Wednesday, 23 February 2011

President Lula in Florianopolis

Everybody’s favourite cuddly politician, President Lula recently visited Florianopolis and his visit was notable for a number of reasons, principally for the amount of money that the Federal and State Governments spent in relation to the visit.

Lula visited one of the traditional Floripa seafood restaurants, declaring that everybody who visits the Magic Island should try the Sequencia de Camarão dishes. He didn’t recommend the squid, unsurprisingly, perhaps attempting to preserve the species, but the idea for that sequence is just the same. Plate after plate arrives at your table, garlic, steamed and milanesa, until you really can’t look any more prawns (or squid) in the eye. Just as you are thinking about walking off the prawns with a stroll in the sun along the shores of Lagoa da Conceição, the main course arrives. The fish is usually eaten, the batatas fritas and salada too, but the rice usually goes back to the kitchen hardly touched. Once you have eaten one or two of these sequencias, you learn that when the menu says 2 pessoas, there is often enough for five people.

This immense amount of food surprises first time visitors, so if Lula and his entourage ordered the amount of food specified for each of them, there would likely have been an immense amount of waste. When the money comes out of the public funds to pay for this, there probably wouldn’t have been many complaints, and certainly not when compared to the money spent on the rest of the Floripa trip.

Lula was attending the World Trade and Tourism Council conference, one that has been many years in the organizing. As he arrived, he would have seen the huge adverts on the road out of the airport proclaiming Costão do Santinho to have been voted the Best Large Resort in Brazil this year. No mention of who voted for these awards, but if something smells a little fishy, it might not be your main course. The resort is a monstrosity dominating the corner of a beautiful beach on the Atlantic side of the island, with only surrounding dunes preventing the whole beach being developed. The resort’s owners have had a couple of run-ins with the Policia Federal over the years, for such minor crimes as not taking any notice at all of environmental regulations. Nothing ever comes of these cases though.

As well as spending millions of reais just to bring the gravy train to Floripa, there were a few hidden extra expenses, although not so well hidden that they haven’t made headlines in Brasilia. Being Brazil’s Best Large Resort, you would expect the price of hosting and housing so many conference delegates for the week to be very high. The resort had a new auditorium built especially for the conference. The accounts may not show, but the rent for using this auditorium was apparently unbelievably extortionate. Roughly the same price as it cost for the construction of the thing in the first place. Strange.

President Lula’s government agreed the price though, and will pay the bill using Brazilian taxpayers’ money, so surely all is above board. If this seems to the layman that the government is paying for the improvement of facilities at a privately-owned resort, the layman obviously doesn’t know the intricacies of government business. The fact that the owner of the resort is very good friends with the President of the Federation of Culture, who also happens to be the mother of the President of Embratur and friends with the Secretary of Tourism is completely unconnected of course, but if you would like to try to make connections for yourself, there are not too many dots to join.

Suffice to say that the next time Lula visits Florianopolis, whether he is still President of Brazil or not, he will probably not pay the rack rate for his stay in the Presidential Suite at Costão do Santinho.

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