2010-10-11: Small Gains




October 11, 2010


Zur Letzten Instanz, Berlin


Giulia shares some intel on South American politics, who's worth befriending and who's just putting on a show.

Zur Letzten Instanz - the oldest restaurant in Berlin, painstakingly restored - and a good place to fly under the radar, for those who need to do so. Neither so crowded that you can't help yourself think, nor so tiny that you can't help but be noticed by anyone else in the place.

As good as last night's live music was at Thomas's hotel, today he's ready to get down to business. With a night's sleep and a shower under his belt, he peruses the menu, glancing up every so often to see if his contact is arriving. Who's coming in, which ones are by themselves, and which of those seem like they're looking to meet someone?

Giulia strides slowly into the restauraunt, her heels clicking against the restauraunt floor. Along her right arm is a white purse which matches her dress. Her demeanor is calm, cold and confident as she lets the hostess lead her towards the table.

She's had a good night, as she usually does, sleeping in late and going to bed early. As usual however, she is also ready for business.

There she is, Thomas thinks to himself. Beginning to worry there'd been a drive-by along the way. Setting the menu aside, he leans forward and offers a polite handshake as Giulia approaches. Greetings are exchanged - in German, first, then English after that goes nowhere fast - progressing into a bit of small talk. "So did you hear about those mine workers in Chile?" Innocent enough, but there's a tension under his skin that doesn't show; her response will tell whether she's who she presents herself as, or an impostor with more chutzpah than brains.

Giulia returns the handshake, and the greeting. At the smalltalk, she is silent a moment, setting her purse upon the table before responding. "No, I didn't have change for a newspaper." Her voice is calm; she's not worried. She's already heard his half of the codephrase. She picks up the wine menu and begins to browse it. "Down to business then, shall we?" she asks as she looks at it.

"Mmm," Thomas replies. "Watch out for the waiter, though, I think he's worried we'll hang out long enough to butt into someone's lunch reservation." Indeed, the place is starting to fill up for the lunch hour, the other patrons safely engrossed in their own conversations, or in a few cases just gawking at the decor. "So I understand there's something else going down in that neck of the woods. Don't tell me the 'miners' are actually a piece of wetwork gone off the rails?"

"One should always pay extra attention to the help." Giulia replies. "But no, the miners are simply that. However, the mine is owned by Empresa Minera San Esteban, not the Chilean state owned corporation, Codelco. Empresa has been used by several political groups in chile to launder money in various directions through back channels. Not all the gold and copper that goes out is reported, and all that. The miners became inconvienent to the wrong politican." She points her finger towards a certain wine. "Ah, Chteau Margaux."

Thomas makes a face. "Close enough, then— if the workers weren't on someone's hit list already for knowing too much, then making world headlines could do the trick. Or it could put someone else on the chopping block, instead." He settles on a Latour for himself before continuing. "So how do these groups relate to each other? Any standing rivals who'd be quicker than the rest to throw each other under the bus?"

"You know how politicians are." Gulia replies before going quiet as she gives the waiter her order.

"Let alone external rivalries, there are plenty of internal rivalries. The main group involved is the Alliance for Chili, recently renamed the Coalition for Change. Foreign policy is standard National Conservative for the region." She takes a sip of water, opens up her purse, and takes out a small USB drive. She slides it over towards Thomas.

"The problem you face is not in finding a way to deal with the organization, but rather that they are the political party most affiliated, on the surface, with the foreign policy interests of your government. Rather like Pakistan. They may be allies on the face of things, but the organization itself is rotten to the core, and likely to be of minimal practical aid beyond media soundbytes, and in fact unofficially slightly counter to your interests."

"Not that the others are that much better," murmurs Thomas, pocketing the drive as soon as it's handed over. "But surface affiliation doesn't count for all that much— not unless they're entrenched, familiar. Assuming you're right, all we have to do is dig up a little evidence and spin it." Or create some, in a pinch.

"Yes." Giulia agrees, sipping her wine once it arrives. "Yes, its the system which is the real ally or enemy. But I'm still a bit unclear on your governments' interests in this. Theoretically speaking, you could do nothing. Why risk the trouble of an operation? Forget the spin and keep the evidence as leverage. Or were you hoping for a specific result?"

Thomas raises his glass - it's the good stuff, it deserves to be properly appreciated, even if it comes in the midst of business. "We might do nothing. All these outfits might turn out to be chump change… on the other hand, whichever one does wind up on top, they might remember who helped them get there." At least for a while. "Honey and vinegar, and all that."

"It is a very good wine." Giulia admires, raising her glass. "These…outfits, as you put them, may remember for a time, or they may not. It will be another scandle in two years. The game goes ever on. But it is the fine things, wine like this, that make it worth the repetition. You have to keep sight of the little things, I think." She sips it again. "Honey and vinegar."