Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 6th 2015 Contents A22
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt December 6, 2015
Ibraced myself against the
wind, stinging rain on my
face, circumventing puddles on
the pavement shiny slick with
water, reflecting the dark on a
lone street last Tuesday. I got to
my doorstep, shuffled around for
keys, looked down and saw on
the pavement written in large red
letters NOT IN MY NAME. I
missed the anti-war demonstra-
tion but the protesters left their
mark on my doorstep. I let
myself in, feeling shaky and
called home. I never thought
Trinidad which has surpassed its
murder rate for this time last
year and remains the top tenth
most murderous nation world-
wide would feel safe.
"What's going on?" I said, bur-
rowing inside blankets. I calmed
down as my husband and son
talked. There was mutual laugh-
ter across the lines at the
absurdity of a white', snowy
Christmas crèche greeting visitors
and people who were coming
home for Christmas at Piarco
Airport. A snow scene is part of
a colonial hangover, that perhaps
life is elsewhere, that we didn't
have a proper Christmas, with a
real tree and fireplace.
We rejected Naipaul for his
contempt but here we were, still
mimic men and women. There
was nothing menacing about it.
Just sad, as it was so unthinking
people. We are a tolerant people,
but we don't pride ourselves on
Derek Walcott, who won a
Nobel prize with Omeros as an
entire paean to our people and
landscape, once declared that we
live from the waist down.' We
don't particularly pride ourselves
on our intellect. We don't care
much for books, theatre or the
arts. There is an inner circle of
the intellect that is widening but
it is far from being mainstream.
Walcott hit the nail on the head.
We live for entertainment.
"What's that droning noise" my
family asked from Trinidad.
"Helicopters," I replied, "circling
London, flying low."
"Trinidad sweet too bad. Gold
sunsets. Cool breeze. The north-
ern range was lush, green.
Christmas weather nah." I slept
with this image.
The next day, I grabbed an
Evening Standard from a news-
stand and saw that two separate
security scares sparked the mass
evacuation of buildings close to
BBC Broadcasting House and
London Bridge station. There
were sniffer dogs about, after a
suspicious package' was found.
My nerves jangled running down
to the tube. People were jittery.
In the tube, two women were
wondering how the debate to
strike Syria would go. They
hoped that the Conservatives
would see that it would feed
fanaticism, create more refugees,
kill civilians and mostly, that
bombing hadn't worked in Iraq.
It was better in the park. The
trees were shedding their rust
gold leaves, stamping their colour
and image on pavements.
The women and thousands of
British people who felt like them
didn't get their way.
A day later, we saw the worst
of politicians under pressure. The
British Prime Minister, David
Cameron, refused to apologise for
calling his opponents "terrorist
sympathisers." The Opposition
Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, made a
feeble call not to go to war.
The moment belonged to
Hilary Benn, the Labour "shad-
ow" foreign secretary, in a speech
the UK Guardian described as his
"epiphany", a "Sermon on the
Mount" to his labour colleagues.
"What we know about fascists
is that they need to be defeated
and it is why, as we have heard
tonight, socialists and trade
unionists were just one part of
the International Brigade in the
1930s to fight against Franco.
"It's why this entire house
stood up against Hitler and Mus-
solini. It's why our party has
always stood up against the
denial of human rights and for
justice and my view, Mr Speaker,
is that we must now confront
our bit in Syria and that is why I
ask my colleagues to vote in
favour of this motion tonight."
MPs voted by 397 to 223 in
favour of sending Tornado jets to
seek out Isis targets in Syria.
Just like that, the British played
into the hands of the terrorists.
Within hours, four RAF Tor-
nado jets took off from Cyprus
carrying out the "first offensive
operation over Syria."
It is grand theatre in the Palace
of Westminster. But this beautiful
city is on alert. They say they
can't stand by and do nothing.
But what will air strikes do?
Strike at civilians who will be
used as human shields. Create
refugees. Breed more fanatics
who are willing to blow them-
selves up. It was convenient in
this grand theatre to forget that
there is little intelligence on the
ground, that the targets are mov-
ing, that all it takes is one or two
or four Daesh with explosives
strapped to their chests to kill
hundreds in any capital.
It's posturing to strike from the
air, harder to do the work on the
Ironically, while Germany has
taken over 100,000 refugees, the
UK has a 10,000 quota which it
hasn't filled. There have been
over 500 cases of harassment of
the refugees in Germany. The
backlash to the Muslims has
begun. This may feel far from
sweet T&T, parang, pastelles and
sorrel. But remember this day.
We are breeding a few fanatics
ourselves. Perhaps we can start at
home, by being alert to our own
fascists, showing compassion to
our own poor, looking outwards
and seeing ourselves in the con-
text of a shrinking and terrifying
Today's the big day for
Venezuela. If all runs
smooth, results will be out this
evening, and they'll have a new
It's a face-off between the
United Socialist Party of Nicolás
Maduro, successor to the flam-
boyant Hugo Chavez; and a
broad-based opposition alliance,
the Democratic Unity Round-
Ten days ago, a regional oppo-
sition leader, Luis Manuel Diaz
was shot dead at a political rally.
Another leading oppositionist,
Lilian Tintori was spattered with
his blood. Her husband has been
in prison since early last year.
That same week, there was a
fire on the private plane the
Tintori team uses for political
travel. Said Lilian: "That aircraft
was tampered with by the
regime and I am not scared to
Things don't look too nice.
Last month, Luis Almagro
Lemes, secretary-general of the
Organisation of American States
and a former foreign minister in
Uruguay's left-wing government
wrote a detailed letter criticising
Maduro called him "garbage."
He had said in August:
"Venezuela...will not be moni-
tored by anyone." Brazil has
pulled out from a very limited
election observer mission organ-
ised by Unasur, the Union of
South American Nations.
Opinion polls give a massive
lead to the Opposition. One
pollster last Tuesday put them
19 points ahead. Astonishingly,
that was seen as a plus for
Maduro; other polls project a
35-point opposition lead.
But the voting system tilts
heavily to Maduro. Last time
round, in 2010, the Chavistas
were just two points ahead in
the popular vote---but that gave
them a landslide majority in the
Changes in April were crafted
to give the Government a fur-
ther boost. Conceivably, they
could trail in the popular vote,
but still come first on the seat
On the plus side, Venezuela
does still hold elections. The
Chavistas have won them all,
invincible since 1998. But this
time, their campaign song
"Invencible" sounds a little
Food prices have doubled this
year---and that's for those lucky
enough to reach the checkout.
One in five Venezuelans tell
pollsters they have stood in line
for more than ten hours that
week, just to lay hands on
Plunging oil prices since mid-
2014 have pushed an already
troubled economy into free fall.
Whatever today's result,
Maduro will still be president.
If he loses his National
Assembly majority, he'll be like
Obama, or like Guyana's Donald
Ramotar last year---in office, but
unable to pass a budget without
support from truculent and
Indeed, he will be in a worse
trap. Venezuela's constitution
allows the Assembly to force the
president to fight for his political
life in a recall referendum.
If the Opposition win two-
thirds of the seats, they'll have
extra games to play. They will
be able to dump the regime's
hand-picked Supreme Court
Trouble could start earlier.
Maduro has threatened to take
to the streets if he loses today's
Election officials say results
will be announced only when
they are "irreversible." A long
wait past the normal time this
evening would be a danger sig-
Former opposition presidential
candidate Henrique Capriles
talks of "a bomb ready to
I can see Venezuela from my
neighbour's balcony. Psychologi-
cally, they might be a thousand
miles off. But if that bomb
explodes, then we too are in for
The other one next week is St
Vincent, where they vote on
Wednesday. Ralph Gonsalves has
been in power since 2001. He is
no Maduro, but he's a cheer-
leader for the PetroCaribe fan
Five years ago, he scraped
back for a third term with a two
per cent lead and eight seats, to
seven for his opponent Arnhim
Eustace. All hinges on an
uncompleted international air-
port, now four years behind
schedule and way over budget.
The Government promises
intercontinental flights early next
year. The Opposition say the
airport won't be ready until
2020, and claim massive design
flaws. The economy, meanwhile,
is badly adrift.
Now 69, Ralph must be
thinking retirement plans. His
son Camillo is a government-
appointed senator and St Vin-
cent's foreign minister. He is
fighting for election to the lower
house on Wednesday. His next
job? In the words of an opposi-
tion campaign song: "Ask
VENEZUELA: A BOMB WAITING TO EXPLODE?
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