‘Miscommunication’ over Chinese press conference

Updated 02 December 2018
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‘Miscommunication’ over Chinese press conference

  • Five minutes before it was due to start, a Chinese man stood up to inform us that it was all a “miscommunication” and there would be no press gathering after all. Trade war averted perhaps?
  • With Donald Trump in town, the owner of the Ping Golf driving range must have thought his dreams had come true when the US president took an hour out to hit a few balls into the Silver River

After a while, the G20 Summit of world leaders in Buenos Aires just melts into surreality. Residual jetlag, early-morning starts, long days and lots of sensory stimuli send you into a state of hyper-awareness. This must have been how Alice felt in Wonderland.

“Never heard of yerba mate? You soon will,” runs the advertising slogan on the stall in the International Media Center (IMC), home to 2,500 journalists for the duration of the G20. 

“Argentinian yerba mate is one of the next big trends on the horizon, and it’s about to become your next superfood obsession,” said the promotional literature. 

It is a kind of tea native to Argentina, and “reduces inflammation, helps your body detox, protects your DNA (!) and can help with weight loss,” the ab blurb reads. 

I had a cup before heading off from the IMC for the 5-km trip to the Costa Salguero Center, the venue for the leaders gathering in Buenos Aires and a veritable fortress for the duration. Normal traffic is banned from the center, and all roads around it are closed to anyone not involved in the G20.

It was spooky driving beside the Rio de la Plata along what on a normal day would have been a busy six-lane highway. The only other vehicles were G20-branded. The only other people were heavily armed military and police, manning roadblocks every so often, boarding the media bus with enough kit to take out a regiment, asking to see your lanyard and waving you through with a finger flick. 

When you get to the Costa Salguero Center, the through-the-looking-glass experience intensifies. Some of the sights were just too coincidental to be true. With Donald Trump in town, the owner of the Ping Golf driving range must have thought his dreams had come true when the US president took an hour out to hit a few balls into the Silver River.

Maybe Trump would stop at the nearby Trixie diner, a pastiche of an old American railroad carriage eating-house complete with red neon lights offering hamburgers, hot dogs and pancakes?

Likewise, the BMW franchise saw a unique opportunity and quickly knocked up a promotional banner that screamed “Herzlich willkommen Frau Merkel” to the chancellor, maybe in the hope that she would be in the market for a 7 series on her final G20 trip as leader of Germany.

Inside the center, things got even more bizarre. I was there to attend a press conference by a Chinese minister, which looked interesting in view of the ongoing US-China trade confrontation. 

But five minutes before it was due to start, a Chinese man with an impeccable English accent stood up to inform us that it was all a “miscommunication” and there would be no press gathering after all. Trade war averted perhaps?

Disgruntled at the inconvenience, I went off to look for a sherpa. These legendary load-bearers are the brains and sweat behind big international gatherings. They do exist. I found one heading out of the “sherpas plenary room” on his way to the “sherpas lounge.” You could tell he was a sherpa because of the color of his lanyard.

I made an amiable joke about not being able to speak Nepalese, but he had obviously heard it a hundred times before and did not want to speak to the press anyway. He was far too busy, with the G20 communique still to be drafted and the midnight oil looming. He headed off with the look of a man bearing a heavy load.

For me, there was nothing for it but to leave the center, on a different route, equally deserted but with impromptu army barracks on either side of the road where bored-looking young men sat in large groups cleaning long-barrelled automatic weapons. 

I asked myself if it was all a dream. Ping Golf, Trixie and the sherpa; did any of that happen? I resolved to lay off the yerba mate in future.


Cuba denies Trump claim of troops in Venezuela

Updated 19 min 44 sec ago
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Cuba denies Trump claim of troops in Venezuela

  • US President Donald Trump says Cuba has troops in Venezuela defending socialist leader Nicolas Maduro
  • Trump has refused to rule out military intervention in Venezuela, despite repeated denials from his administration

HAVANA: Cuba rejected Tuesday the “despicable” accusation by US President Donald Trump that it has troops in Venezuela defending socialist leader Nicolas Maduro.
On Monday, Trump claimed that Maduro was being “protected by a private army of Cuban soldiers.”
“Let him show the evidence. Our government rejects this slander in the strongest and most categorical terms,” said Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.
He also claimed the US was “preparing a military intervention under a humanitarian pretext,” in a bid to oust Maduro.
The US has sent tons of aid to Colombia’s border with Venezuela in support of opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is challenging Maduro’s authority.
Venezuela is wracked by a humanitarian crisis marked by shortages of desperately needed food and medicines. But the military has barricaded the border crossing to prevent the aid from entering.
Guaido, the self-proclaimed acting president recognized by some 50 countries, says 300,000 Venezuelans could die without the aid.
Maduro, though, claims the aid is a smokescreen for an invasion.
Trump has refused to rule out military intervention in Venezuela, despite repeated denials from his administration.
Rodriguez said the US-backed “imperialist coup” has failed but Guaido insists the aid will be brought in on Saturday, and has pressed the military to side with him and let the shipments enter the country.
“They’ve fixed a deadline to bring in humanitarian aid by force, which is in itself a contradiction,” added Rodriguez.
“What are their aims, what could they be if not to generate an incident that puts civilian lives at risk, that would provoke violence or unpredictable circumstances?”