Friday, June 9, 2017

The PM’s shameful attack on Luis Almagro

Trinbagonian politicians have a proud record of disgracing themselves. Whether it’s through acts of corruption, incompetence or possessing  Faris Al-Rawi’s fashion sense. But the bar surely dropped to a new low last week when, on his return from Chile, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley called for the Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro to resign.

Mr. Almargo had evidently upset Dr. Rowley’s favorite dance partner, Venezuelan President Nicolaus Maduro. His great insult was expressing concern over the violent civil unrest, and crackdown on political dissent taking place in Venezuela. An act Dr. Rowley blasted as “derogatory”.  Because in Maduro’s Venezuela the word ‘democracy’ now means “your mudder  @#$.”

Dr. Rowley even bizarrely tried to discredit Mr. Almagro, a Uruguayan diplomat and former Foreign Affairs Minister, by calling him a “public servant”. Implying he overstepped his bounds. But that’s nonsense.  Mr. Almagro was elected as Secretary General of the OAS, running on a campaign promising a greater commitment to human rights and democracy. His official theme was “More rights for more people.” This probably confuses Dr. Rowley. After all what kind of maniac adheres to the high ideals he promised in his campaign?  

This quarrel officially started in 2015 when Mr. Almagro wrote a strongly worded letter to Venezuela’s National Election Council, expressing concern for the censorship of media, the arrest of opposition politicians and the crackdown on the freedom of assembly happening in the country.  Then in June 2016, Mr. Almagro invoked article 20 of the Inter American Democratic Charter, calling for a report into events in Venezuela.  This is a binding charter which outlines the principles by which democratic institutions must operate in member states. Mr. Maduro was extremely angry at this. Because there is nothing in it making it ok to jail your political rivals, shut down newspapers you don’t like or run protestors in the street over with armored tanks. Shucks. 

To prove he wasn’t some kind of tin pot dictator, Mr. Maduro responded by calling Mr. Almagro   “imperial scum” and then shut down Venezuela’s National Assembly, effectively making himself absolute ruler of the country. Remarkably similar to something a tin pot dictator might do. However, much of the world is increasingly siding with Mr. Almagro on Venezuela. This is why Dr. Rowley wants Mr. Almagro to resign as Secretary General of the OAS. Not because Mr. Almagro is bad at his job; but because he’s actually quite good at it.  Wanting an obviously principled and courageous man to step down in favour of presumably a feckless slobbering sycophant is an extremely bizarre management philosophy. Though it does explain so many of Dr. Rowley’s cabinet picks.

And speaking of feckless slobbering sycophants, Minister Stuart Young, predictably joined Dr. Rowley‘s call saying “we will not allow (the OAS) to be railroading any democratically elected government’” It should be glaringly obvious to anyone that Venezuela is anything but a democracy now. The thousands of screaming protestors in the streets being beaten by the military might give it away. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together can see that Venezuela is now a military dictatorship. And it was cringe inducing to hear Minister Young say that the Prime Minister’s position was in no way influenced by the hugely important gas agreement we recently signed with Venezuela. It reminded me when my driving instructor told me  that I failed my driving test, not because I refused to pay him  a bribe, but because I was  a ‘stingy driver’. 

One can appreciate how important this gas deal with Venezuela is especially given the current state of our economy. But if T&T politicians now feel compelled to condemn democracy and human rights advocates like Mr. Almagro while simultaneously defending the wretched despotism of Nicolaus Maduro; least our gas deal suffer. Then our relationship with Venezuela is not a business partnership. It’s one based on blackmail and coercion. 

If the Prime Minister insists on defending Mr.  Maduro’s despicable regime, he should at least display some of Mr. Almagro’s courage. He should come out and say he supports Mr. Maduro. He should say he has no problem with Mr. Maduro jailing opposition rivals. Or Mr. Maduro rigging the constitution to cement his dictatorship. Or Mr. Maduro’s links with Narco-traffickers .Or Venezuelans resorting to eating stray dogs out of starvation. Or Venezuelan civilians being processed via military courts. Or the Venezuelan embassy in T&T threatening   peaceful protestors here. 

Dr. Rowley should say he’s turning a blind eye to the immense injustice and suffering occurring on his doorstop; all in the name of profit. Because there is at least no shame in being honest.

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