Monday 7 August 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 7/8/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Christopher Lord

Go with the current

The creation of a so-called “Surf City” on El Salvador’s Pacific coast was part of a 2019 manifesto pledge made by now-president Nayib Bukele. The 42-year-old leader campaigned and won on a platform that promised investment, eliminating bureaucracy and ­­beating the gangs that have long blighted the small Central American nation.

Bukele wasted no time getting to work, building state-of-the-art prisons and releasing photographs of heavily tattooed prisoners in handcuffs to prove his point. Critics of “Bukeleism” say that it has affected access to a fair trial, while others, such as the digital newspaper El Faro, claim that the government is cutting deals with gang leaders to curb their activities rather than dealing with the issues head-on.

Against these troubling tides, the idea of hosting sunny surf events sounds like a clear-cut case of sportswashing. But countries across Latin America are looking to El Salvador’s example for how to ride out their own crimewaves.

The influential Colombian magazine Semana put Bukele on its cover, calling him a “miracle”. In Argentina, some populist politicians are pitching themselves as the “Bukele of Buenos Aires” ahead of the country’s October general election and the mayor of one Peruvian town has proposed renaming one of its parks in the young president’s honour.

At home, Bukele’s approval ratings are 87 per cent and his social media posts are fittingly messianic. What’s most interesting are the approving comments below his videos from Latin Americans of all stripes, who are similarly frustrated with high crime rates at home. His critics may insist that surfing solves nothing and that curbing crime takes proper reform. But Bukele is riding a wave – and he’s changing the tide of politics along the way.

Christopher Lord is Monocle's US editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / USA

Growing pains

Joe Biden begins his four-day tour today to promote the achievements of recent economic legislation. He will visit the key battleground state of Arizona, along with Utah and New Mexico, where he will tout the effect of the Inflation Reduction Act, a flagship policy signed into law almost exactly a year ago. As the country looks ahead to the 2024 presidential election, the onus is on Biden to better control the narrative.

The US economy grew at a faster-than-expected rate of 2.4 per cent in the second quarter of this year but he has so far struggled to parlay this into something that resonates with the American public. According to recent polling, the economy remains the top worry for US voters. If Biden can’t successfully sell his message of growth, his bid for a second term is at stake.

For more on President Biden’s southwest US tour, tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Getty Images

Trade / UK and India

Give & take

The UK and India have entered the 12th round of negotiations for a proposed free-trade agreement (FTA) after the previous stage concluded fruitlessly in London last month. Set in New Delhi, the talks are expected to address the “rules of origin” provision and tariffs on Scotch whisky – by far the most valuable export in the UK’s beverage sector. Stuck in a back-and-forth, Scotch whisky is causing tariff trouble between the nations.

While Indian whisky brands enjoy zero tariffs in the UK, the country is calling for import duties to be reduced on the product, which currently stand at 150 per cent. With seven of the 26 proposed chapters still yet to be agreed upon, it’s proving more difficult to iron out this FTA than a post-Brexit UK might have hoped for. Here’s hoping that the whisky negotiations can come to a close before they turn sour.

For more on the trade talks between the UK and India, tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Borre Hostland

Design / Scandinavia

Outside looking in

A people’s revolt against the “uglification” of Nordic cities with modern architecture is creating public debate over the design of buildings. Arkitekturupprororet, or Architectural Uprising, began as a Swedish social media movement in 2014 but is now an NGO with more than 100,000 registered members across Scandinavia. Its goal? To ensure that citizens’ voices are heard amid proposals for new neighbourhood developments, especially those that are cheap and cheerless housing blocks. While social and environmental concerns are critical in architectural design, how a building looks is still important.

Nordic nations, despite their reputation for creating sleek façades, still have their critics at home. With 22.3 per cent of the vote, Architectural Uprising’s annual Grøss Prize named Oslo’s National Museum (pictured) as the ugliest new building of 2022, claiming that “extra little” had been done to protect the monolith’s surroundings. Similar groups are now emerging in Germany and Estonia but their conversations must take housing needs and soaring living costs into consideration when thinking about how to create civic-minded spaces. The solution, as always, is better, more considered design.

F&B / Milan

Thirst things first

On a hot summer’s evening in Milan, it’s time for aperitivo – and the conversation invariably drifts to that all-important first drink of the evening. “I could never find something that I was satisfied with,” Canada-born Meredith Erickson tells The Monocle Minute at a bar in Milan’s Porta Romana neighbourhood. “So I decided to make it myself.”

Erickson is one of the co-founders of a new rhubarb-infused aperitivo called Doladira, which will soon launch in the US and Europe. The drink has a delicate flavour profile that includes plums, rosemary and elderflower – and it has been concocted with spritzes in mind. Doladira’s tagline is “the elevated aperitivo” and it is pitched as a higher-end and more natural alternative to the usual suspects of Aperol and Campari. With the aperitivo market worth about €4.5bn a year in Italy alone, it’s no wonder that other players want a piece of the action. Bottoms up.

For more sunny stories, pick up a copy of our summer newspaper, ‘Mediterraneo’, which is on all good newsstands now.

Image: V&A

Monocle Radio / On Design

Tartan and community consultation

We head to the Tartan exhibition at the V&A Dundee and talk community consultation with landscape architecture firm Scape.

Monocle Films / Food & Drink

Farming fresh

Climate change is prompting fruit farmers to diversify and coffee roasters to start considering areas beyond the so-called bean belt to source their raw material. In Sicily, Morettino, a forward-looking family-run roastery, has already started growing coffee plants in Palermo, creating an espresso that is truly made in Italy. To discover more surprising business opportunities, subscribe to Monocle magazine today.


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