WHAT DO Eric Williams, ANR Robinson, Basdeo Panday, Patrick Manning, and Kamla Persad-Bissessar have in common? Each found themselves at odds with the media. That says less about them than it tells us about the fourth estate. It tells you we’re doing our job. We will continue.
Addressing the media at the Diplomatic Centre, of all places, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Thursday joined the ranks of those before him. Clothing his attack on the press with the revelation that people have “interests,” he glibly ignored that it was the media that have, day and night for the past three months, been religiously covering his administration’s messaging in relation to covid19, going so far as to faithfully participate in daily briefings, spreading the Government’s words far and wide, relaying the Government’s public health advice and ministerial pleas. This is the press against which he has turned. Why?
The media, just like the PM, are accountable, must obey the law, must do their best to apply checks and balances, must be vigilant against misuse (ironically from politicians like Rowley). But Shakespeare’s famous line comes to mind: he doth protest too much. That Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez is at the heart of this tells us there is more in the mortar than the pestle.
One day before Rodriguez attended a meeting with this country’s highest elected official, charges alleging criminal conduct on the part of her boss, Nicolas Maduro, were unsealed. US law enforcement authorities believe Maduro, as well as swathes of officials in his government, have been engaged in a criminal conspiracy. Did Rowley have cause for pause before a closed-door meeting with this surrogate of Maduro?
Sometime before her visit, Rodriguez fell ill, reportedly with flu symptoms, something which was known to state officials. Did Rowley stop to think this over? Was any testing done? Did officials shake hands, wear masks, observe distancing? What would have happened if the PM fell ill?
These public health considerations, plus the worrisome criminal charges, suggest reckless conduct. Or at best they imply, and we have very few facts, a clear intention to meet come what may. Why? The PM has said security, and Rodriguez heads Venezuela’s top spy agency. However, it gets worse. Not only has Rodriguez been sanctioned by US authorities, she has been sanctioned by Colombia, Canada, the European Union, Mexico, and Switzerland. And she came with baggage.
We may equivocate, play semantics, and follow the red herring of whether the Rio Treaty applies. We cannot, however, deny the fact that the US, our most important trade and security partner, now takes a dim view of us.
These are the kinds of questions the media are entitled to ask. Unless, that is, proximity to Maduro is rubbing off.