Wednesday 6 July 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 6/7/2022

The Monocle Minute

Breaking news

UK prime minister Boris Johnson is under pressure after a series of high-profile ministerial resignations. For the latest from Westminster, tune in to ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Carlota Rebelo

Lunching with leaders

It’s not just language that unites Brazil and Portugal, as the latter’s president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (pictured) made clear at the weekend upon arriving in Rio de Janeiro. Within hours of touching down, the head of state was seen swimming at Copacabana Beach, accompanied by culture minister Pedro Adão e Silva. But there’s more to their relaxed beach day than meets the eye.

President de Sousa's whistle-stop trip marked the 100th anniversary of the first aerial crossing of the South Atlantic from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro – and 200 years since Brazil’s independence from Portugal. That flight was crucial in strengthening the relationship between the two Lusophone nations. To honour the connection, his schedule included meetings with former Brazilian presidents including Lula da Silva, Michel Temer and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, as well as a planned stop in Brasília to sit down with current Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro that never came to pass. Instead of successful diplomacy, the headlines were dominated by Bolsonaro’s decision to cancel the lunch after he discovered that De Sousa also planned to meet with Lula, his main opposition in October’s elections.

Bolsonaro’s move backfired. Not only did De Sousa’s meetings with former leaders go ahead regardless but Portugal’s president pressed on with his schedule, seemingly indifferent to the changes. It was an attitude received favourably by the press: Folha de São Paulo, for example, ran an opinion piece describing Bolsonaro's decision as “diplomatic vandalism”. In diplomacy it seems that any publicity is better than none. When he first heard about the cancellation, De Sousa politely told reporters, “Whoever invites you to lunch is the one who decides whether to have lunch or not.” If anything, the success of his trip proves that etiquette and common decency still go a long way in diplomatic circles.

Carlota Rebelo is a senior producer and presenter for Monocle 24. For more about the Lusophone world, from Lisbon’s urban wins to its music scene, take a look at the July/August edition of Monocle magazine.

Image: Reuters

Protests / Libya

Lines of resistance

Libya has been no stranger to protests since dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled and killed in 2011. The intervening period has been marked by bitter political tensions, often erupting into bloodshed. But a new wave of protests has experts asking whether the country is about to undergo a generational upheaval. When demonstrators stormed Tobruk’s house of representatives late last week, some carried Gadaffi’s green flag – and “Gadaffi supporters and his fiercest critics were standing side by side,” Anas El Gomati, founder and director of Libya’s Sadeq Institute, tells The Monocle Minute. Among the main drivers of the latest demonstrations are the poor governance of the elites backed by strongman general Khalifa Haftar and the country’s increasingly dire living conditions. “The next week or so will be crucial [in determining] whether we are on the brink of another Arab Spring,” says El Gomati.

Hear more about Libya’s growing protests on ‘The Globalist’, broadcast every weekday on Monocle 24.

Image: Luna Conte

Fashion / France

Only connect

Paris has swiftly moved from men’s fashion to haute couture, with four days of shows and presentations taking place across the city this week. One of the highlights came from Maison Rabih Kayrouz, a rare independent fashion house on Paris’s revered schedule. To make it onto the roster, participating brands are required to own a Paris-based atelier and employ at least 15 artisans. Lebanon-born Kayrouz should be applauded for hosting an intimate presentation instead of a runway show. Doing so allowed customers to admire his new creations over cocktails and conversation. “This format allows for a calmer setting,” Kayrouz tells The Monocle Minute. “People can take time to look at the clothes closely. You can’t show months of work in an eight-minute show.” As with previous collections, his latest has no stated theme – but it does offer elegant tailoring and voluminous shirts that allow women what the designer calls “the freedom to move with no constraints”.

Image: Getty Images

Foreign Affairs / Zimbabwe

Loaded gift

Zimbabwe’s parliament is preparing to move out of its cramped, colonial-era home in the capital, Harare – but its choice of new digs is hardly a vote of confidence in the country’s independence and democracy. The 650-seat parliament building in the nearby suburb of Mount Hampden was financed entirely by China and it wouldn’t look out of place in downtown Beijing.

Xinhua, China’s state-owned news agency, describes the design of the €136m project as “a gift to the southern African country” and “a fine piece of magnificent architecture that fuses both Zimbabwean and Chinese characteristics”. Beijing’s largesse avoids the debt-trap accusations that have dogged its overseas infrastructure programme, known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Nonetheless, it will add to mounting concerns about China’s influence in Africa. The G7 has just launched a rival to China’s BRI but in many developing countries around the world that train has already left the station.

Image: Ruben Wyttenbach

Retail / Switzerland

Vendors and buyers

Travelling through Switzerland, it’s difficult not to stumble upon one of more than 1,000 Valora kiosks (pictured) in the country. The company’s quintessential Swissness might be about to change, however: Mexican beverage firm Femsa, which owns more than 20,000 retail outlets across Latin America, is planning to acquire the Swiss retailer for €1.1bn.

Femsa, headquartered in Monterrey, is also the world’s largest Coca-Cola franchise bottler by sales volume. Under the terms of the deal, which is expected to be completed in September or October, Valora’s head office will remain in Switzerland and the company will keep its name and brands. But Femsa might shake things up by using Valora as part of its plans to expand in Europe, opening new shops and buying others. “Femsa and Valora complement each other very well in the convenience store and food service businesses,” says Valora’s CEO Michael Mueller. It’s a bold but welcome vote of confidence in physical retail. We’ll be watching closely how this Swiss icon fares in Mexican hands.

Image: Getty Images

Monocle 24 / The Urbanist

Varanasi’s ghats

Geetanjali Krishna takes us to the narrow lanes leading to the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi to investigate how best they can hold on to their heritage.

Monocle Films / Global

The Monocle Book of Photography

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