Tuesday 10 January 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 10/1/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Fernando Augusto Pacheco

Across the great divide

On a visit to Brasília in late December I sensed optimism in the air but also tension. Hardline supporters of Jair Bolsonaro were camped throughout the city. At the Palácio da Alvorada, the official residence of Brazil’s president and a beautiful modernist building conceived by Oscar Niemeyer, I saw fanatics shouting and praying for the former president instead of the usual crowds of tourists.

The storming of Brazil’s Congress by extremists on Sunday was shocking, even though such a riot was expected at some point. It’s unclear why Brasília’s authorities and police allowed it to happen, given that they had clear warnings.

Newly inaugurated president Luis Inácio Lula da Silva’s term was expected to be difficult, as a result of his narrow victory, conservative elements within Congress and the lingering shadow of “Bolsonarismo”. His government should act firmly against any threat to the country’s democratic institutions – even some Bolsonaro supporters would agree.

Reading the newspapers in Brasília, I was reminded that homegrown terrorism could easily become a recurrent theme; one story described a foiled bombing plot. Lula is a gifted politician and needs to use his skills to prevent further damage. Though the country is highly polarised, that’s not the real story here. The violent invasion of public buildings was, quite simply, a crime and that’s all it needs to be seen as. As Folha de S.Paulo put it, “Now it’s time to show the population that democratic normality is and will be preserved, despite the growls of angry minorities that imitate the rioters at the US Capitol.” Let’s hope for a return to normality.

Fernando Augusto Pacheco is a Monocle 24 producer and senior correspondent.

Image: Reuters

Diplomacy / Japan

Globe trotter

Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida (pictured), is in Rome today for the second stop on his whirlwind tour of G7 member countries ahead of the group’s annual summit in Hiroshima in May. Following a meeting with Emmanuel Macron in Paris yesterday, Kishida will meet his Italian counterpart, Giorgia Meloni, for talks on topics ranging from worldwide inflation to China’s rhetoric towards Taiwan. Today’s meeting will also cast the spotlight on the inexperienced Meloni’s abilities as a diplomat. Of particular significance will be her steadfastness in reaffirming Italy’s support for continued economic pressure on Russia, a policy on which both Rome and Meloni have been lukewarm in the past. After today’s meeting, Kishida will travel to London to meet Rishi Sunak on Wednesday, before flying to Ottawa on Thursday and Washington on Friday for meetings with Justin Trudeau and Joe Biden. We hope that he has packed some good books for the journeys.

Image: Getty Images

Culture / France

Quantity control

Art lovers have been flocking back to cultural institutions as the world returns to normal. And while in France that means people heading through the doors of renowned institutions such the Louvre (pictured), Musée d’Orsay and Palace of Versailles, all have reported visitor numbers at between 10 and 20 per cent below 2019 figures. This is not necessarily bad news. The Louvre has decided to take advantage of the situation and will limit the number of daily admissions to 30,000 – a major cut compared with the pre-pandemic peaks of 45,000 visitors per day.

Director Laurence des Cars says that the Louvre’s goal is to make attendance more pleasurable, a decision that will be welcomed by not only museum visitors but also staff members. The pandemic has offered a rare opportunity for cultural institutions to think about how they should continue. Other popular destinations should also consider whether visitor numbers are the only measure of success.

Image: Choi Yong Joon

Retail / Japan

Korea advancement

South Korean retailer Musinsa is broadening its reach in Japan. The move is part of a bigger global strategy for this fast-growing fashion platform. According to Nikkei, Musinsa is one of South Korea’s newest unicorns; the business is valued at more than €2bn with revenues having grown 41 per cent in 2021. A new distribution hub and physical retail shops in Japan are planned between 2023 and 2024 to feed the growing consumer appetite for South Korean fashion.

The company will also look to invest in Japanese brands and sell them on its platform worldwide. The success story of Musinsa, which started as a photo-sharing platform for trainer lovers in 2001, highlights how retailers can continue to innovate in the e-commerce space: complementing online offerings with physical shops and supporting designers by investing in their businesses, connecting them with manufacturers and offering them the tools to speak directly to customers.

Image: All Is Amazing

Politics / Paraguay & Taiwan

Choosing sides

Paraguay is being wooed by Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen (pictured). On Monday she pitched a “democratic alliance” with the country, which she claims would be aimed at jointly defending democracy against authoritarianism. Paraguay is one of only 14 nations to maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taipei but Beijing is working to persuade those countries to pursue ties with China instead.

Paraguayan opposition candidate Efraín Alegre has vowed to do just that. The move would prove popular with the country’s powerful beef-production and farming bloc, which believes that dealings with Taiwan are a barrier to the world’s largest market. Despite being dogged by a string of recent corruption scandals, the ruling Colorado Party remains the favourite to win the general election in April. Taiwan is gambling on the status quo.

Image: Alamy

Monocle 24 / The Urbanist

Best of ‘Tall Stories’ 2022

Monocle’s editor in chief, Andrew Tuck, looks back at his favourite episodes of Tall Stories from 2022.

Monocle Films / Global

‘The Monocle Book of the Nordics’

Following in the footsteps of our best-selling titles The Monocle Book of Italy and The Monocle Book of Japan, this is a thrilling exploration of Europe’s northernmost reaches. Order your copy from The Monocle Shop.


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