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TT counting chickens before...

In photo, Maduro and Rowley in a conga dance line. Venezuela -Trinidad
gas deal is illegal unless is ratify by the Venezuela's National Assembly
and there is no chance of that happening soon-PW.
It seems that TT is counting the chickens before they hatch


Want gas? Wine to Caracas beat

In a week when crime and international energy diplomacy commanded headlines here, T&T should have taken counsel to know its place in the world.

Oil prices pushed upward past US$50. Major producing countries agreed to leave the taps in cutback mode, and encouraged even mini-producers like T&T to do the same. Advice to stay cool and quiet should not really have been needed in this country. An otherwise well-informed Prime Minister Eric Williams once let himself be persuaded that T&T had gained membership in OPEC. Dr Williams called that OPEC endorsement a grand “demarche”. To learn what that word meant, many of us pulled dictionaries off the shelf.

We soon understood, however, that Dr Williams had got it wrong. OPEC declined to welcome T&T's drop of oil in the world bucket as qualifying this country for big-time energy accreditation.

In the early 1970s, when all of this went down, Keith Rowley likely lacked historical chutzpah to imagine himself as any successor to the late great EE Williams. Last week, however, Prime Minister Rowley strode the red carpet in Caracas. White-trousered Venezuelan women soldiers presented arms in ceremonial salute. Back home he claimed a version of some latter-day energy “demarche”.

“Gas from the Dragon field in northwestern Venezuela will be delivered via pipeline to the nearby Caribbean country.” That's how the Latin American Herald Tribune reported the T&T Prime Minister's diplomatic achievement. The paper noted that T&T “is itself a significant producer of natural gas”. It did not mention that, for too many years now, T&T natural gas tanks have steadily been running lower and lower.

On the Herald Tribune's homepage listings, T&T ranks lower than “Saint Vincent and the Grenadines”. Indeed, this “significant” gas producer isn't among the clickable country names on that English-language publication covering Latin America and the Caribbean.

To show the world, and relentless Venezuelan skeptics, his government still enjoyed regional prestige, President Nicolas Maduro made a state visit here last May. His shopping list then included food items, toilet paper and sanitary napkins—and payment guarantees for suppliers. He managed a knowing look, and nodded as Port of Spain embassy officials whispered in his ear “natural gas”. That's what Venezuela abundantly has, and what T&T so badly needs. The Venezuelans, people of a big-oil country, who have little needed to “monetise” the associated natural gas, signed on as would-be benefactors to T&T. At the Bretton Hall embassy on Victoria Avenue, event planners went to work on staging a suitable Caracas reception for the Rowley roadshow they heard was in the making.

Eventually, the government chartered a Caribbean Airlines jet, and loaded up the flight with T&T free riders, on destination for a big Caracas splash-down. Venezuelans know this place better than we know theirs. At Bretton Hall, they learn the language which, in resiliently unilingual T&T, is not any Queen's English, but really a “creole” rendition. Diplomats posted from Caracas to Port of Spain absorb the “creole culture”. They recognise it as officially accredited in terms of calypso, soca, chutney, mas, pan, parang, Best Village and Tobago Heritage.

Last week, if official Caracas was apparently not also red, it was otherwise ready for Rowley. He and President Maduro signed and signed.

But the event at Miraflores Palace was really an exchange of symbolisms. Dr Rowley was keen to show how much official T&T cared. To this end, to advertise the size of the T&T stake in his mission, he had mustered a large team of officials, business people and media.

We want this gas bad: that was the T&T message. On the Maduro side, the responses were meant to resonate with the T&T people as profiled by its embassy: why not? Let's see; let's do this together, in echo of a PNM 2015 campaign theme. Senor Maduro's Presidential Guard played and sang the T&T anthem in English and in Spanish. To such a gesture, unilingually creole T&T has no matching reply. Typically, the T&T delegates, media included, were linguistically and otherwise underprepared. The Venezuelans, knowing their advantage, rubbed it in. Without warning, calypso filled the soundscape. It's yet to be identified as the Sparrow/Byron Lee “Dragon Dance”. Caracas winer women, irresistible to Dr Rowley, eternally famed for his Carnival 2015 San Fernando leggo, took centre stage.

“The costumes did look like Tobago. I felt quite at home,” said the T&T Prime Minister, so taken by the Caracas bele dancers that he wined his way into their conga line.

To T&T's need for natural gas, Caracas responded with “por supuesto” assurances and partygoing goodwill. But last week showed Caracas and Port of Spain both helplessly beset by murders. Just on the weekend before, the Caracas mortuary counted 60 victims. You can't be sure: employees there are forbidden to talk to the media. Meanwhile, T&T was wringing its hands over the “Shannon” mystery murder.

In T&T last May, President Maduro had agreed to border security collaboration, and easier access into Venezuela for T&T exports.

To such talk, el Presidente has now added song and dance. And el Primer Ministro T&T is plainly content with wining to the beat.

Lennox Grant / Trinidad Express / Dic. 10, 2016

ISSUES.... 12/ 11/ 2016 - Send Us Your Issues

ISSUES.... Inside, confidential and off the record

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