Monday, March 24, 2014

                            DON'T SAY THAT YOU WEREN'T WARNED!!!!

The picture above was taken of an opposition march in Caracas on Friday. As you can see, the streets are jammed with about fifty thousand people. Now, that's a heck of a lot of people!! And when a march like this and of this size takes place in a major metropolis like Caracas you can bet that just about the whole city is effectively shut down. The problem here is that this isn't a 'one-off' thing, but is something that is being repeated every week, several times a week all over Venezuela. Put another way, Venezuela is grinding to a halt ... if it has not already ground to a halt. There are now basic shortages of just about everything ... except, it seems, Cubans and armed thugs who are shooting at persons who are protesting against the Government.

I deliberately put this picture on this post as I know that a lot of people are simply not aware of the depth of unhappiness that exists in Venezuela. The pro-Maduro supporters like to try and paint the opposition as being only the wealthy. In my experience, the wealthy do not demonstrate ... and certainly not in numbers like this!! Look at the picture again!

The situation clearly cannot last much longer. Maduro is pulling out all of the stops and trying his best to prevent the bad news from getting out of the country. In this regard, if truth be told, he has been moderately successful as the major news agencies seem to be steering away from reporting everything that is going on, especially where the reports make Maduro's Government look bad. Certainly, pictures like this are not being broadcast, and, if they are, only once in a while.

But the reality is that things are bad ... very, very bad! The fact is that things like toilet paper and women's sanitary pads (for example) are now in very short supply. Foreign exchange is in even shorter supply  ... and this is for a country that is sitting on one of the largest oil reserves in the world, and press freedom is virtually non-existent. (As an aside, isn't it interesting that all those persons who cry about infringements of press freedom here in T&T appear to be blissfully unaware of what Maduro is doing to their brothers and sisters across the water?)

On Friday Trinidad & Tobago assisted the Maduro regime in keeping a lid on things when it voted to have a debate in the Organisation of American States (OAS) held in private. What had happened was that the President of Panama had appointed a leading Venezuelan politician, Maria Corina Machado, as special ambassador to the OAS for Panama in order to inform the OAS about what was taking place in Venezuela. The representative of the left wing regime of Nicaragua moved a motion that the debate should be held in private ... in other words, away from the prying eyes of the world's press and the public. And, with the support of all those little islands who are benefiting from Chavez's PetroCaribe initiative ... as well as the inexplicable support of Trinidad & Tobago ... the motion to hold the debate in private was passed!! Why? I honestly have no idea. The only reasons that I can come up with are probably libelous. But nothing else makes sense. Certainly, T&T's vote doesn't make any sense to me! It was the WRONG thing to do and I am extremely critical of the Government of my country for this foreign policy mistake.(What could Dookeran have been thinking? But this is not the point of this post. I'll deal with this another time.)

Incidentally, Ms. Machado was detained for several hours when she returned from Washington over the weekend. Why? But in "free" Venezuela these things apparently happen with nobody questioning the authorities.

In the meantime, the average person in Venezuela is seeing his standard of living slipping into a bottomless pit of misery. Everything seems to be breaking down and shortages increase daily. Inflation is now running at almost 60 per cent. Foreign exchange is in such short supply that although the officail rate of exchange is around 11 bolivars to US$1 the black market rate is now around 80 bolivars to US$1 !!!! Can you believe that?!? And this is happening to one of the potentially most wealthy countries in the world!! But this "Bolivarian" (whatever that means ... poor Simon Bolivar. He must be turning in his grave over the hijacking of his name by these people) socialist regime trumpets loudly that they are doing everything for the benefit of the people. And the poor people are benefiting in much the same way as the mobs in ancient Rome benefited from the largesse of the Roman dictators ... bread and circuses!  And nobody says 'boo'. It seems that it is okay to hand out 'bread and circuses' if you are ... well, let's just say 'politically correct'! How you screw up a wealthy country is totally irrelevant!!

One by one, airlines are beginning to refuse to travel to Venezuela. They are reportedly owed a total of more than US$3 billion in unpatrioted airline fees. Maduro has blustered that anyone who pulls out now will not be allowed back. Air Canada has said to heck with that. We can't afford to take a loss here and has cancelled its 3 flights a week. I suppose that is not too great a loss for them. It will be interesting to see what other international carriers do.

Venezuela is falling off the proverbial cliff...  if it hasn't fallen already! This situation cannot last much longer and the Cubans will see to it that however it ends, it will end with a lot of bloodshed. The cowardice of the OAS, the cowardice of the regional Governments and the cowardice of the international press is helping to contribute to a situation where approximately 27 million people (the population of Venezuela) are being repressed ruthlessly.

There is a lot at stake here. Cuba cannot afford to lose Venezuela. If the revolution against Maduro and the Cubans  in Venezuela is successful, the Cuban economy will take another sharp downward turn as the new regime will cut off the supply of free oil that is keeping Cuba going. In other words, Cuba has too much to lose to allow the Venezuelans alone to handle their own affairs. Cuba's control of Venezuela's secret police is now complete. Expect to see a lot of blood flowing ... and soon. Don't say that you weren't warned. And don't hesitate either to point the finger of blame at the Cubans and at Maduro and his band of thugs ... however this ends.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


When the news broke that a baby had died from what was reported as a botched caesarian operation, like most people I was absolutely horrified and full of empathy for the mother and father. How could this possibly have happened? From the way that it was reported it sounded very much like a case of terrible medical negligence that seemed to border almost on criminality of some sort. That is, the way that it was reported.

Subsequent newspaper reports have continued along these lines and have gone on to suggest a cover-up of some sort as the doctors and the rest of the medical fraternity circle the wagons to prevent one of their own from being punished appropriately. Again, like, I suspect, most people, I was more than a little upset by this.

So when this last weekend I met someone whom I have known for a long time and who was involved on the periphery of that unfortunate incident I was anxious to ask about it and get some details that up to now have not been published in the press. According to my source, at the time that she went into labour, the young mother's blood pressure went sky-rocketing through the roof. When it was realized that her blood pressure was way too high and that death could result from allowing a normal birth to continue the baby had already become engaged in the birth canal. At the time, the only available on duty doctor was someone who had only recently qualified and who had never done a 'C-section' alone. In other words, the young doctor had little or no experience and certainly not enough experience for an emergency such as this one which had developed most suddenly and unexpectedly.

Well, the rest is history and the baby is dead ... though the mother is alive! There is no doubt that an enquiry will look into everything and that the facts should come out sooner or later. But the operative word in that last sentence is "should".

And this is the point about this particular post. The Trinidad & Tobago media ... both the print as well as the electronic... very often do not report all of the facts, but report in ways to make a story seem more salacious and "newsworthy". A lot more newspapers will sell if the story is a gory one about some slipshod doctor killing a baby in a botched 'C-section' than a story about a baby dying in an emergency operation where the doctor was fighting to save both the life of the mother as well as the life of the child and time was of the most critical essence!! Put another way, assuming that the report that was given to me is in fact correct, then this would put a completely different slant on the whole very sad story. And while I will readily admit that I cannot vouch completely for its veracity, my source is one whom I have learned to trust over several years. In other words, I believe that what I am reporting is in fact true.

Put another way again, past experience with the media has taught me that they are more interested in selling a story than in the truth ... and all I can say is: isn't that a very sad perception to have?

The three daily newspapers, the main television stations and not a few of the radio stations have become rich and powerful. There success has given rise to arrogance, overconfidence, pride ... and prejudice!! One almost prays for them to fail, not because it would be nice to see them fall flat on their smug faces, but because failure usually produces humility, caution and a willingness to learn. Failure usually makes a person more empathetic ... and Heaven knows that we need a lot more empathy in this society! Failure tends to produce humility, caution and a willingness to learn. But the arrogance in the society is not confined just to the media; it permeates its entire fabric. The people at the top in the business community, the bankers,  the politicians on both sides of the political divide, and just about everybody else at the top display a terrible lack of empathy and total arrogance, pride, overconfidence ... and prejudice.There is no humility and no demonstrable willingness to learn.

Understandably, a person will want to focus on what makes him or her feel good. The greatest benefit, though, comes from taking a good hard and honest look at ourselves and our most pressing problems. What isn't working? What can be done to make it work? It takes courage to ask such questions, but they do help to come up with fresh answers that inspire and uplift. And that is what is needed now!