One-on-One: Primo de Aguilar

CS: Thank you for sitting down with us, Primo. It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly 4 years since we last talked! A lot has happened in that time, but perhaps nothing more significant than the end of Alexandria, your long-time micronational home where you were a fixture of political and national life. Would you tell us about how you learned of its fate and your initial reaction to the news?

PdA: My initial reaction was shock, followed by sadness. I suppose since one puts a lot of effort and emotion to a character (at least I do; I suppose I am living vicariously through my characters) I went through a sense of what it feels to be suddenly stateless.

CS: Now, just over six months later, with the shock well settled, are you disappointed with how things worked out in Alexandria? What would you change if you had the time back?

PdA: I like continuity and closure in my narratives. It was sad to see Alexandria go, what with its history and culture and semi-stable postmodern urban constitutional monarchy with a pan-European flavor. There was a point when things were starting to get a little too predictable, though. I liked how the parties and personalities developed. Losing the First Consulship was expected, but I also got the feeling that Primo would have tried another final run (or a last gasp) for the office before finally retiring from public life. He’s had an amazing run from backbencher to First Consul.

CS: When Alexandria ended, you became a refugee of sorts and landed on the shores of Constancia where you’ve taken a leading role in its government and development. What drew you to that micronation?

PdA: It looked interesting and seemed to have a lot of areas where development could occur.

CS: What areas for development particularly interested you?

PdA: Constancia didn’t have a very detailed history – that was something I wanted to try my hand with, not to mention the fact that just about everything in Constancia could have used further detailing. There were some fascinating questions that could produce far more fascinating answers: why settle in the middle of Eura, for example; what were their cultural influences that remained to the present day, how did previous nation-states influence the evolution of the Free and Associative Kingdom?

CS: I think its safe to say that despite the Alexandria stressor, you and Edgard remain as close as friends as ever. I understand that you’re participating in his latest micronation, Caputia, as the Minister of Reconstruction and Infrastructure, under the moniker of Gerhardt Seydlitz. Would you tell us more about what you hope to accomplish in Caputia?

PdA: Well, there is the part of fixing the administrative and economic structure through legislation, and with the ruined cities, there is something of a sandbox to play with. I view this as a lens of seeing how differing personalities and factions can attempt to come together after a civil war to rebuild and form cohesive policy, it’s having a front seat to seeing how interpersonal dynamics play out into sociopolitical outcomes. Remember that this is a country struggling to pull itself together after a civil war, with all the pressures that brings. Can Seydlitz get things done while in office, or will his youth and relative inexperience be his downfall amidst the fickle attention span of the Parliament and public? We’ll see how that goes.

CS: While Caputia is not the successor state to Alexandria, I can’t help but feel the Alexandrian “vibe” in its structure and operation whenever I visit the forums. Is there a sense of “this is our chance to fix what went wrong in Alexandria” amongst the participants?

PdA: It’s entirely possible; let’s not forget that there is still a substantial in-game Alexandrian diaspora which may be an in-game factor, but I don’t necessarily agree with the premise that Caputia is Alexandria 2.0. There may be similarities, but they have separate histories and influences that lead both nations to separate paths.

CS: Can you provide an example of the differing histories/influences behind Caputia v. Alexandria?

PdA: Alexandria had a very (primarily Western) European flavor – Franco-Belgian-German – with the attendant love for French-style socialism and hard-right nationalism (Alexandria’s had governments of both extremes). Alexandria better exemplifies the Septum Juncta in Uno principle: Individuals identify more as Alexandrian first, and regional or provincial second, with the monarch not just as the head of state, but the continuing personification of the Empire.

Caputia doesn’t have a specific reference, although it could be vaguely similar to Europe. Whether the existing “moderate” administration, or government of national unity will soon split into various ideological parties still remains to be seen. Both countries have had very bloody civil wars, but in Caputia, I see individuals identifying first with their regions or provinces or even cities, and as subjects of Caputia, second. I foresee that the abrupt demise of the crown (death spare the Queen!) without clear issue or a generally-accepted heir would lead to the immediate fragmentation of this latest national experiment. The existing Queen is essentially a compromise candidate, after all, the sole Caputian whom the disparate warring factions hate the least. It’ll probably take a generation to bury the blood-feud enmities, or it may only cause these deep-seated grudges to fester. Only time will tell!

CS: You’re a busy man on the intermicronational stage these days as well in your role as the Secretary-General of the Micras Treaty Organization, which has suffered from spurts of inactivity over the last year. Can you explain for our readers how you see the Organization remaining relevant in the community?

PdA: The General Treaty requires an overhaul, what with most business focused on admittance of members. It also exercises very little power over its members, which essentially makes it a global, somewhat exclusive, debate club and YAMO. An organization is only as strong and as relevant as its members want it to be.

CS: Are there any personal reflections and wisdom on your last four years in micronationalism that you’d like to share with our readers?

PdA: It’s a hobby, it helps pass the time, it enables people to come together to co-create interesting things, whether it be narratives or govsims, or to express personal frustrations with national policies. Some have fantasy sports leagues, this is fantasy statecraft. It is also a good entry-level for those interested in real-world political or governance work, although on a considerably smaller scale.

From a civics perspective, it is a great educator, because ultimately, the fate of the country rests on you, its citizen (or subject). Your participation and contributions, as well as engagement with others, determines and reflects the strength and vibrancy of the nation.

One-on-One: Primo de Aguilar

Alexandrian economy lurches left

A distinct socialist hue has blanketed Alexandria’s economy as government legislation controlling rents received Royal Assent this week. The legislation imposes maximum rental rates on landlords until the end of 2020, in an attempt to reduce the cost of living for average Alexandrians.

The Rent Control Law of 2017 represents the most significant encroachment into the free market by the Alliance Liberal government of Primo de Aguilar. With the legislation having received Royal Assent on March 28, landlords in Alexandria are no longer permitted to increase rents until 2018, when a maximum increase of 5 pc of 2016 market prices will be allowed. The allowable increase in 2019, which is required to remain in-force until the end of 2020, will be 10 pc of the 2016 price.

Controlling rents is a policy largely predicated on a belief that Alexandrians are downtrodden and unable to afford home ownership. “It secures [the average Alexandrian] a decent home at an affordable rate,” said Mr Aguilar in tabling the bill.

It is however unclear whether a decent home will result from the measures. With annual inflation in Alexandria trending at 2.3% last year, any freeze requires landlords to cover the associated higher maintenance costs from their own pocket in 2017. While generally equalized with inflation in 2018 and 2019, landlords again must cover such a loss in 2020. Any unforeseen major capital or maintenance costs, or inflation above 2.5%, would place landlords at a clear net financial loss throughout the period.

This financial burden imposed by the government is likely to be offset with less investment and maintenance in existing properties and a lack of new construction. According to an Alexandrian Broadcasting Corporation report, the shuttering of rental properties is also being considered, if the tenants are unable to buy the units out. Such a reaction may trigger a housing crisis in the near term; in the long term, the need for landlords to spike rents in 2021 to recover losses and fund deferred maintenance may trigger a similar crisis.

Landlords who are tempted to violate the controls to offset any financial burden the government has imposed will face fines ranging from 200 pc to 500 pc of any charge in excess of the maximum, as well as business licence revocation and hard labour. Such punishments are, in the government’s view, required to correct an economy in which the average Alexandrian spends 35% of income on housing.

For his part, Mr Aguilar, in celebrating the law’s passage, suggested that Alexandrians use their personal savings from the controls to “earn a decent return and safeguard capital that may lead to owning [a] home.”

It is unclear whether that goal will be achieved. With extra cash in their pockets, Alexandrians may instead buy household wares, food or luxuries as opposed to investing in a downpayment for a home. If that is the case, Mr Aguilar’s celebration may be premature.

Alexandrian economy lurches left

Labour Code proposed for Alexandria

GENEVA – Alexandria’s Liberal Alliance government has unveiled new Labour Code legislation that aims to enshrine statutory leave requirements, a generous workers savings bond programme, and a minimum wage for the micronation.

The Alexandrian Labour Code of 2015 will standardize worker rights across the micronation, including providing workers with the option of demanding a written contract prior to employment. The Code would formalize a standard eight-hour work day, while ensuring that workers enjoy a two-day rest period each week. Also provided are generous leave entitlements, including fourteen days of paid vacation leave and seven days of paid sick leave each year, in addition to seven weeks of paid maternity/paternity leave.

“We know how hard you work,” First Consul Primo de Aguilar said during his press conference announcing the measures. “Thank you for contributing to the growth of the Alexandrian economy!”

As a further reward to workers for their contributions, the Code will allow participation in a generous savings bond programme with a guaranteed 5% return on investment, with the proceeds from the interest being tax-exempt.

The Code may prove popular with most workers and businesses within Alexandria; however, it’s arguably protectionist provision that requires the new worker benefits to be funded through a 5% tariff on all imports may prove unpopular with the micronation’s trade partners and with businesses who depend on foreign sales.

Mr. Aguilar did not respond to a request for comment on the tariff by the Coprieta Standard prior to this article going to press.

Labour Code proposed for Alexandria

Alexandria embargos Ergonia as spat widens

GENEVA — As the historical spat between Alexandria and Giles Melang reignites in a Shirithian courthouse, Alexandria’s government has also moved to embargo Melang’s micronation of Ergonia.

In what may be described as a role reversal of Melang’s October attempt to punitively tariff Alexandrian trade with the Brettish Isles, Alexandrian Second Consul Primo de Aguilar has ordered his micronation’s borders closed to all citizens and merchants of Ergonia, a micronation founded by Melang last year.

“[The Imperial Government] finds reasonable cause to believe that all citizens and nationals of [Ergonia] are threats to the peace, stability and dignity of [Alexandria],” said de Aguilar in his Consular Order imposing the embargo.

The order came the same day as de Aguilar filed a claim against Melang in Shireroth’s Imperial Judex for a purported fraud in 2013.

Alexandria embargos Ergonia as spat widens

Alexandrian legislature concludes summer sitting

GENEVA (CS) | With the latest sitting of the Imperial Assembly set to dissolve today, the Aguilar government is closing the books on a busy summer legislative session.

The current sitting marked the second since the last activity and constitutional crisis struck Alexandria earlier this year, as well as the second under First Consul Primo de Aguilar, who has played a guiding role in the micronation’s recovery. In this session, Aguilar’s government was successful in passing ten new bills into law, including his most significant measure, an updated Criminal Code.

Only one measure will die on the order table when the sitting concludes, that being a bill to regulate the use of multiple simulated characters by a single individual to develop the broader “in-sim” identity of Alexandria.

Yet the apparent success may arguably be considered as superficial, glossing over a continuing challenge for Alexandria in getting individuals engaged in the legislative process. Of the ten bills passed into law this sitting, eight were passed by unanimous consent with little or no debate, though some of this lack of involvement may be credited to the summer season.

The next sitting of the Imperial Assembly will convene on Monday, October 6. While he has not made known his intentions as of press time, Aguilar is believed to be interested in seeking a third term as First Consul.

Alexandrian legislature concludes summer sitting

Speech from the Throne commences new sitting

GENEVA (CS) | During a ceremony full of traditional Alexandrian pomp today, Emperor Edgard Carrillo proclaimed a new constitution and laid out the government’s upcoming legislative agenda.

The 2nd Imperial Assembly since the constitutional crisis of earlier this year commenced with a prayer from the Archbishop of Geneva, Louis Lafayette. The Emperor then gave Royal Assent to the newly amended Constitution which was hurriedly passed by unanimous consent in the dying hours of the previous sitting on May 30, before he made his Speech from the Throne.

The Speech from the Throne laid out the legislative agenda for the next three months and touched on several areas of concern for Alexandrians, whose micronation continues to recover from a prolonged on-and-off activity crisis in its government.

The Emperor renewed the government’s commitment to improving the economic stability of the micronation, which had been a significant focus of Second Consul Primo de Aguilar in the last sitting. Further regulatory measures are anticipated with respect to the economy, to “ensure a level economic playing field,” said the Emperor.

A push to empower local governments will also be made, this as a result of a successful amendment to the constitution by Paco Baez that limits the jurisdiction of the national government. The “immediate” rescinding of the seemingly-unending state of emergency in the province of Luthoria, which predates recent memory for many Alexandrians, was committed to by the Emperor.

The government will also turn its focus to the reinvigoration of the Imperial University of Alexandria, with a Board of Regents being convened and a President to be chosen during this sitting of the Imperial Assembly. The University was recently the subject of legislative reform, the first since 2011, and the Board, once assembled, will be responsible for determining its structure.

Other areas mentioned in the agenda include improving infrastructure, appointing a Board of Trustees for the Alexandrian Broadcasting Corporation, and reviving the Imperial Cultural Institute.

Speech from the Throne commences new sitting

One-on-One: Jaime Primo de Aguilar

GENEVA (CS) | The spring sun was still rising as I boarded an Alexandrian Imperial Air Force C-5 Galaxy at the Francis Joseph III International Airport in Geneva.

A monstrosity of an aircraft, painted in bland military gray, and one certainly not meant for comfort, but for the next two days as we travelled to Gotzborg, it would be home for me and seventy-two others, representing the Alexandrian government and its fledging corporate community.

As I ventured to my seat on the upper deck, I could hear all sorts of businesspeople murmuring with excitement about this official visit to Gotzborg and the potential business opportunities that lay ahead. Yet that excitement did not compare to that shown amongst these corporate gurus about the recent revival of the Alexandrian economy and the Imperial Government’s renewed focus on it.

That revival was masterminded by our host and Alexandria’ Second Consul, Jaime Primo de Aguilar. Hailing from the city of Santiago in Alexandria’s Santander territory, Aguilar learned his flair for economics from his late father, Don Felipe, who was a wealthy landowner in the territory before the communist revolution forced the family to flee.

The loadmaster, in a commanding voice that seemed to pierce through the whine of the starting engines, directed us to sit down, buckle up and prepare for takeoff. The veteran soldier was barely able to hold back his grin as he reminded the “privileged” – us civilians – that the no-frills experience of flying with the Imperial Air Force airlift wing would be nothing like the spoiled comfort of a commercial airliner.

After a short taxiing from the gate, we were racing down the runway and lifting off on a journey that would take us more than 18,000 kilometres and nearly halfway across Micras.

I began to settle in for the 4,000 kilometre leg of the flight to Port Chloe in Stormark, when a man, so neatly put together that he must have been a bureaucrat, approached my seat and identified him as Aguilar’s attaché. I was motioned to follow him to the front of the cabin where Aguilar wished to speak to me.

As I sat down with Aguilar, I could see the excitement in his eyes to be flying on this military aircraft. Where many of us civilians saw a utilitarian aircraft full of uncomfortable noise and shaking, Aguilar saw a piece of his youth, bringing him back to his years spent serving in a foreign military. Those were years long past for this fifty-five year old statesman, but his eyes gleamed as though it was only yesterday.

That excitement of past years dissolved away as Aguilar focused on me, his eyes turning to the piercing seriousness of a statesman of his importance. The ailing Alexandrian economy was, after all, his primary concern, and he was not going to waste any time getting his message out while a journalist like me was flying in the same tin-can as he was at 30,000 feet.

I was his captive audience and he wanted to get down to business. It was time for the promised interview that had gotten me embedded on this journey.

One-on-One: Jaime Primo de Aguilar