Even though we hardly discuss it in the public sphere here it cannot have escaped our attention that another Caribbean island, Puerto Rico, has been in crisis for some time. Last week that crisis escalated when thousands (as much as half a million say some) took to the streets to protest against Governor Ricardo Roselló embroiled in a scandal called #Rickyleaks. A few days ago I received this note from a young friend in Puerto Rico:

Dear friends, comrades, sisters, and brothers from/in the Greater Caribbean,

            Warm greetings from Puerto Rico. I write with a great sense of urgency and within a vast wave of political and affective intensity. What I share with you below does not claim, or attempt, to be an academic analysis, nor a piece of investigative journalism, but rather a haphazard chronicle and commentary on what is happening in Puerto Rico at the moment, written, inevitably, from my perspective as a scholar, writer, and person –among a few other subjective identifications– deeply committed to the Caribbean. I include at the bottom a few links –in English– where you can find solid journalistic coverage and informed academic writing on recent events in Puerto Rico that have led to today, as well as on what is happening right now. My modest objective is that these rushed words generate more connections between our Caribbean archipelagos in this shattering hour for Puerto Rico. If you have any way of divulging these notes wherever you might be in the Greater Caribbean and its diasporas, and/or of translating them into any of our Creoles, into French or Dutch (I will be circulating soon this text’s Spanish version), I will be forever thankful. Please let me know if/when you are able to help, so that I can share the versions in other languages as widely as possible! And please provide the appropriate credits when sharing this piece.

One love, with deep gratitude,

Beatriz Llenín Figueroa, PhD, Adjunct professor (Humanities Department, UPR-Mayagüez Campus, Independent writer, editor, and translator, Associate Editor at Editora Educación Emergente (EEE)

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO – JULY 19: Protesters demonstrate against Ricardo Rossello, the Governor of Puerto Rico on July 19, 2019 in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. There have been calls for the Governor to step down after it was revealed that he and top aides were part of a private chat group that contained misogynistic and homophobic messages. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Whatever happens, whatever happened / Oh hey / We are deathless / We are deathless.(Ibeyi, “We Are Deathless”)

            #MeCagoEnLaIsla is an often-used hashtag by the “communications expert” Rafael Cerame D’Acosta in the Telegram chat involving Puerto Rico’s governor Ricardo (Ricky) Roselló and his closest “brothers.” As El Nuevo Día reports, Cerame D’Acosta is president of RCD International Advisory, a company that has reaped $783,400 in 21 contracts with Rosselló’s government, of which $315,000 have been directly the result of contracts granted by the Governor’s Office. But these, however appalling, are merely breadcrumbs. The massive scandal known as #RickyLeaks and #TelegramGate currently besieging Roselló and his closest friends and collaborators has been recently revealed to involve, for instance, at least 50 million dollars for one of the chat’s members, as reported by the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo on July 17, 2019. The majority of these men do not even hold positions in any public office, but are rather lobbyists or “influencers” that have taken to the most extreme the neoliberal phenomenon of privatization and corporatization of supposedly “democratic” governments. 

            Literally meaning “I take a shit on the island,” “me cago en la isla” idiomatically denotes, rather, something more akin to “fuck the island.” It is used whenever the boys’ club of, primarily, entitled, moneyed, white men in the chat find an act, a behavior, an expression or a person beneath their standards. Perhaps understandably, #MeCagoEnLaIsla, however, has not received the degree of attention that the rest of the chat’s vicious, misogynistic, homophobic, racist, ableist attacks has garnered. Nor has it been linked to the chat’s most unspeakable moral crime: the jokes about our thousands of dead bodies as a result of the local and federal governments’ utter negligence and abandonment during and after hurricane María. Yet, I believe that, in a deeper sense, the hashtag is intimately connected to the aforementioned forms of hatred, insofar as it reenacts a longstanding ideology of loathing toward our insular geography. Originally deployed by the very empires that, ironically, were built on the blood and resources of the Caribbean archipelagos they revile, the insularist ideology has been consistently reproduced by the local elites of complicit, neocolonial criminals. 

            What initially appears as a class-, race-, gender-, sexual orientation-, ableism-based only hatred, is in fact much deeper, reaching the most elemental level: the geology of our corner in the planet. Whatever disgrace, injustice, oppression, lack or crime happening on the islands of Puerto Rico –including its “99%” peoples– is somehow always interpreted as an inescapable result of geology’s accidents. I have devoted over ten years of research and writing to discrediting this notion, and I am currently engaged in a research project to demonstrate the ways in which it undercuts Puerto Rico’s political imagination and will, as well as, to my mind, our urgent, vital, inescapable relations with the greater Caribbean region in the process of overcoming the current crisis. 

            On March 2019, I visited Aruba to attend the Island States/Island Territories Conference, where the organizers asked me to offer a brief report on Puerto Rico post-hurricane season 2017. On that occasion, trembling with sorrow, I contested another presenter’s emphasis on the need to market the Caribbean islands as “open for business” saying that Puerto Rico was, instead, “open for justice.” Being “open for business,” at the cost of a colossal lie of “development” and “progress” throughout the 20thcentury, has led us head-on to the present humanitarian and fiscal crisis. I proceeded to read the following, necessarily brief, report:

Like many countries in the Global South, Puerto Rico is shouldering the burden of the undemocratic policies of neoliberal capitalism. As an ideology of privatization, government deregulation, and endlessly increasing debt for “development,” neoliberalism is, at once, the motor and proposed savior of the current humanitarian and fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico. By implementing so-called austerity measures, neoliberalism claims to save us from fiscal collapse, while, in fact, deepening the ecological tragedy and broadening the abyss between the minority who control most of the global wealth, and an increasingly precarious majority, whose bodies are ever more indebted, insecure, and denied access to basic resources. 

Puerto Rico’s status as a colony (“territory”) of the United States since 1898, moreover, has enabled an unprecedented acceleration of this regressive dynamic. The crassest expression of Puerto Rico’s colonial subjugation in the present moment is undoubtedly the PROMESA law, with its Fiscal Oversight and Management Board (FOMB) becoming the de factogovernment of the country and determining the paths to “recovery” from the crisis, while in effect intensifying it. This contradiction is amply demonstrated by the decisions taken and measures imposed by the FOMB since it was constituted in 2016 by then-President of the United States, Barack Obama. For instance, the FOMB has: (1) spearheaded an assault on the University of Puerto Rico, which is experiencing a reduction of half of its operating budget, while students confront disproportionate tuition hikes; (2) taken measures to protect and expand tax exemptions for private corporations; (3) encouraged, with the collaboration of the local government, a so-called labor reform that brings the country back to labor conditions akin to those in the nineteenth century; (4) taken decisions to undermine local credit unions in favor of commercial banks; (5) supported the overhaul of the public education system by means of privatization, especially with the charter school system; (6) stimulated the “flexibilization” of environmental laws; and (7) supported efforts to privatize public corporations such as the public energy corporation. 

Since Hurricanes Irma and, especially, María wrought ineffable devastation throughout the archipelago in 2017, neither the FOMB nor the local government have deviated from this organized neoliberal plan for the remaking of Puerto Rico’s economy to suit the interests of private and foreign entities. Rather, they have cynically capitalized on the dramatic suffering and trauma of everyday Puerto Ricans —many of whom have been forced to flee the country as unrecognized climate refugees, or are still living under blue tarps with only intermittent access to electricity—in order to push their plan through. If anything, the intensification of the crisis through these policies has become all the more evident in recent months.

In the midst of this dire situation, Puerto Ricans “on the ground” and in the commons are illuminating the way toward another, and better, country. In fact, as it has been amply documented, most of the impoverished people’s needs were covered, in the immediate aftermath of Irma and María, and until today, through communitarian autogestión (autonomous self-organization). Autogestión, which is amplified through affective and material solidarity networks, are organized and deployed at the margins of both the local and federal government apparatuses, as well as independently from the multinational corporations that, through massive tax exemptions and precarious labor laws, have come to control Puerto Rico’s dependent economy. 

Moreover, recent phenomena confirm the creation of new public spaces and democratic imaginaries for thinking anew the question of decolonization in Puerto Rico. Among these initiatives are: (1) the numerous ecological struggles that have contested corporate-led contamination and irresponsible development in communities such as Tallaboa, Peñuelas and Playuela, Aguadilla, alongside a significant rise in agro-ecological projects; (2) the increasing support for clean, solar energy and its independence from private, or privatized, corporations, especially around the work of Casa Pueblo in Adjuntas and IDEBAJOin the southeastern coast; (3) the significant opposition to the FOMB from multiple social justice organizations, such as JunteGente¡Dignidad!, and Se acabaron las promesas; (4) the mounting support for a citizen-led, transparent debt audit that would also bring the guilty parties to justice, exemplified by the Frente Ciudadano por la Auditoría de la Deuda (Citizen Front for the Debt Audit); (5) the continual struggle in defense of public and accessible education, both at the school and university levels; and (6) the vibrant resurgence of street and independent art, theater, and performance, with such collectives as Papel MacheteAgua, sol y serenoVueltabajo Colectivoand Bemba PR. Characterized also by autogestión, these movements of the commons have been shaping profound and diverse sovereignties that, I believe, constitute routes toward decolonization outside of the established institutional frameworks, which have in many ways led to the crisis and repeatedly betrayed Puerto Rican communities. 

            Today, on July 17, 2019 (17J), only four months later, reports in El Nuevo Día indicate that close to 500,000 people of all stripes of life took the streets of the capital city of San Juan as rightfully theirs, while an unsung amount of people did the same in multiple towns and cities all over the Puerto Rican archipelago (including Vieques), its diasporas, and multiple U.S. and other international cities. Their main demand on which everyone agrees? The resignation of Puerto Rico’s pro-annexation governor, Ricardo Roselló, who is the son, by the way, of Pedro Roselló, the country’s governor from 1993 thru 2001 and one of the main artifices of the neoliberal “turn.” 

            Simultaneously, different sectors of the multitude demand much more (and there are significant disagreements here):

  • that all those involved in corruption schemes –including “Americans” such as Julia Keleher, and “American” interests and corporations– are brought to justice and the stolen money and resources are returned to the people of Puerto Rico;
  • that Puerto Rico’s odious debt is cancelled, or, at the very least, thoroughly audited in a transparent, citizen-led process (some, me included, are also calling for reparatory justice from the US empire);
  • the removal of the FOMB and the immediate halt to all austerity measures being enforced;
  • that gender-based violence is confronted head-on as a national crisis (a demand that has been on the public arena for over a year now);
  • that new elections are held and/orthat a nation-wide Constituent Assembly is organized to collectively build upon the multifarious efforts of participatory democracy being advanced by various sectors in the country, as well as upon Puerto Rico’s long history of popular struggle –particularly embodied in anticolonial, feminist, student, anti-racist, queer, and environmental movements–, in order to produce a transformative, new horizon for Puerto Rico.

In light of these recent developments in the country, and now trembling with expectation, I can confirm that there is an even more intense, and equally longstanding, love for the island, as opposed to its loathing. This love has nothing to do with “light nationalism” or touristy campaigns, which are, as a matter of fact, inherent to Puerto Rico’s crisis. Many in Puerto Rico have recently commented that hurricane María and, especially, our face-to-face encounter with bare life and the total abandonment of the state, changed us. I believe this to be true, but I also believe there is much more historical, affective, and political density to this transformation that has resulted in 17J, the most colossal demonstration of public power in Puerto Rican history. This density must be understood not only in terms of historical time, but in terms of a time much more protracted, akin to the time of geology. 

I believe 17J and, as I write this, the ongoing calls for continued public protest to force the governor’s resignation or, were he to continue his refusal, to achieve his impeachment, as well as for the organization of participatory, democratic forms of archipelago-building, are the result of a Caribbean-wide history of maroonage, resistance, and endurance that travels and unites us, as Brathwaite famously declared, submarinely. We honor the submarine corals made from the bodies of our enslaved, our migrants, our poor, our women, our queers, our dispossessed, our freedom-seekers. In and through them, we, Antilleans, islanders, Caribbean peoples, stand united. The maroons are deathless. We are deathless.

Postscript: The poet Collins Klobah gives more info on plans for continuing/escalating this protest:

Loretta Collins Klobah We are on day 10 of massive protests that have taken the form of street marches in the hundreds of thousands, motorcycle convoys, horseback brigades, jet ski riders, embroidery marathons, pots and pans bangers, bomba dancers, musical performers, and people removing the governor’s guarded portrait from the walls of governmental offices. Governor Rosselló is in near-hiding and has refused to resign, but he must. The island will make sure of it. Protests are taking place during the weekend, and a national strike and massive march are planned for Monday. Puerto Rico has gone through so much historically, but especially since Hurricane Maria and the imposition of the U.S. fiscal control board. The governor’s crass chat transcript was just “una gota más”, a drop that over-filled the sea. Puerto Ricans are beautiful and brave.

General Material on Puerto Rico’s Crisis (in English):

*This is not an exhaustive list. Please suggest more!

Joseph Stiglitz’s and Martín Guzmán’s “From Bad to Worse for Puerto Rico” (–stiglitz-and-martin-guzman-2017-02#comments)

Evaluz Cotto Quijano’s “How the Triple Tax Exemption on Puerto Rico’s Bonds Financed Its Territorial Status –and Helped Spark Its Debt Crisis” (

José Caraballo Cueto’s columns in the El Nuevo Día newspaper, such as “¿Qué causó la crisis de deuda?” ( quecausolacrisisdedeuda-columna-2434509/)

Ariadna Godreau-Aubert’s Las propias: apuntes para una pedagogía de las endeudadas

The work of investigative journalist David Begnaud and the Centro de Periodismo Investigativoon the deepening crisis after María

Naomi Klein’s The Battle for Paradise

Anayra Santory Jorge’s Nada es igual: bocetos del país que nos acontece

Yarimar Bonilla’s work, especially, her column, “Trump’s False Claims about Puerto Rico Are Insulting. But They Reveal a Deeper Truth” ( and the platformPuerto Rico Syllabus at

“When Disaster Comes for the University of Puerto Rico” by Rima Brusi, Isar Godreau and Yarimar Bonilla (

the forthcoming special issue “Crisis” of the Voces del Caribe journal, edited by José Atiles, Jeffrey Herlihy and myself

Materials on Puerto Rico’s Most Recent Events (in English):

*This is not an exhaustive list. Please suggest more!

Marisol LeBrón, “The Protests in Puerto Rico Are About Life and Death”

Yarimar Bonilla’s (social media and PR Syllabus), Rima Brusi’s (social media), David Begnaud’s (CBS), and Latino Rebels’ coverage 

Fernando Tormos-Aponte’s “Puerto Rico Rises”

The Case of Judge Loya

Screenshot 2017-12-28 09.46.17

Gleaner column, Nov 30, 2017

In India, a case with potentially sinister undertones has divided media. The death of High Court Judge BH Loya in December 2014 is raising questions about the integrity of the judiciary and the political machinery of the country. If what is suspected is found to be true it implicates the Chief of the ruling party, BJP President, Amit Shah.

On November 26, 2005, a man in his thirties named Sohrabuddin Sheikh was gunned down by a team of police in Gujarat in what is known in India as an ‘encounter’ killing. Essentially a form of extra-judicial killing of people in their custody, Indian police are known to eliminate suspected criminals and gangsters in fake encounters, where they claim the suspect was shooting at the police while attempting to escape and “the gunfire is returned” killing them. Sound familiar?

It later emerged that contrary to the police version of events, Sheikh was travelling in a luxury bus with his wife, along with a friend when all three were abducted from the bus by Gujarat Police, who killed Sheikh on November 26, and his wife on November 29. According to an article in Scroll.In the police would later claim, as they are wont to do, that the individuals killed were dreaded terrorists, with plans to assassinate Modi and other senior leaders, or launch terror strikes, but rarely would there be any convincing evidence to confirm such allegations. No postmortem or statutory magisterial inquiry followed the killings.

The truth was much simpler. After pressure from Sheikh’s brother prompted a court case and a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry it emerged that Sohrabuddin Sheikh was a member of a criminal gang that had been in cahoots with some Gujarat police officers and political leaders, operating an extortion racket in neighbouring Rajasthan. After Sheikh’s gang threatened highly-connected marble businessmen in Udaipur his political and police bosses felt that Sheikh was getting beyond their control, and needed to be eliminated. They could not, however, risk charging him formally, for fear he would expose his powerful partners in crime.

The investigation that followed allegedly pointed at none other than Amit Shah, then Home Minister of Gujarat, as having given the orders to eliminate Sheikh. “According to the CBI charge-sheet, the killing was orchestrated by senior police officers on the orders of Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah and former Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria, who was also a senior BJP leader.” A supplementary charge-sheet filed by CBI on May 6, 2013, alleged that the owner of RK Marbles and the Rajasthan Home Minister conspired to kill Sheikh as he was allegedly trying to extort money from RK Marbles. According to the article “The CBI further charged that the killing was outsourced to the Gujarat Police in consultation with Amit Shah, the Minister of State for Home of Gujarat.”

In May 2013 Amit Shah along with 10 or more other police officers was charged and jailed for the extra-judicial murders and involvement in criminal extortion activities. A year later, however, there was a change of government with Narendra Modi’s party, the BJP, sweeping to power. Suddenly everything changed. The trial continued but Amit Shah now refused to appear in court. The trial judge, JT Utpat, reprimanded Amit Shah on June 6, 2014, for failing to appear in person, ordering him to present himself in court on June 26, 2014.

Mysteriously on June 25, 2014, only a day before this scheduled hearing, Judge Utpat was transferred to a different court, and replaced by Judge BH Loya. When Amit Shah again failed to appear in person at the trial Judge Loya also expressed disapproval, ordering him to appear in court on December 15. In the early hours of December 1, 2014, in circumstances that his family claims were suspicious, Judge Loya, with no history of cardiac problems, suffered a sudden heart attack and died. Among other things, his sister claimed that Mohit Shah, then chief justice of the Bombay high court, had offered her brother Rs 100 crore (approx. US$15 million) to give a “favourable” judgment in the case.

“Within weeks of Judge Loya’s death, on December 30, 2014, the third judge to hear the case, MB Gosavi, discharged Amit Shah from the Sohrabudin Sheikh fake encounter case. Gosavi said he saw no evidence against Shah, and instead said he “found substance” in his main defence that the CBI had framed him “for political reasons”. In so doing, Gosavi ignored crucial pieces of evidence such as police officer Raiger’s categorical statement that Amit Shah had instructed obstruction of the investigation, and his phone records.”

Amit Shah was soon elevated to the post of President of the BJP. Perhaps because of this, despite the sensational nature of these events and their importance to the nation, mainstream media in India steered clear of reporting on or investigating Judge Loya’s untimely passing until a magazine called Caravan undertook to do so two weeks ago. Since then the Indian Express and certain key newspapers have published articles insisting there was nothing suspicious about Judge Loya’s death.

Influential journalists such as Arun Shourie, a former member of the BJP, disagree. “Every media house should have been running to develop that story,” he said a few days after the Caravan story emerged. “It is the end for conventional media—not only because it is being overtaken as a source of news by the new media, but because of its cowardice and greed…There is a Zulu proverb—a dog with a bone in its mouth can’t bark. That is the condition of the mainstream media today.”

Let us Prey! The flight of Calder Hart from Trinidad and Tobago

Cobo Town: Cat in Bag Productions’ 2010 mas presentation, designed by artists Ashraph and Shalini Seereeram. Let us prey!

I’m quite fascinated by the goings on in Trinidad and Tobago over the last couple of days. The Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (UDeCOTT) boss Calder Hart has resigned and fled the country. Surely this is a 9.0 magnitude political earthquake for the Manning Government. I‘d like to see how the ruling party extricates itself from what appears to be damning evidence of guilt: the sudden, hasty departure of one of the major players accused of corruption. “AT LAST!” blared a headline on Newsday’s cover page, referring to Calder’s resignation. The lead article by Andre Bagoo titled “Hart resigns”started off like this:

ALMOST two years after allegations of corruption were first made against him, Calder Hart yesterday resigned as the Udecott executive chairman and as the chairman of four other state boards he had been appointed to under Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s administration.

His resignation came after Newsday last week published a series of documents which appeared to disclose clear links between his wife, Malaysian born Sherrine Hart, and a company the Udecott board awarded $820 million in contracts to. The documents, birth and marriage certificates tying Sherrine to two men who served as directors on Sunway Construction Caribbean Limited, emerged after being obtained by the Congress of the People in the course of a six-week investigation.

Hart’s resignation also came one day after High Court Judge Justice Mira Dean-Armorer shot down an attempt by lawyers acting on behalf of Udecott to stop the submission of the final report of the Uff Commission of Inquiry. The judge rejected Udecott’s arguments that the inquiry, which saw damning evidence of corruption and mismanagement emerge, was illegal.

Calder Hart was no ordinary Trinidadian. The following paragraphs were taken from his Witness Statement to the Commission of Enquiry Into the Construction Industry.

  1. My name is Calder Hart. I live at No. 6 De Lima Road, Cascade, Trinidad and Tobago. I was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada. I have lived in Trinidad and Tobago for the last 22 years and in 2004 I applied for and was granted citizenship of Trinidad & Tobago. To do so I was not required to renounce Canadian citizenship and as a consequence I am now a citizen of both Canada and Trinidad and Tobago.
  2. As can be seen from my curriculum vitae attached below (annexure 2) before I first came to Trinidad and Tobago in 1986, I had acquired considerable work experience in the areas of housing (both private and public), mortgage financing, land assembly and urban development and redevelopment at both federal and provincial levels.

The news of Hart’s resignation and abrupt departure from the country drew loud and raucous responses from the blogosphere.

“The flight of Cobo Hart: naturally my Carnival placard helped turn the tide!: Nicholas Laughlin announced on Twitter, the link leading to his blogpost excerpted below:

SUNDAY, MARCH 07, 2010

The flight of the cobo

My Carnival Monday placard from the band
Cobo Town, proudly carried through the streets of Port of Spain nearly three weeks ago. The face of Calder “Cobo” Hart — head of the powerful state construction agency Udecott, widely suspected of massive financial improprieties and thought by some to be Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s bagman, subject of investigation by the Uff commission of enquiry — replaced the national coat of arms in the middle of a giant $100 bill. Read the rest of Nicholas‘s blog here:

Now the interesting thing is that i had arrived in TnT on the 20th of February just in time to be taken to the victory party of the Cobo (‘corbeau’ the equivalent of our John Crows) Town band (fourth place in the small band category at Trini carnival). I was transported from the airport to artist Ashraph’s frame shop in one fell swoop, where the erstwhile Cobos were flinging wine and sundry spicy snacks down their beaks.

Cobo Town - Carnival Tuesday

artist Ashraph Ramsaran, leading the Cobo Town Band, seen above descending on Red House (House of Parliament)

One of them detached himself and introduced himself as Andre Bagoo, the author of the article quoted above and parliamentary reporter who was in the news only a few months ago. We had been following each other on Twitter and Facebook for some time but had never met in person. Bagoo is also author of the blog Pleasure (Art in all its forms) and had been banned from Parliament in TnT last November “for the rest of the session” on grounds of ‘contempt’. Coincidentally, as a Trinidad Express story said:

The article written by Bagoo arose out of a report stating that the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago, which had been referred to the Privileges Committee for alleged contempt arising out of a complaint made by Caroni East MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh, had planned to concede on the contempt charge and had decided to issue an apology.

A Cobo Town placard
Bagoo was not the only one so hastily dispatched. Former Trade Minister Diego Martin West MP Dr Keith Rowley was fired under mysterious circumstances. Rowley had called for Cabinet oversight of Udecott and accountability. And that’s not all. In the March 8th edition of Newsday Bagoo states: BEFORE CALDER Hart resigned as executive chairman in the wake of documents showing links between Hart and a company the Udecott board awarded $820 million in contracts, the Prime Minister Patrick Manning and Cabinet defended Hart and Udecott no less than forty-five times over the course of two years, all the while apparently taking no action to deal with allegations against Hart.

And they claimed Panday was corrupt! One of the funniest, most effective pieces of satire in the Caribbean Blogosphere is a blog calling itself The Secret Blog of Patrick “Patos” Manning”. The voice is ostensibly that of Manning:

Breakfast of losers

March 7th, 2010 · No Comments

Mealtime at a Commonwealth heads of government event is never pretty. You’d swear some of these characters have only recently learned to eat with knife and fork, and I’m not talking just about the South Asian and Sub-Saharan African delegates. For instance, it’s well known in Commonwealth heads circles that the person you never want sitting across the table from you isGordon Brown, who, in addition to having the table manners of a warahoon, insists of having a serving of haggis with every single meal. Experienced heads like me know that the thing to do is arrive at the dining room well ahead of time and choose the smallest table possible, which also limits your chances of having to sit near a type like Jacob Zuma.

But even an experienced head like me sometimes oversleeps. Thanks to a combination of jetlag, a not completely guilt-free conscience and a nightmare featuring a horrifying creature with the upper body of Calder Hart and the hindquarters of the Rev Apostle Juliana Peña, I didn’t manage to roll out of bed this morning until well after 8am BST. Hazel was already awake, talking on the phone in hushed tones. She said that she too had lost track of time and planned to skip breakfusses, which didn’t quite explain why she was already fully dressed, nor the general whiff of bacon and sausages about her person. I considered ordering room service, but in heads circles not showing up for a meal when you’re embroiled in a scandal is tantamount to an admission of guilt. Even Mugabe was still eating among us till the bitter end, much to everyone’s chagrin.

What i love about Trinidad is the freewheeling creativity to be found there as evidenced in the blog above and also in recent developments in Carnival. The riotous street festival which many feel has been hijacked by ‘bikini mas’ in recent years, is being reclaimed by a small band of politically and socially conscious revellers. A motley crew of artists, writers, fashionistas and techies this group has demonstrated what true creativity is, for two years running. Last year the band performed T’in Cow, Fat Cow, a commentary on the voicelessness of ordinary citizens. This year they performed as vultures, the birds of prey known as Cobos in Trinidad and John Crows in Jamaica.

Arriving back in Trinidad after my art appointment in Suriname i found myself riding in a taxi past the Labasse, the giant garbage dump across from Laventille. The sky was filled with circling cobos but what has truly stayed with me is the sight of 40 or 50 cobos sitting on the ground, striking birds of intense blackness, waiting their turn at the carrion. In the wake of the flight of Cobo Calder Hart and the unveiling of the depth of corruption in the governance procedures of the country, Cobo Town emerges as the stinging critical intervention it was meant to be. This is a kind of popular action that is definitely not happening in Jamaica.
In 2009 Ashraph and Shalini debuted an independent mas band of artists and ‘creatives’ called T’in Cow Fat Cow with the theme ‘The People Must be Herd”. The photos below show their strikingly simple, immensely creative costumes. Below the photos i’ve cut and pasted their manifesto which was clearly designed to extend itself to political protest from being a mere mas band.

One looks in vain for anything remotely similar in Jamaica both in terms of sheer conceptual creativity and as political mobilization. I eagerly await the next installment of Gab Hossein’s hard-hitting video blog called “If I Were Prime Minister…” in which she mercilessly lampoons and takes down the political directorate of TnT about the absurdities that pass for governance. What will she have to say about the Hart resignation and the latest shenanigans?. One waits with bated breath.
The People Must be Herd
Photo: Georgia Popplewell
On Thursday 16 April, as final preparations are being made for the staging of the 5th Summit of the Americas in Trinidad, a group of artists will do a performance installation on the streets of Trinidad and Tobago’s capital, Port of Spain.

The silent procession is part of a video installation being created by the band’s designers Ashraph Ramsaran and Shalini Seereeram.

T’in Cow Fat Cow debuted as an independent mas band in 2009, inspired by the song T’in Cow by 3 Canal.

The procession takes place on the streets of Port of Spain between 9 and 11 and started at that traditional seat of people’s democracy, Woodford Square.

The People Must be Herd manifesto

T’in Cow Fat Cow – The People must be Herd.

Dey belly full but we hungry
And right about now we angry
And de reason dat we angry
Is because we belly hungry

Tin Cow tin cow green grass dey over so
Fat cow de butcher callin yuh
Watch for yuh head ah warnin yuh
Otherwise in de pot yuh goin to go.

T’in Cow, 3 Canal

We represent the voiceless. The many thousands of Trinbagonians outside of the Red Zone. Whose tax dollars are being invested in a display that does not address their most urgent concerns.
New buildings, a repaved highway, painted lamp posts and hidden homeless do not mean that we are on the road to development.
In the midst of the Summit performance we ask, who is seeking the interests of the voiceless? Who is spending many many millions to address our concerns. Who is listening? Who will suffer the most in the face of a global economic meltdown?

The people of high risk communities must be heard.
The missing children must be heard.
The homeless people must be heard.
The women and children who live with abuse every day must be heard.
The people who will lose employment in the aftermath of the Summit must be heard.
The people of communities in danger of environmental destruction must be heard.
The physically challenged must be heard.

Locating Blagojevich: A Nation of Shopkeepers?

image by Zina Saunders

Prices Slashed!
“To found a great empire for the sole purpose of raising up a people of customers may at first sight appear a project fit only for a nation of shopkeepers. It is, however, a project altogether unfit for a nation of shopkeepers; but extremely fit for a nation whose government is influenced by shopkeepers.”–Adam Smith
Well, Adam did try and warn them but who was listening? They took on board his free market theories and jettisoned the cautions he issued. Blagojevich was the eventuality. Zina Saunders captures the moment brilliantly in this irreverend cartoon.
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