Mask corruption scandal hits Merkel’s party hard

“The mask scandal hits Merkel’s party hard!” German “Der Spiegel” reported on the 8th that because of the corruption scandal involving mask procurement during the new crown epidemic, the two federations of the German ruling Union Party (CDU/CSU) Members of the Council announced on the 7th that they would resign.

One of the people involved in the scandal was Lebel, a member of the CDU. On the 5th, Lebel admitted that he had assisted in reaching a mask procurement contract between a supplier in Baden-Württemberg and two private companies. Lebel’s company received a total of approximately 250,000 euros in these purchases. On the 7th, he announced that he would resign as a member of Parliament at the end of August and would no longer participate in the election.

The other is Nusslein, a member of the Allied Society of Citizens. At the end of February this year, Nusslein helped a mask manufacturer obtain a mask purchase order from the German Federal Government and the Bavarian State Government, for which he received a commission of 600,000 Euros. News TV said that Nusslein has not only received a huge commission, but also has not filed a tax return. Nusslein is currently under investigation by the Munich prosecutors for alleged corruption as an elected member of Parliament.

This is the election year for the German Bundestag, and local elections will also be held in the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Wurttemberg in March. Bild said that the mask scandal is bad news for the coalition party of German Chancellor Merkel. The latest poll conducted by Kantar, a polling agency, shows that the support rate of the Coalition Party has fallen to its lowest point since March last year, at only 32%. During the first wave of the epidemic last year, the coalition party, the ruling party, had a support rate of as high as 40% because of its effective anti-epidemic

Civilized landscape

It was a brilliant spring morning when I set out on this expedition to the remote and uninhabited countries of the interior of America (like a conqueror who had to arrive too late).

The soul of an explorer, the fantasy of a traveler, I, who at the age of fifteen dreamed of discovering a new Amazon, could now finally embark on the adventure of florid, jungle and prodigious America. I did not hesitate to accept the generous invitation of my friend Mr. Errecaborde, who was addressing the town{38}of San Javier with the purpose of auctioning a few leagues of land. And in the company of two distinguished “auctioneers”, provided with suitcases, weapons and provisions, all together and in good spirits we set out towards the territory of the Missions.

Flat and green, sown with farms and “farms”, the fertile plain of Buenos Aires tended to its agricultural opulence as the train passed by. That monotonous and civilized country was not yet the wild and romantic world that my imagination desired. But beyond the town of Zárate the decoration began to get complicated. The entire train was transferred to a «ferry boat» that slowly and gently put us on the other side of the Paraná River … And as it crossed the brownish and calm waters of the wide river, my eyes could admire the first signs of the Indian landscape ; Ceibas with red flowers, forests of “tacuara” cane, and some palm trees in the distance, floating on the weeds of the flooded fields.{39}

The exoticism begins

The ferry boat train left and regained control of the rails. And he launched himself into the race through the solitudes of the province of Entre Ríos, homeland of brave men, skilled in handling the lance and the knife when the “montoneras” and civil wars continually shook the territory of Plata. We were crossing a dense and austere, lonely and noble landscape, which, because it was dotted with small and undulating hills, by the religious vastness and by the groups of trees similar to holm oaks, reminded me a lot of the grave Castilian landscape.

Night came, divinely strewn with stars, and the air, as the train passed, brought us vague omens of the Tropic. Sometimes, in the pause of a season, we would see the magical lights of the fireflies fly. Sweet and heavy perfumes of magnolias and jasmine came to us from the bottom of the plain like naive voluptuous temptations. People walked slowly. The towns appeared immensely distant.{40}From the huts or “ranches” along the road emerged women with coppery skin and sprung gestures. The men, on horseback, carried on their kidneys, crossed on their shoulder straps the long and pointed “facón” of the famous “gauchos” … So I was in the true America of my dreams!

The first stage of our journey ended in the town of Santo Tomé. Until then we were able to benefit from the comforts and delights of civilization: running car, restaurant, bed. From now on the struggle with the unknown and with the undisciplined began. We were to use every conceivable means of locomotion, and we would have to submit to the fantastic cuisine of the inns, where chimerical Italian cooks would serve us inedible delicacies. And we would sleep, of course, in the vicinity of all sorts of insects. For these future contingencies we decided to rest and stock up in the town of Santo Tomé.

It is a friendly town, quite grown and with delicious outlines. His name as an ancient saint indicates of course that he was created{41}by the Jesuits. Indeed, from Santo Tomé, towards the thickets of Brazil and Paraguay, between the great rivers Uruguay and Paraná, the famous Jesuit Missions extended, that noble attempt of a Christian-communist republic that gave rise to so many legends and so many contradictory comments.

In Santo Tomé I lived two days; I will not be able to count many days in my life that are more serene. A softness of the air, a perfume of jasmine, the panorama of the mighty river, and a peace of slowness and laziness in the people … In São Tomé it seems that things are waiting for someone. This waiting is the same as that of the flock lost by its shepherd. The missionary peoples had their pastor in the Jesuits. These were the brain, the conscience and the will, the providence that avoids pain and the calculation that prevents; simple Indians did not need to think or fidget, or even wish. On their virgins and submissive natures in which the will was mainly lacking, with what joy and enthusiasm the children of Loyola rehearsed their Christian-social program!{42}

Revolver armed …

Anyway, we left Santo Tomé in a scout train that marched with a load of workers to the limit of the line. We settled into an unroofed boxcar, and in this slightly sybaritic way we took a three-hour drive. The railway line ended dry in the middle of a flat, deserted plain. We went ashore, and the workers came down with us.

They had just arrived from Europe. They were novice immigrants, recruited from all corners of Spain, Italy, Turkey and Russia. They came undone, dirty, hungry. When they jumped to the ground they formed into groups, and the foremen chose them, distributed them from here to there. They immediately began to light a fire. They prepared the “mate” and sipped it in large gulps, dipping the hard biscuit in the hot infusion.

We had a “galley” in store, regularly ramshackle. Urges us{43}We were there, and at a whip from the mayoral the mules began to run down the infamous dusty road. There were four mules on the poles; two others were leading; and at the head of the herd, a rider on a horse, marched a boy with his whip.

The mayoral carried a huge knife across his waist; the one who served as chief or quartermaster of the galley showed a good revolver under his vest. So we were entering a semi-desert region, bordering Brazil and Uruguay, a nest of smugglers and exiles … My travel companions searched their suitcases and took out revolvers, which they took from their waists. I had no weapons. This lack of martial foresight made me quite ashamed and left me in a position of manifest inferiority.

Then, seeing my humiliated and defenseless attitude, someone handed me a spare revolver. As the revolver was of heavy caliber and I lacked a belt and holster, I was perplexed by that weapon, I did not know where to put it. I opted to keep it in my jacket pocket.{44}

“What are you doing, sir!” With the bumps that the car gives, can’t you imagine it going off and hurting itself, or hurting us?

In resolution, I had to give the revolver to whoever wanted to lend it to me. And since I was showing such bad skill in handling weapons, we decided that my person was useless in terms of the contingencies of assaults, surprises and bandits, and that my companions assumed the responsibility of defending me.

We immediately set off down the dusty road, which, because the land of Misiones was so red, resembled a throbbing and bloody wound in the middle of the swollen hills.

A graveyard in the desert

We were marching in the rickety galley along that infernal road, and yet I was quite happy with the tiring journey; because without much imaginative effort I could then consider myself as an explorer{Four. Five} of yesteryear or as a Jules Verne character.

He felt the strange and direct impression of having gone back many years in the count of time. Everything around me spoke of things remote and ancient, from the archaic tinkling of mules to the primitive and wild solitude of the countryside. Sometimes the mayoral would cross some words in the Guarani language with the chap, or he would encourage the beasts with shouts with a strange and guttural accent: “Oh, oh! Perico! … », and the mullets trotted bravely, making the car creak with each start.

In the undulating plain that we crossed, there were no towns, no “estancias” or fields of cultivation. From time to time we discovered an artificial hedge, a “fence,” and that fence, a symbol of property, was the only vestige of civilization. Some “ranch”, a miserable cabin lost in the vastness, warned us that there were human people somewhere. The enigmatic owls with round, fixed eyes, perched on the tops of the solitary posts, watched the passage of{46}the galley with a hieratic or superstitious obstinacy. And the flocks of crows flew slowly over the open fields.

The sun fell flat on the earth, where a blanket of scrawny grass was burning under the embers of the sky. Clouds puffed out on the horizon and made magnificent combinations of large masses of pink and white. The landscape, undulating and smooth, resembled a sea of ​​peaceful waves; only in the gullies and cuttings did beautiful groups of trees grow, unspoiled and without an owner, which gave fresh shade to delightful and charming streams. Outside these groves, the earth was fiery red, as if watered with blood.

I remember right now the very sad impression that it produced on me, throughout the march, to see suddenly emerge in that desert a rudimentary cemetery. They were irregular and poorly assembled sticks, which at a certain distance appeared to be forms of an idolatrous cult, and which, as we approached, we saw that they were indeed crude crosses. To protect the dead from stray cattle, someone{47}he had fenced off the holy place with barbed wire. A cross, less crude and larger than the others, had the effect of a shepherd there, or it was like a macabre and pious specter watching over the insecurity and mystery on the horizon. A cemetery always saddens us and disturbs us. But that poor cemetery in the desert, so abandoned by the living and so out of touch with life! Those poor nameless dead, defenseless in solitude, fearful in death itself, scorched by the hot sun! …

A village of poles

Later we began to discover frequent huts and small corn crops. Finally we sighted some buildings of stone and lime and wooden pavilions. We were in a Polish colony called Apostles.

Of these exotic and intrusive populations there are quite a few in Argentina. They are usually formed by Russians, Jews, Poles, Gauls, and{48}in the immensity of the territory they live a not very prosperous life, generally stationary, since they are made up of ignorant people and petty peasants. The colony we had just discovered consisted of Poles from Austrian Galicia, Russian Poles, and Ruthenians. They were quite numerous. They cultivated their fields of corn and wheat and herded some cattle. Those of Orthodox religion had their “priest”, and Catholics had also brought their Polish-speaking priest. An intendant or administrator directed the colony and watched over order. He was from Warsaw; a young man, blond, with a fine and dreamy face and an intelligent look.

The poor Poles, born into servitude and ignorance, thus came to replace the Indians in the land of Misiones. They had, like the ancient Indians, a kind of lazy and conformist fatalism and an inability to live without the help of the chief and the shepherd. They also brought the deep religiosity of the Indians. At the crossroads of the trails, on the edge of the sem{49}brados, we constantly saw large votive and protective crosses. There were sometimes inscriptions on them. We asked them to translate one of those legends for us, and it said: “Lord God, this year give me a good harvest of corn! …”

We stayed in a miserable inn, where we could sleep at night on rickety cots. And as soon as the day dawned, entrusting ourselves to our family angels, we went back into the galley on the path of solitude.

And when the morning got hotter, we ran into a fairly wide stream that had no bridge and we had to cross doing strange gymnastics. There I saw for the first time a very American vehicle, very curious and which, usual and unique before the importation of the railroad, has today been restricted to the most diverted regions of the country.

It was a “cart.” Formerly these “carts” made the road to the Pampas and were like rolling caravans that, on slow, dangerous, long journeys{fifty}For many months, they carried goods and people from the Andes to the coast of Plata. The wagon I saw was large, with a rough wooden frame and huge heavy wheels. A thatched roof covered the hulk, giving it the appearance of a true, rolling, trampy cabin. A Brazilian family was traveling in the car. Three pairs of oxen were dragging him, obeying the sting of a boy who trotted and turned constantly, rider on a foal.

Like the nomads of prehistory, like the characters in a novel, walking slowly through a soft country, crossing jungles and rivers, sleeping under the starry and warm nights … I confess that I felt a bit of envy for the travelers of that cabin tumbler!

I had to resign myself to riding in the galley, which again led us stumbling down an increasingly impractical path. And so we saw the town of Concepción de la Sierra, precisely on the eve of the Concepción festival.{51}

Slavic mysticism

I felt so worked up from the arduous journey, the dust, and the torrid heat that I lay down to sleep in the inn for a deep nap, like stone. As soon as I finished eating dinner, I looked for the bed again and fell into a deep sleep. But at dawn I was awakened by rockets and a loud bell. Good! The town was preparing to celebrate the feast of its Patron, the Virgen de la Concepción.

I soon went out to the square, and in front of the church I had to tempt my body to convince myself that I was not sleeping, that, in fact, I was in a town in South America.

All the Poles in the area had come to the town of Concepción de la Sierra. They arrived in their long typical cars, dressed in the custom of their country; they in thick dark suits and high boots, straight mustaches and shoulder-length hair; women with a colored skirt, plain vest and{52}wide-sleeved shirt. Their rough bodies, their ugly, plump faces, and a smell of grease and stale sweat … But their impressive mysticism excused all physical imperfections.

As they entered the temple, the women threw themselves on their faces and kissed the dust. Next to the altar were four men, a kind of acolytes in charge of chanting the liturgical words of the celebrating priest. They sang, but with a voice so sad, so perfectly sad, that it produced anguish. The very rudeness of the voices increased the suggestion of the song and made it more sincere and deep. It seemed an echo that came from the remote, frozen, infinite steppe, or a transcendental and mystical lament that interpreted the painful longing of the melancholic Slavic race …

I left the church with a hiccup of pain, and searched the bright, hot air for a soothing compensation. The thrushes, in the shady courtyards, modulated their loving tenderness; and the jasmine filled the quiet and warm atmosphere with their voluptuous perfume.{53}

But a frenzied chime breaks out; all the people flock to the square. The procession is leaving through the door of the church. This procession has a rare, original, wonderful flavor. The atmosphere is bright and tropical, while the characters are dressed in Russian style; and from this bizarre union arises the most unlikely effect.

They do not bring any image other than that of the Virgin; everything is surrounded by flowers. The honor of escorting the Virgin has been awarded to her by the women of the town, and some countrymen from the surrounding area, with their new panties and large openwork spur, reserve the right to carry the litter. The Poles, deprived of all honor, humbly resign themselves to escorting the image. They cannot carry the litter or touch the image; but like faithful dogs, like surrendered servants, they surround the beloved object and look at it with hungry eyes. Uncovered as they go, the missionary sun hurts their skulls and makes their blond, oily hair shine. And they will scorch inside their thick cloth capes. Women ti{54}They ran and drag their little ones. The older ones follow the procession mounted on their carts. They are singing.

They sing a sad, heartbreaking melope. The song spreads across the square and fills the entire town. It seems like an old and remote voice that comes to greet a friend. At the incantation of that religious song, I do not know what strange interpretations intermingle in my spirit. I imagine that the Christian voices of the Poles call to the souls of the Indians who resided there one day and who dispersed doom. In that same plaza in Concepción de la Sierra, two centuries before the Guarani Indians had passed, surrounding the image of the Virgin. A Jesuit, dressed in his ecclesiastical pomp, led them, giving them the pattern of the song. The Indians were thrown away, and now, after the centuries, other defenseless men form a flock and ask God, with mystical cries,{55}and the struggles of life …

Ruins in the jungle

We had left the town of La Concepción in the midst of a lightning deluge. It is not convenient to pay much attention to these spectacular storms in countries close to the tropical zone. Indeed, very soon we saw each other again under a scorching sun and a brilliant sky, with the spectacle of a nature freshly washed and rich in beautiful colors.

To have lunch more at leisure (hard biscuit and Creole jerky) we take refuge in a forest. It was no longer a simple group of trees, like the ones we had seen before; this was the “jungle,” endless and deep, unexplored and mysterious; the virgin forest that advanced towards Paraguay and Brazil, with its tigers and its surprises.

The car’s foreman told us:

—There in the forest is a Jesuit town; They can see it, because it is close.

“A town from the old Jesuit missions? …{56}

-Yes sir. For that “picada” is the way. It is called Santa María Mártir.

I hastened to go into the jungle by a “picada”, that is to say, an open path in the thicket. In a few minutes I found myself in front of an archaeological wonder, speechless with surprise, with admiration.

Oppressed and suffocated by the dense forest, I discovered a rectangular plaza, large about a hundred meters on a side. There it was possible to verify the form that the missionaries adopted to build their cities. On one of the canvases in the square they erected the church, the convent and the warehouse; on the other sides were the most important dependencies, the rooms of the chiefs and chiefs, and the communal workshops, which supplied things to the mystical “phalanstery” and gave wealth to the Company.

The square had a continuous portico, suitable for sheltering people from the sun or storms. This disposition of the missionary populations was clearly exposed in my eyes; the ruins suffered little, the men had not taken the ashlars to{57}build walls or huts; the very bravery of the forest defended the dead city from human barbarism or unconsciousness.

Two canvases of the square were still standing, up to the height of the first floor; the pillars, square and with simple capitals, still stood upright. In the center of the square the mouth of a deep well appeared, which communicated with a subway whose mouth was open in a lateral wall, of cyclopean proportions.

Inside the cyclopean wall, capable of resisting the fury of a cannon, I contemplated a kind of niche, the remainder of a chapel or a cell. On a makeshift altar, an image of the Virgin still held the Child in her arms, who had been mistreated by the insult of time, cutting off his arms and nostrils.

Then the massive walls detached themselves from the central plaza and moved away in various directions, until they were suddenly lost and disappeared, like indecipherable interrogations in the mystery of the jungle. Nothing so strange and imposing as those decapitated walls, made of large red ashlars,{58}hidden in the shade of the huge trees linked by lianas. An impression of the dreamed Hindustan fired in my mind, and I imagined attending the spectacle of the rare mystical architectures in the forests of the Ganges …

As I was walking away, a parrot screamed over my head. The fruit of the orange trees was beginning to season. They were wild orange trees, noble and persevering, children of those others that the missionaries imported and cultivated. One after another, the golden fruit trees succeeded one another in the secret of the jungle, as unspoken transmitters of tradition. Under the shade of the orange trees, the candid Guarani Indians were napping after the regulatory work. They worked for the common; no one had individual property; they lived in quarters with an intelligent and smooth distribution of all their hours. Led by the missionaries, ruled by the chiefs of their own race, they had clean cotton suits, impressive and poetic religious festivals, processions, lights, dances and ceremonies, so dear to the imagination of the Indian.{59}

The end of the world

In short, our picturesque and laborious journey had to come to an end, and one afternoon, indeed, we entered a town called, if my memory serves, Itacaruaré. In that town were the vast lands whose auction we were going to carry out.

I have never seen a stranger town like Itacaruaré in all my life. It was a people, but at the same time it lacked reality. It existed in fact, but not in law … In short, it was a true American people, slightly fantastic, somewhat comical in its duplicity of something effective and nonexistent, and yet admirable as a conception of Walt Whitman.

In the uninhabited expanse of the jungle, people from Brazil and Argentina had made their nest. Today he was an Italian who, coming up from the populated provinces of the South, thought it good to settle in that desert corner of the world; later it was a{60}a Swede or a German who, leaving the neighboring states of Brazil, took possession of a piece of forest; or it was a Spaniard, a Syrian, a Jew from Bessarabia, a Russian from Crimea, a Croat, a Frenchman, an Irishman who came to settle. How many men of diverse origins wander and swarm through those nations of immigration, contributed some representation to the novice town of Itacaruaré.

As the territory was abandoned and the jungle was large, each new colonist chose a piece of country, burned the trees, and on the virgin and fertile land planted tobacco, rice, and legumes. If the land grew weary, one had only to set fire to a new piece of forest and plant on virgin, fertile ground. At once some merchants came. The settlers gradually became more closely associated, hiring a teacher and a female teacher, establishing a rudimentary Town Hall, and giving their city the consistency of a civilized body …

I was amazed to see that phenomenon of civic spontaneity, operated with people{61}so contrary and diverse, in whom there was nothing in common, neither religion, nor race, nor traditions. They were only united by destiny, the identity of interests, and an aspiration to create a “lineage.” Adventurers from Europe, rolling stones, rattled in adventures and failures, with their lives cut short, now they wanted to “build” their life, found a house, a family, a property, a country! …

But then, when they reached the triumph of their efforts, behold, the Law interfered! They had “created” their property, their house, their field, their garden, their family; But in Buenos Aires, some severe men opposed some sealed papers, in which it was said that the fields of Itacaruaré did not belong to its inhabitants, but to another gentleman …

Fortunately, this gentleman, a proprietor of rights, was willing to be concord and generous with those brave pioneers.

Before reaching the view of the town, the Itacaruaré settlers formed a large cavalcade and came out to greet us on the road. Rockets began to fire from afar.{62}

They received us on horseback in two rows, very gallantly, surrounding our car in an attitude of respectful escort. They all came armed with knives and large revolvers, no doubt because they had not yet been able to hire some gendarmes. Each was the guard and the judge of himself …

Ah! Romantic and romantic episode, fallen in the middle of my life as a reward for my long and fervent teenage aspirations! What a scent of primitivism, what a blast of full nature then filled my soul, in that corner of the world where the virgin forest and the nascent civilization converged! What rude frankness in the lives of those men, whose past would perhaps be speckled with rare adventures, with intimate tragedies, who knows if with crimes! …