Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tourism For Despots: Beauty pageants

Stunning Andrea, a 23-year-old student, model and television presenter, speaks four languages, enjoys horseback riding, going to the cinema and looking after her pet Chihuahua. We don't know if stunning Andrea is hoping for world peace and to also look after children, but she is looking forward to visiting Equatorial Guinea and promoting Spain to the people whilst experiencing the culture on offer.

Why on earth would anyone look forward to visiting Equatorial Guinea? Simon Mann didn't, but there again he was facing 34 years in prison there. He got off lightly and was released after only 16 months. Mann and his barmy mercenary army were involved in a coup plot, as supposedly was mad Mark Thatcher. When the awfulness of over 30 years in nick started to dawn on a western media, Equatorial Guinea was portrayed as being little better than a hell on earth. So, one asks again, why would anyone look forward to visiting there?

Equatorial Guinea is a former Spanish colony. It isn't an unwealthy country as it has a good deal of oil money. But very few people benefit from the black gold. Instead, much of the population is deprived access to clean drinking water, the country has an appalling human rights record, it has a reputation for sex trafficking and it ranks among the world's worst for failing to comply with minimum standards. It has a democracy of sorts, its president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, having ruled since 1979 and having received 95.8% of the vote at the last election. The country's motto is "unity, peace, justice". Its anthem says "let us walk the paths of our immense happiness".

Obiang is from the Saddam-Gaddafi-Mugabe school of lunatic despotism. All his country normally attracts are headcases like Mann and (allegedly) Thatcher. They are welcome to each other. It typically doesn't attract the stunning Andreas of this world. But Andrea will be there in October this year. The Sipopo Conference Centre in the capital Malabo will be the location for the 2013 Miss Tourism beauty pageant.   

The conference centre was completed two years ago. Its cost is unknown. But as Obiang junior can splash out the equivalent of over two hundred and fifty million euros on a superyacht, stumping up for a grandiose conference centre wouldn't have posed much funding difficulty.

What in God's name is a global beauty pageant doing taking place in such a wretched country? This is something for the organisers to search their consciences in seeking an answer. Little chance. The website for the pageant insists that the country's image has been distorted and that the contest is designed to promote Equatorial Guinea as a "destination of business, travel and leisure". 

I had been unaware that there was such a thing as Miss Tourism until it emerged that Miss Tourism Spain 2013 is to be held primarily in Puerto Alcúdia over ten days next month. I am assuming, as I am rather confused, that the winner of this will go forward to the 2014 Miss Tourism contest, wherever this might be staged. Andrea was Miss Tourism Spain in 2012 but only now (or in October) will she have the chance to take to the world stage: in a lavish conference centre, a tribute to a wholly corrupt dictatorial regime with barely any redeeming features. My confusion is compounded by the fact that Andrea, it would appear, picked up the 2012 award earlier this year. Whatever.

Andrea features in publicity for the September event to which Alcúdia town hall is evidently delighted to lend its shield. From the 20th to the 30th of September, the eighteen candidates will be whisked around the island, doing some Palma sightseeing, attending Miss Bikini Spain (no, I didn't know either) and visiting the Caves of Drach. They will be based in Alcúdia, though, having lunches and dinners before finally (on 28 September) actually getting down to the serious (sic) business of deciding the winner.

Doubtless they will enjoy themselves and doubtless they will like their accommodation. They will be staying at Bellevue. Yes, that Bellevue. One presumes they will be segregated and not have to come into contact with who one typically sees waddling around Bellevue in late season - bra-wearing Bella Embergs often with more than a hint of facial hair.

Whoever wins may not have to endure Andrea's fate and pretend that she might actually like Equatorial Guinea. Miss Tourism is peripatetic. One of its irregular previous editions promoted another despotic regime. Zimbabwe's. Why not go there again and allow a nonagenarian madman to drool and slobber at the sight of young females and all in the name of tourism. It makes you want to throw up.

Any comments to please.

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