Opinion, by Michael Royster

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – No, not last year’s film nominated for an Oscar in Costume Design. Rather, it’s shorthand for what’s happening this month in the “real” world of Heads of State. We all know our nursery rhymes, but the Curmudgeon, feeling Grimm, will explain why no dwarves, Snow Whites nor witches, but rather seasoned politicos, are staring at their respective kingdom’s mirrors.

The Curmudgeon, also known as Michael Royster.
The Curmudgeon, also known as Michael Royster.

We’ll start with the most centrally located state, i.e. Ecuador. Rafael Correa, President since 2007, was re-elected this week on the first ballot. Correa, a U.S. educated economist, has overseen an economic recovery from 2008 better than that of any other South American country, notwithstanding his leftist tendencies and his loathing of the press. “It’s the economy, stupid!” was sufficient to vaporize the several other candidates’ mirrors and electoral hopes.

Next, we turn to Mr. Correa’s role model, mentor and guru, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. His surprise return to his homeland this week, after over two months in Cuban hospitals, has caused three prominent politicians (Nicolas Maduro, Elias Jaua and Diosdado Cabello) to turn from navel-gazing and star-gazing to mirror-gazing. Each aspires to be Chávez’s successor, and each has a reasonable chance. What each of their mirrors will tell them, however, no one knows, because in the end, Hugo Chávez has the biggest mirror of all.

Opulent mirrors, of course, are now to be found in vast supply in the world’s smallest State, Vatican City. Benedict XVI’s announcement of his impending retirement caused tsunami waves to overwhelm red berettas worldwide. Shock was profound (“You gave up WHAT for Lent!?!?”). The frisson amongst the Fourth Estate caused it to flitter and twitter about the First Estate, ad nauseam gloriam dei.

We now know, for instance, that 117 sub-octogenarian Cardinals will vote in a conclave (“with key”) meaning they’re locked in till white smoke appears and habemos papam. They may even move the (mirrorless) lockdown forward from its scheduled start on the Ides of March. The Curmudgeon knows why. They want to have their new #Pontifex before Palm Sunday March 24th and there’s a very real risk of deadlock. There are no front-runners, and the strife amongst Vatican insiders is widespread and bitter (Curias and Curiouser, to paraphrase Mr. Dodgson).

The current Pope claims he’s going into a monastery and will not be at all involved in the choice of his successor or in trying to orient his successor. This will put him in stark contrast with Brazil’s former President Lula, who also swore off politics after choosing and electing his successor, President Dilma. No serious person has ever believed that Lula threw away his talking mirror, even if he did lose some facial hair.

Skeptics say that Lula chose Dilma because his mirror said she would continue his ineffective populist economic policies, which would cause inflation to return and taxes to rise, so that popular discontent would grow amongst the masses, thus creating, saith the mirror, a groundswell of support for “Agora é Lula – Again!” Dilma’s mirror said she could handle manage her way out of this very tight situation and run again, notwithstanding her occasional distempered dressing down of political allies and underlings.

So, whose mirror has got it right? Who’ll succeed Chávez? Who’ll succeed Benedict XVI? Who’ll succeed Dilma?

Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, fetched up on these shores exactly 35 years ago, still loves it, notwithstanding being a charter member of the most persecuted minority in (North) America today, the WASPs (google it!)(get over it!)


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