriend in a Coma, a declaration of love and apprehension about the object of their passion: Repubblica italiana.

[iframe src=”http://player.vimeo.com/video/51765618″ width=”100%” height=”380″]

Bill Emmott kindly took some time from his busy schedule to take part in a Q&A with Rainy Day. Here goes:

Eamonn Fitzgerald: Girlfriend in a Coma, Italy and its Discontents by Paul Ginsborg, The Dark Heart of Italy by Tobias Jones… There’s no shortage of concern for the state of Italy by British intellectuals. But why Italy, and not, say, Germany or Spain? How do you explain this British anxiety about Italy?

Bill Emmott: Our extra interest in Italy goes back centuries: we see Italy as the font of western civilisation, a sort of lesson in how to be cultured. But also now there is a kind of horrified fascination: at the danger Italy might bring down the euro, at the way Berlusconi has become the anti-culture symbol, but also at fear that some Italian trends might might precursors of what might befall us too, if we are not careful.

Eamonn Fitzgerald: Italy has lurched from crisis to crisis over the past six decades, but life goes on and the Italians seem to have developed the ability to cope. Why do you think that the current crisis is more serious than the preceding ones?

Bill Emmott: This crisis is genuinely worse. Incomes are falling, private savings have halved, and the young are living off the pensions of their grandparents. It cannot go on like this. As Sergio Marchionne of FIAT says in our film, Italy is on “l’ultima spiaggia“, the last beach.

Eamonn Fitzgerald: In his 2004 thriller, Medusa, the late Michael Dibdin has his protagonist, Aurelio Zen, describe the everyday reality of corruption, intrigue and distrust as “Italia Lite”. It is, says Zen, “the new culture of empty slogans, insincere smiles and hollow promises overlaying the authentic adversarial asperity of public life.” Did Dibdin, the novelist, get it right?

Bill Emmott: A principle of journalism, espoused even by a predecessor of mine as editor of The Economist, is that we “simplify, then exaggerate”. So did Dibdin. But his books contained a lot of truth.

Eamonn Fitzgerald: This question is related to the previous one in that it deals with matters cultural. How come Italian artists, filmmakers especially, have created nothing extraordinary about the current state of Italy? What’s happened to that famed creativity? Where’s the Pasolini, were’s the Sciascia in this time of need?

Bill Emmott: Domination of the media, of film distribution by a few hands, combined with the politicisation of so much of the cultural industry, have combined to stultify creativity. Not entirely, of course, but substantially.

Eamonn Fitzgerald: The international press depicts Berlusconi as a gangster, a buffoon or a Casanova, but in-depth analysis of his popularity is rare or non-existent. Is this because the international media is unwilling to confront the fact that many Italians have very different values to the Tuscany set, as I call liberal/leftist international commentariat?

Bill Emmott: No, I think the Italian media makes the same mistake too. They love his showmanship, so they amplify it and connive in his use of it to cover up his real aims.

Eamonn Fitzgerald: How will Beppe Grillo and his Five Star Movement fare in the coming election?

Bill Emmott: Quite well. They are the only really new force, and feed off anger and despair. They will be a big force in the next parliament.

Eamonn Fitzgerald: Final question: Is Italy doomed, or do you see light at the end of the tunnel?

Bill Emmott: There will be light when Italians really face up to the reality of their situation.

Thank you, Bill. And now, over to The Smiths: “Girlfriend in a coma, I know. I know — it’s serious.”

China: The Economist flatters; the New York Times reveals

Friday, 26 October, 2012 0 Comments

The latest issue of The Economist features Xi Jinping, soon to be named China’s next president, on the cover and the editorial accompanying the title mentions the word “corruption” three times. Here’s the penultimate paragraph: “The Chinese Communist Party has a powerful story to tell. Despite its many faults, it has created wealth and hope […]

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The easing and ending of the Zimbabwe dollar

Friday, 14 September, 2012

When Zimbabwe achieved independence from Britain in April 1980, its revolutionary rulers decided to replace the Rhodesian dollar with the new Zimbabwe dollar (ZWD) at par and it was valued at US$1.54. But tyranny and turmoil soon replaced law and order as the “comrades” warmed to statism and inflation inevitably followed. By 2007, the ruin […]

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