I’m officially calling this my unofficial last post. I find more and more of my ‘spare’ time consumed with writing editorials for publication and with tweeting. Whoever thought that could be a time-waster? Anyway, I need to direct my time in a more efficient and productive way. I’m not saying I won’t ever blog here again. I will try to continue adding my editorials to this site. And I’ll throw in a Music Monday when I can. Thanks for reading and you can follow me on Twitter @MichaelWEdghill
I said that I was going to focus on Trinidadian music on the lead up to Carnival. I’m going to put a slight twist on it now.
About a year ago, I discovered that my alma mater, the University of North Texas, has a steel band ensemble. UNT’s music program, somewhat famous for it’s 1:00 Jazz Band, also has a 2:00 Steel Band. How I never knew this, I don’t know.
So today, I want to offer to you the 2:00 Steel Band performing Lord Kitchener’s Pan in A minor.
They can kind of get down for a bunch of non-islanders.
Send your suggestions for Music Mondays to us.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s visit to Cuba was supposed to be an opportunity for Brazil to take a step forward on the global stage. At least, that is what many Cuban dissidents and exiles were hoping for. Long an ally of Cuba, a strong statement by the Brazilian President about the need to respect human rights could have resonated throughout Latin America. Brazil has made great strides on the road to being a global power. They have earned the World Cup and the Olympics in the coming years. They have become an economic power, not just in South America, but in the Western world. But if Brazil wants to be respected as a world power, the leaders of Brazil must have the courage to lead. This state visit was a great opportunity to prove that Brazil is a nation that will lead Latin America in the coming years. Instead, by not mentioning human rights violations by the Cuban government and by offering a token jab at the US for its Guantanamo facility, President Dilma Rousseff fell right in line with what polite leaders of nations who have no power of persuasion tend to do. Ignore what is right and wrong for the sake of cordial relations. If nothing else comes out of this state visit by Brazilian leadership, it will be very disappointing and a big missed opportunity for Brazil to step forward on the world stage as a country that leads.
If we are preparing for Carnival Tuesday, we need to be prepared for a Steelband Clash. Today CaribbeanVista offers a Music Monday to present the original Rude Boy of Trinidad calypso: Lord Blakie. If watching this man perform does not put a big smile on your face, you must not have a soul.
Remember to submit your selections for Music Mondays. Perhaps you have a Caribbean artist we don’t know of. It’s quite possible.
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Oh, what a week. Republicans are in Florida courting voters with numerous nuanced statements regarding Latin America and the Caribbean. The Communist Party is convening in Cuba to set a new direction (kind of). And in Venezuela, the opposition candidates are vowing not to throw each other under the bus in the primaries (take note Mitt & Newt) in order to maintain their focus on defeating Hugo Chavez, who apparently has enough strength now to make an eight-hour speech.
Two things struck me this week through various things I read and observed. Number one is that I was reminded of the pervasive problem of violence in the Caribbean region. Outside of sub-Saharan Africa, this is the most violent region in the world! The stories of murders and other acts of criminal violence that come at you on a daily basis sometimes dull the senses to that reality. Looking at the region holistically however, it’s a startling reminder of what is happening on a daily basis. The dynamic that makes the Caribbean’s situation much more disturbing is that this violence isn’t because of civil war. It isn’t due to scarcity of resources. It isn’t because of hunger. The majority of the violence regionally is the collateral damage of the narcotics trade. Governments, whether they are legitimately elected or not (and that’s another issue), are relatively stable and fear very little from the violence within their own borders. It is the citizens themselves who bear the brunt of this problem. The biggest issue for the majority of people in this region is the threat of violence. The simple ability to survive day-to-day.
Number two on my list for the week is Cuba. The insistence, by so many, to hold fast to policies that have had little to no effect when it comes to bringing down the Castro dictatorship for more than 50 years is somewhat mind-boggling. I do not question their sincerity of purpose. I stand with them against the oppression that the Communist Party of Cuba has brought upon the Cuban people for decades. I respect standing for principles. But, there has to be another way. We must try something else. Isolation almost worked in bringing down Fidel Castro when the Soviet Union collapsed. But Castro is Castro and he doubled down proclaiming ‘socialismo o muerte!’ And he forced them through the ‘Special Period’ before modifying the economy as little as possible. Then came the new savior of subsidies, Venezuela, to replace some of what was lost from the Soviets. Decades of isolation have not worked. But as Raul Castro has moderated, moving Cuba towards a more current Chinese model, there is an opportunity present. Cuba needs investors. The US has investors. Think The Marshall Plan. The US poured millions into vulnerable governments in Europe following WWII to pull them into the American sphere of free enterprise and democracy. By making it possible for them to do business with American firms, numerous European countries were kept from falling behind the Iron Curtain at a time when many in the world thought communism held the answer. The US could simply induce liberalization through incentives. Start small to create trust and then build to a point where you can offer to, perhaps, suspend the Helms-Burton Act in exchange for the clear recognition of human rights on the island as verified by a team of UN observers. You don’t even have to force the issue of single party rule and socialist philosophy. Those things would come from within over time. Now, I am not naive and I know that there is a good possibility that any significant policy move offered by the US could be played by the Cuban government for their own benefit. But the time has come to give it a sincere shot. A sustained policy move to see if some trust can be built. Someone has to make the first move and the US is the only one strong enough to be able to do so.
As I often think; just imagine the impact that a concerted effort on the behalf of the US government could create in the Caribbean region. Nation stabilizing support through free trade and investment. Intergovernmental monetary and tactical support to combat the drug traffickers and drastically reduce violence. I know that the government engages in some of these practices already. But it is very isolated and not part of a holistic vision for the region. If the US had vision and clarity of purpose in its policies in the Caribbean, we could have a very different tomorrow.
In the lead up to Carnival, I wanted to present some music to get you ready for ‘bacchanal’. Today, it is Lord Kitchener and Sixty-Seven. As the title might lead you to believe, it is all about Carnival 1967. This was back around the time when Kitch was competing and winning his 10 Road March titles. Soca has now replaced Calypso when it comes to Road March and Monarch titles, but Lord Kitchener will always remain one of the Kings of Carnival.
As a personal note, my parents were married in Trinidad in 1969. There is a line in the chorus that states “Every man, in the band, will be hugging up the girl” . I can just picture my father at Carnival in 1967 as one of those men.
Long live the Grandmaster!
Remember that you are always welcome to offer your suggestions for Music Mondays.
I found this courtesy of CaribJournal.com. A concise and well thought out opinion. Just a few notes after reading it.
– Prime Minister Simpson Miller must be given time to get the new government off the ground before judgement can fully be rendered. But Cabinet Ministers without portfolios is ridiculous.
– The movement for a full Republic to replace QEII could bring a sense of pride to the people of Jamaica. But how much is that pride worth?
– The idea of realigning justice with the CCJ should only be done with caution. Has the Privy Council not served your needs? Do you wonder why Trinidad, who hosts the CCJ, still utilizes the Privy Council?
Allow me to offer a correction to a previous post in which I chided T&T Minister of Finance Dookeran for his need to adjust the budget. It turns out that my conclusions regarding this decision were based on incomplete information. Upon reading the above-linked column, I have found that the Partnership government’s budget was not as flawed as I contended and that Mr. Dookeran deserves praise for his work. This does mitigate the need to be judicious with budget planning, but it does warrant a correction.
The US government made the decision to expel the Venezuelan consulate after an explosive Univision report in which the Venezuelan diplomat was shown to be complicit in actively working against United States interests. Never one to miss an opportunity, this gave the Chavez government all the cover that it needed to disenfranchise the oppostition in the lead up to the October elections. Granted, the opposition vote coming from south Florida would, by itself, not be enough to swing the entire election. But it is simply a convenient way for the Chavez government to slowly start excluding likely opposition supporters from the process. The hope that the MUD coalition could take down the Chavez government in a democratic election was a limited hope as most observers expect the Venezuelan leader to pour tons of money into social programs ahead of the election date to swing support in his favor. That sliver of hope becomes slimmer everytime likely opposition support is denied their opportunity to participate in the process.
I would like to invite any and all readers to compare the following article (http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2012-01-20-000000/govt-seeks-more-budget-today) with my editorial from a few months ago on the problems of the Partnership government’s budget. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am no expert in high finance. But even then, I could read between the lines and see that the budget was not realistic in its then-current form. I know that those in the Partnership government, and Minister Dookeran himself, are much more qualified than I to put together a full government budget. I am simply left wondering how it is then that they were not more cautious and judicious when they completed the budget. What changes so dramatically in 4 months that you need to vastly alter the budget? And how is it that government officials cannot forecast some of these things or at least plan judiciously and not idealistically?