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The press in Trinidad and Tobago has been highlighting a possible Barack Obama-Hugo Chávez encounter at the fifth Summit of the Americas next Monday. Their pictures appear juxtaposed on front pages, leading you to think that this is a heavyweight bout in the making.
Listening to Chávez's intemperate volleys -- from Caracas, from Managua, from Tehran -- you have the distinct feeling he wants it to be. Like a boxer trying to get under his opponent's skin, Chávez calls Obama ''a poor ignorant man'' and anticipates, ''Our artillery is being prepared. There is going to be good artillery'' for the summit. He has also called a pre-summit ''warming-up'' meeting in Caracas of his closest international allies two days before the main event.
Additionally, word in Trinidad is that there might be Venezuelan money subsidizing travel to the ''People's Summit'' -- a parallel gathering of leftists that will be held at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad. It was with considerable relief, thus, that the population was informed that Interpol had already given the island's authorities a list of ''career rioters'' and ``professional protesters.''
All this might lead you to believe that there are riotous days ahead in Port-of-Spain. There might be, but not for any of the reasons Chávez might be planning. As it turns out, the one ''crowd control'' scenario the Trinidad police have been preparing for is for ``any situation which could arise due to people's enthusiasm to see President Obama.''
The popularity of this American president has reached truly astonishing heights. And not just in Trinidad. During my recent trip to six Brazilian cities and three Caribbean nations, I saw no pictures of Chávez or Fidel Castro. It is Obama's smiling face the one on magazine covers and special publications everywhere.
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