raffique shah----USE

So what if Trinidad and Tobago sells a shipment of gasoline to Venezuela?

Why must we citizens be concerned with or ashamed of such sale, once we are paid fairly and promptly? Why do members of the Government employ fusillades of terminological inexactitudes in a bid to evade telling the truth about the transaction, a truth that might free their consciences? Why are leading members of the opposition United National Congress so consumed by the lust for power, they will stoop to any level, even kneel behind the uncertified lunatic in the Oval Office, just to sip the elixir of office?

These questions torment me as I follow the ongoing sagas of the oil sale and the visit of Venezuela’s Vice-President, non-issues that have been blown out of proportion, the instigators promoting it to a geopolitical conflict of international import that they hope will rescue them from relative obscurity. Having served up the nation’s sovereignty as a sacrificial offering to the bully in the Oval Office that is now the global ground zero for Covid-19, they eagerly await recompense for their perfidy.

That a sovereign state such as Trinidad and Tobago can be compelled to conform to sanctions imposed on its neighbour, Venezuela, not by an international entity, but by a bullying behemoth who suffers from selective amnesia, among a spectrum of mental disorders, tells us that we live in a world where might is still right, matters not what we may delude ourselves into believing about advancements in international relations.

Further, it defies logic that the United States of America would arrogate unto itself the power to dictate who occupies political office in other sovereign states across the world when its citizens, who promote themselves as the most advanced society on earth, elect to the highest office someone like Donald Trump. He is the worst head of government today, and possibly of all time. This is the only holder of high office that anyone can call a liar to his face and he can do nothing about it because he is a chronic, compulsive liar. He is a registered misogynist, a rabid racist...there are so many epithets one can apply to him.

And this is the man who must dictate where and to whom we sell our oil or gas? Or with whom we cultivate good relations, or whom we avoid? Look, I understand the fundamentals of geopolitics, international relations, and why, when one holds office, one must at least be civil to the most objectionable office-holders, even buffoons. So if Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley feels he must be courteous to Trump and his gang of misfits, I won’t argue with him. But I reserve the right to call a spade a spade, to vent my dismay the way movie star Robert De Niro did on BBC yesterday, when he lamented the insanity that has enveloped the USA, when Trump talks unmitigated “tatah”, and no one has the balloons to call him out on it.

Regarding T&T selling gasoline to Aruba that ended up in US-sanctioned Venezuela—and don’t tell me crap about any Rio Treaty and however many members have signed on to its archaic clauses—it is a tragedy beyond compare that sovereign states stoop to the Big Bully without hesitation, knowing in their hearts what they are doing is wrong.

The Maduro government in Caracas may have many shortcomings, it may be guilty of incompetence or worse. But it remains the duly elected government of Venezuela, and until such time as the majority of its 30 million population removes it, by ballots or bullets, it’s the government we deal with. Juan Guaido has proved to be unworthy of pity, far less support. With the full weight of the USA behind him, he could not topple Maduro even when the opposition was united in the early months of 2019, and when huge crowds protested on the streets for weeks.

He stormed a military installation in full view of media cameras: no one shot him and his supporters, nor did the troops defect to his side. His supporters fire-bombed armoured vehicles, an act that would trigger intense return fire in most countries. In a display of tremendous restraint on the part of trained soldiers, they did not shoot the attackers. Guaido is so inconsequential to power in Venezuela, he hired mercenaries whose mission was to kill Maduro. They failed.

Clearly, Maduro enjoys considerable support among the masses, maybe majority support. Yet Trump insists on removing him from office, hence the sanctions and the ludicrous claims, every time a cocaine shipment is intercepted in Caribbean waters, that it belongs to Maduro. Do people really believe that shipload of crock? Frankly, I won’t be surprised that some of them do.

In the 1980s, when the United Nations and other international economic and sporting agencies applied sanctions on apartheid South Africa in order to free Nelson Mandela and his comrades from prison, to rid the country of institutionalised racism, and to usher in democracy, meaning one-man-one-vote, the USA, along with Britain and Israel, vociferously opposed the sanctions.

With Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in office in their respective countries, they not only continued to export armaments to the racists, they pitched in to battle Cuban troops that Fidel Castro had dispatched to Angola to fight on the side of the non-whites. In fact, T&T’s prime minister at the time had authorised the refuelling of Cuban planes at Piarco as they topped up for the long flight to Angola. He was warned off by the Americans, but cleverly switched the refuelling to Guyana, where Forbes Burnham facilitated the exercise—using Trinidad and Tobago-supplied fuel.

So, for Trump to intimidate T&T today, his predecessors having refused to implement sanctions on South Africa when it mattered most, is hypocritical in the extreme. And those pipsqueaks in the Caribbean who bow to Trump’s designs, they are hypocrites who suffer with selective amnesia.

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I hadn’t intended to write a word; my feelings were raw and I felt that everything I could possibly say had already been expressed. I had already begun writing about something else for this column, but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t feel that it was right to let my exhaustion with the ongoing brutality of humankind shunt me away from a principle I hold fast.

EARLIER this week, the Minister of Housing officiated at a ceremony organised by the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) in which 500 lucky would-be homeowners stood to benefit from a random television draw for the allocation of State housing. This was the expected end of the line for at least those persons, some of whom would have submitted applications since who knows how long ago.

I lived in Falcon Heights, Minnesota for most of the 18 years I resided and worked in the state, teaching at the University of Minnesota. I was offered the job there in 1990, and subsequently bought a house. Falcon Heights is a suburb that is equidistant from both Minneapolis and St Paul, the capital, about a ten-minute drive away from both cities. For most of my time there I was the only black person owning a home on my street, and indeed on adjoining streets.

To say that we live in difficult times is to minimise the challenges each and every one of us faces on a daily basis.

From viral pan­demics leading to broken economies which have given rise to a huge number of people struggling to feed their families.

A minority of social media users have voiced dismay that West Indians are fixated on opining about the injustice of George Floyd’s death due to police brutality.

Here in sweet Trinidad and Tobago, we have jumped on the bandwagon and stood up and expressed our diverse views on the ongoing racial tensions in the United States, but I ask us to step back and look at our country.