Brazilians, waste, miscellaneous Frankly Speaking
By A. A. Fenty
Stabroek News
May 28, 2004

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I suppose the non-journalistic caption above indicates one of my time-out Fridays today. One really gets enough of writing of this society's stressful and contentious issues. I applaud those columnists/analysts who daily pen articles and letters on the politics and "crimes" of Corbin, Jagdeo, Gajraj and Dev. How cerebral they are!

And I certainly tire of commenting on the consequences of cocaine trafficking, child abuse, hourly shootings, weekly kidnappings and headless corpses. There are others with the stomachs - and guts - for reporting and even highlighting our loss-of-innocence realities.

That's why today I'll write a few paragraphs on Brazilians and Brazil.

So "Caribbean" are we Guyanese that for decades we have paid little attention to our giant continental neighbour South of the Border. What an awakening giant of a country the Federative Republic is! It is the fifth largest country in the world and the third largest democracy which held its last elections in late 2002 allowing ninety million voters to vote in a single day and announce hardly-disputed results the next day! A former metal-worker from the country's working-class is now its President. He - Luis Inacio Lula da Silva plans simply to ensure that every Brazilian - from the aristocratic capitalists, its generals, to the poverty-ridden Blacks and Amerindians - gets at least one meal a day.

But Lula is also presiding over a growing, thriving economy wherein not only the famous coffee is grown for traditional worldwide exports but where today Brazil's electronic industries are infiltrating where once only the Japanese, Americans or Germans ventured. Steel, gas and grain are bringing in millions and Brazilian-made boats are navigating new seas, whilst the US Air Force uses Brazilian planes.

I am still intrigued by the fact that Brazil boasts the largest concentration of Africans, Japanese and Italians, for example, outside of their original native lands. And every now and then Brazilian Ambassador in Georgetown, Ney do Prado Dieguez, reminds us that it would be in our best neighbourly economic interest not to ignore even the one Roraima state closest to us. (There are 27 Federal States and one Federal District - Brasilia, the capital). But even if we were once short-sighted recent events are forcing us to sit up, stand up, travel up to Lethem and pay serious attention to Brazil. The Brazilians are already here and their road is following.

I repeat what I either heard, read or wrote some two years ago: Brazil is an economic powerhouse soon to explode on the world scene. No longer suspicious of "Socialist" governments here, it sees Georgetown as a Gateway it can use to shorten access to North America and Europe. Four/five years ago its poorer work-hungry miners all but invaded Regions seven, eight and nine. They brought their Diamond Recovery Jig - the Lavador - suction dredges and Maraks gravel pumps, transformed our mining landscape and reportedly appropriated millions of dollars worth of our resources back to Brazil.

Familial links have been now forged. When I prepared pieces for the press on Guyanese Citizenship (never published by the Home Affairs Ministry), I discovered that many Chinese and more Brazilians were seeking Guyanese Citizenship - even as Guyanese seek the blessings of that status elsewhere. You can guess why. Amerindian "wives" of Brazilians "own" many claims and allocations. My Rasta brother-in-law tells me Guyanese are actually forbidden to set foot on Brazilian-owned claims. Yes sir, many parts of hinterland Guyana suddenly become off limits to Guyanese born here. There is no space to discuss whether legal workers from Brazil own our work-permits or the unknown number of illegals working here. What my sources on the ground tell me right now is that certain Brazilians have police, geology and mines personnel and needy regional residents and workers in their back-pockets!

The Brazilians in the Bush or in Bourda or Alberttown, strolling along Sheriff Street or living in luxurious safe-houses constitute but one element of the consequences of the Brazilian presence here. I only trust that the government is even now working on the modalities necessary to facilitate - in our national interest - the traffic and products of the soon-to-be-realised Guyana-Brazil Highway. "Diplomatically speaking", we need to be nurturing relations that would see Brazil being our protective Big Brother when and if Venezuela or Suriname does not behave as friendly or neighbourly as they ought to.

So, as some of our own Amerindians continue to look to Bon Fim and Boa Vista more than to Georgetown. As we eat Brazilian bar-be-que and use the Brazilian radio sets, restaurants and hotels in the interior, let us learn working conversational Portuguese.

Let us insist that our officials insist that our Brazilian visitors and guests respect our laws and let us remember that we too live in other people's lands. We need Brazil's markets and assistance but government must lead in making us know that we are small but not puny!

Waste not, want not So true that school-days proverb. Poor me. It was quite recently that the nature, management, disposal and implications of a society's waste captured my sustained attention. I am ashamed but swiftly I see the light. I grew up taking Georgetown's rubbish, rubbish-carts and our clean-flowing gutters and unsilted alleys and women cleaning, sweeping Water Street, for granted. Later, after travelling, I learnt of "litter", "garbage" and "trash."

Now I am at the age and stage of solid waste management. From time to time, this column will explore this subject. But for now just think: what is waste? Is that item really waste? Can it be re-used, reduced, recycled? What types of waste do you know? Let me tell you too: there is cash in trash. Think about it and get a group together. To keep your community clean - in spite of any city or village council. You, we need healthy environments. More every week?

Miscellaneous 1. Eighteen days ago Stabroek News shared those views:

"There is a well-tested recipe that has worked in drug cases and other high-profile prosecutions.

Hire a local legal eagle and everything else falls into place. The police prosecutor or even the special prosecutor hired would be hopelessly upstaged, a stream of incompetent and perjurious policemen would testify, witnesses would be mercilessly bullied on the stand, exhibits would mysteriously disappear or be irretrievably tampered with and in the end of the decision goes in the favour of the accused. No serious plan by foreign agencies to snare drug criminals will envisage major prosecutions in this jurisdiction."

And two

"Furthermore, the corruption in the Guyana Police Force and other law enforcement agencies would make it difficult to put together cases from scratch and expect them to hold together. To make matters worse, the explosive range of serious crimes recently, murder-for-hire schemes and suspect prison security make it unlikely that the law enforcement system could withstand and defeat armed challenges by the gangs associated with the drug traffickers/launderers aimed at thwarting prosecution".

Do you agree?

2. So who shipped out or attempted to ship the cocaine in the lumber, the rice, the fish? Will we know one day?

3. Next week: Welcoming Mr. Slowe.

4. Also next week: After Blind Awareness month.

5. One PNC joke: Foreign Trade Minister Rohee is in Miami for a three-day conference. He just remembers that his 3-month visa is up on day two. Poor Minister Rohee!

`Til next week!