Trindad and Tobago votes
[Trinidad Express] – Today is V-Day. “V” for Voting, which some 1,099,205 electors are eligible to do. And “V” for victory, which only one side will celebrate later tonight. The magic number is 21, there being 41 seats up for grabs in this electoral contest.
Voting starts at 6 a.m. sharp and ends at 6 p.m. All persons who are in the line by 6 p.m. will be able to cast their ballot. There are 1,547 polling divisions in the country.
Special voting was supposed to close on Friday, but due to problems with this process, the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) extended the time to yesterday.
There are three main contenders in this race—the ruling People’s Partnership (contesting as comprising the United National Congress, the Congress of the People and the National Joint Action Committee); the Opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) and the Independent Liberal Party (ILP).
Over the last 12 weeks, these three parties have been working the ground in all 41 constituencies, holding public meetings, conversations with the people, rallies and motorcades.
Yesterday the active canvassing and campaigning effectively ended, with music trucks on the road blaring the campaign songs of the various parties.
Today there is to be no canvassing and campaigning, and party symbols cannot be displayed within 100 yards of any polling station.
There are two observer teams here for this election—one from the Commonwealth and the other, a 12-man team from Caricom.
For all the passion that existed on all sides, the campaign was peaceful and cordial. The two massive rallies on Saturday, in which supporters of the rival parties criss-crossed each other, saw good-humoured exchanges devoid of hostility, which continues to be one of the best features of Trinidad and Tobago politics.
Given the economic climate in which the fall in energy prices is a major feature, whoever forms the incoming government will have the challenge of presenting a budget within a few weeks of its swearing in.
Today’s election would be Keith Rowley’s and Jack Warner’s first general election as leaders of their respective parties and therefore their leadership is on test.
Though it is Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s second time facing a general election as leader, in this “Kamla 2015” campaign, she has been made a key focus and therefore the outcome of tonight’s poll will provide a critical assessment of her as leader as well.
Pollster for the Express Nigel Henry has pointed to a close race, with a likely scenario of the winner taking 21 or 22 seats.
All eyes will be on the marginal seats of La Horquetta/Talparo; Moruga/Tableland; San Fernando West; Toco/Sangre Grande and Tunapuna since Henry’s Solution by Simulation Ltd (SBS) has stated they are too close to call. These crucial constituencies are likely to make the difference between government and opposition.
Notwithstanding the fact that all SBS has stated is that the election is too close to call, if the high percentage of undecideds break for one side or the another, the outcome could well a definitive majority for the winner.
15 dead in Brazil bus crash
[BBC] – At least 15 people were killed when a bus crash on a steep winding road near the Brazilian colonial era town of Paraty.
Another 30 people were injured. Some of the survivors were airlifted to local hospitals.
The bus was travelling to a nearby beach popular with tourists when it overturned.
The stretch of road where the accident happened is notoriously dangerous. It is known locally as “God Help Me Hill”.
Police are still investigating the cause of the accident.
Roads in the area would have been particularly busy this weekend as Monday is a national holiday – Brazil Independence Day.
Paraty lies between Brazil’s biggest cities, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, and is a major tourist destination.
It is a well-preserved coastal town built in the 17th century, surrounded by steep mountains and lush tropical vegetation.
Guatemala vote goes to Round two
[BBC] – Comic actor Jimmy Morales is leading Guatemala’s presidential election, as two other candidates battle head to head to get a place in a run-off vote.
Jimmy Morales, who campaigned against corruption, has taken about 24% of the 97% votes so far counted.
Centre-right businessman Manuel Baldizon and ex-first lady Sandra Torres are tied with about 19%.
Sunday’s vote came days after the resignation of President Otto Perez Molina over corruption allegations. With no candidate taking 50% of the vote, a second round of voting has been scheduled for 25 October.
Electoral officials said nearly 80% turned out to vote on Sunday, the Associated Press news agency reports. The race for a place in the run-off is close, it adds, with Mr Baldizon ahead of Ms Torres by fewer than 800 votes. As well as a new president, Guatemalans were voting for a vice-president, a new congress and local authorities.
Many had called for the polls to be postponed in the wake of the allegations. “Guatemala wants change and to not be governed by people with dark pasts,” said Mr Morales after voting near Guatemala City.
“Guatemala wants to live in peace. Guatemala wants elections,” Mr Baldizon told journalists after casting his vote.
There had been calls for Guatemalans to wear black clothes of mourning as they cast their vote, amid scepticism that the poll could achieve political change.But voters queued from the early hours to cast their ballots. Some 7.5 million people were eligible to vote in the polls.
Prosecutors accuse Mr Perez Molina of masterminding a scheme in which businessmen paid bribes to evade customs charges. He denies involvement.
41 pounds of cocaine seized in Jamaica
[Jamaica Observer] – Authorities at the Kingston Wharves have seized a shipment of two bags of cocaine valuing J$2.4 million, which was on its way from Suriname.
According to a release from the Kingston Wharves Limited today, officers found a seal discrepancy which led to the discovery of two black bags during routine checks of containers being discharged from the vessel on Saturday.
Subsequent field tests confirmed that the bags contained 41.12lbs of cocaine with an estimated street value of J$24,207,700
No arrest has been made in relation to the seizure.
The matter is currently being investigated by the Border Protection Unit of the Jamaica Customs Agency and the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s Narcotics Division.
Region urged to build Hugo Chavez academy
[Jamaica Observer] – Former Prime Minister PJ Patterson has called on signatories to the PetroCaribe Agreement to establish an institution of higher learning in honour of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
PetroCaribe, the brainchild of Chavez, is an oil alliance of many Caribbean States with Venezuela to purchase oil on conditions of preferential payment. The alliance was launched on June 29, 2005 in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela.
“Despite our financial restrictions, you the leaders who gather here should marshal the monetary and academic resources to build an institution of higher learning,” Patterson suggested.
“Let it stand as an enduring testimony to Hugo Chavez, who in his short sojourn on our planet did make, indeed, a monumental difference on which this and succeeding generations must build,” Patterson continued.
He was speaking Saturday night at the 10th Commemorative Summit of the PetroCaribe Agreement at the Montego Bay Convention Centre.
The former Jamaican prime minister said he had discussed the idea with Chavez on two occasions.
“…to build in Jamaica, the land where Simón Bolívar wrote his Summons of inspiration to the people of the Americas, a tertiary institution which would offer specialist education in the fields of language, sports, culture, tourism, environment, maritime training, and nursing,” Patterson revealed.
“As we celebrate today (Saturday), the 10th anniversary of our Montego Bay Summit, how do we best commemorate the legacy of this great Bolivarian disciple and how do we perpetuate his dream?”
He noted that already “work on the discipline and design has already reached the embryonic stage for what could become the Hugo Chavez Academy”.
“This would expose the sons and daughters of Simón Bolívar, José Marti, Toussaint L’Ouverture, and Marcus Garvey to develop fluency in language and hone the skills which blend our economic development and different cultures,” Patterson argued.