Seemed like a good idea at the time
Posted by clubsodaandsalt on April 20, 2009
The 5th Summit of the Americas and the associated “development” (all too common in the developing world to equate “infrastructure” with “big buildings”) look to my eyes like the Burj Dubai, or the City Center in Vegas; investments planned when money was easy that now seem ridiculously extravagant in hindsight. Our leader would beg to differ, of course:
“It was well worth it,” Prime Minister Patrick Manning declared yesterday, as he brought the curtain down on the Fifth Summit of the Americas, sponsored by the smallest country ever to have held a conference of this magnitude.
“We understand [that this might seem like a big waste of money]. But we also understand that as you host a summit like this, the eyes of the region and the world are indeed on you, and by all that we have said and done here, and what has come into the public domain over the last few days, attention and more attention has been focused on Trinidad and Tobago. Remember we had here 33 Heads of State and government and one President came to Trinidad and Tobago with 15 senior businessmen for the first time with a view to looking at investment possibilities.”
Trinidadians always buy into this idea that hosting something will get us lots of free press. I still remember all the hoopla around hosting Miss Universe back in 1999. Thing is: no-one really cares all that much who hosts the summit. Perhaps you get a few extra googles (and only a few), but the idea that these things pay for themselves is delusional. Especially when some of the coverage looks like this:
Summit meeting organizers on the island of Trinidad, which was transformed into a virtual police state for three days…
That’ll bring the tourists!
From the same article:
[Prime Minister Manning] denied that conflicts at the 2005 meeting, or Mr. Chávez’s history of using such events to rail against the United States and others, had anything to do with keeping the leaders’ discussions private. Public scrutiny “stifles a full and free expression of views,” Mr. Manning said, which “could lead in some instances to posturing.”
This is incredibly representative of Manning’s world view on so many levels. It really does explain a lot about the way he governs. Public scrutiny has no value, all it does is make you keep your mouth shut. Ok.
In any case, I was glad to see that Chavez has decided to drop the silly antics of the last 10 years or so. I doubt that this will lead to him doing anything to actually help Venezuela regain economic growth, but at least I won’t have to hear otherwise intelligent people in the US equate him to Kim Jong Il, or even Castro. Being elected to office means something, people (though given 2000, I guess Republicans have a hard time with that issue – BURN), and incompetent buffoon != dictator. Of course, some are still critical:
Senator John Ensign, Republican of Nevada, said on CNN that it was “irresponsible for the president” to be seen laughing and joking with “one of the most anti-American leaders in the entire world,” referring to Mr. Chávez.
Well, “one of the most anti-American leaders in the entire world” has announced that he’s re-opening the Venezuelan Embassy in DC, among other moves. Maybe he wasn’t anti-American so much as Anti-Bush. Would that the GOP could finally learn to tell the difference.