By Beatrice E. Rangel
Pompeii murals seem to have pioneered the Trompe L’oeil craft . Then the technique that aims at deceiving the human eye became a distinctive sign of the baroque period. By creating an optical illusion trompe l’oeils make people see windows where there only are walls, entry doors where there are stairs, and three dimensional scenes where there are only paintings.
The technique has recently left the realms of art to penetrate politics with many leaders of the Americas and beyond practicing with connoisseur gusto.
It was masterfully deployed by Pope Francis in his visits to Cuba and the US. As he conducted an impeccable diplomatic mission, he left many doors open to further change but managed to hide the germinal maneuvers from mercurial president Castro by means of resorting to a tone and form of expression that resembled more of a lullaby than a political speech. But Francis was always indicating that Cuba needs to open to the world; that understanding needs to supersede intolerance and that, at the end of the day, Cuba cannot go anywhere without substantial foreign assistance. He also stressed that change could only be staged and incarnated by Cubans all over the world thereby signaling to the tragedy of persecution and totalitarianism.
But every speech and every gesture was wrapped in cordial language, wide smiles and loving gestures.
This behavior created far more pressure on his hosts to embrace change than a public reprimand a la John Paul the II in Nicaragua. And while radicals on both sides of the Cuban divide criticized his apparent lack of focus, the students and young people from Cuba everywhere in the world not only understood the soft command but even expressed their doubts as to whether the standing regime would allow them to practice what the Pope was advising.
In short the fuse of enthusiasm for freedom is now lighted and it will depend on the Cubans everywhere whether it lights the way or is sequestered.
Another practitioner of the technique was the Pope’s countrywoman, Ms Cristina Kirchner.
She promptly flew to Havana to attend the public mass directed by Francis where one could see her brandishing a pious look and also contemplating His Holiness in a seeming awe close to enchantment.
Ms. Kirchner is painfully aware that the Pope is the most trusted leader in Argentina and that should she desire to enjoy a quiet retirement his neutrality or support could be an insurance policy. So we can expect to experience a constant trompe l’oeil over the next years, as Ms Kirchner, an agnostic, travels to Rome to hear Sunday mass with some frequency in order to project an image of closeness to the Holy Father that may not exactly be reality.
In Brazil, trompe l’oeils abound. After the loss of its coveted and perhaps undeserved investment grade rating; the virtual disappearance of all private players in the construction and engineering services; the collapse of the oil colossus; and the opening of an investigation into former president Luiz Inacio Da Silva, the world was getting ready for impeachment proceedings against president Dilma Rousseff.
Three roads were supposed to lead to the troublesome destination. One departs from the Elections Tribunal, the other from the Supreme Court and yet another from Congress.
Instead, what is taking place is a cabinet reshuffle. This cabinet reshuffle however is s trompe l’oeil. Because what has really happened is that the PT has transferred governance to PMDB, its coalition ally, in an attempt to distance itself from the current corruption Tsunami cum economic collapse.
As PMDB takes the majority and more powerful posts in cabinet, its leadership will soon learn that the only way out is a distastefully stern adjustment program.
Subsidies will need to be reigned in and, as we all too well know, behind every subsidy there is an interest group. Direct transfers are the perk of the poor; low interest rates, those of the middle classes; tariffs are the way to keep the business community protected from outside competitors, etc.
As PMDB begins to redress the economic distortions, virtually all of these groups will see part or all of their perks disappear, and they might turn very much in favor of the past as happened in 1989 in Venezuela when the Perez Administration began delivering macroeconomic balance and riots broke out.
The only advantage existing in Brazil is that the extreme left has already reigned for a while and has been responsible for the current pain. Change towards stability and growth in Brazil will thus depend on the communication skills of PMDB so as to convince Brazilians that lest there is adjustment there won’t be any growth and that the growth quenchers are those at PT that chose corruption over value creation as a governing goal. Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.
For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O'Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador.
You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.
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