Soon, the business acumen of an intelligent entrepeneur will get all the glory: in a few week’s time we will know the 7 new wonders of the world – according to the poll carried out by a private company. As the date nears, the activity in the copy+paste travel blogosphere intensifies. I might have to switch off my feeds reader for a few days.
I have written previously on the topic (7 New wonders of the world). A wise text in Spanish by Jorge Gobbi (Dinero, votos y maravillas) presents me with the opportunity for a new entry on the topic, with some fresh news on the Brazilian race for a place among the top 7. Jorge, incidentally, is one of the few intelligent people around who has mantained a critical attitude towards the whole 7 New wonders initiative.
The poll leaves me quite cold; the monumental (no pun intended) attention given to it, doesn’t (someone argued recently that thanks ot the initiative he had ended up knowing more about some of the wonders on the final list. Good for him, but if there is something that our modern times are not wanting in, that is freely available -and unselfish- information).
However, my main reason for concern, when not dismay, is the frivolity with which so many opinion-makers have accepted that public funds be used in a private initiative. In the case of Brazil, with spurious justifications. Does anybody truly believe that further popularization of the statue of Christ Redeemer will bring more tourists to Brazil? Taking into account that a sizeable number of foreign turists go through Rio at one stage or another, and that you can see the statue from wherever you are in Rio, the argument of “will bring more tourists” is quite flawed.
The other argument being used is the infalible appeal to national pride, a glimmer of times gone by when brutalities where carried out in the name of the national flag. Christ Redeemer has to be in the top 7 because it is Brazilian, full stop. It’s interesting to point out that this argument is not restricted to countries where politicians make it good on a daily basis the image of the banana republic. Microsoft Spain is supporting the campaign to have the Alhambra of Granada elected, using similar, though more subtle, arguments: Por qué la Alhambra. Actually, it’s Windows Live supporting the initative.
But then, Microsoft is a private company free to do whatever they like in order to sell their products. If they want to support Alhambra in Spain and then go somewhere else and support a competing candidate, that’s fine. For as long as it helps increase their sales, good for them. In Brazil, however, it is the authorities that are embezzling public money to help build the profits of a private entrepeneur.
Needless to say, I can think of a couple million uses for that money in a country where dire need is all around. The very same authorities willing to fund a marketing campaign to elect the statue as a new wonder of the world have turned a blind eye for years to the problems affecting the very same place they now claim to be defending. Visitors driving by car up to the Corcovado were being mugged on a regular basis. Now I want to mention a police operation that ended up with the detention of 52 people – including security guards, police officers and employees of a tourism agency, all responsible for the control of road access to the Corcovado mountain. For years, the criminal organization they set up together stole the money paid by tourists driving up the mountain. That money was supposed to end up helping the environmental agency responsible for the protection of the area. The destination of the money was very different.
A 100% made in Brazil situation. The authorities squander public money to attract more tourists to the Corcovado while at the same time a criminal organization – with members of the authorities in it- get hold of the money paid by tourists accessing the monument.