Like others in this hemisphere and around the world, people in Trinidad and Tobago were naturally drawn to the larger-than-life figure of drama and colour projected by the late president Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
His geopolitical influence and ambitions thrust way beyond the boundaries of the republic he dominated for 14 years, reaching even intimately into the English-speaking Caribbean. Somehow, however, T&T remained relatively untouched by more than the engaging theatrics that characterised "Chavismo".
T&T (and Barbados) remained outside PetroCaribe and was never beckoned to join the fold of the Chavez-designed ALBA, Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America.
A mutual stand-offishness marked relations between Chavez's Venezuela and the three administrations that led T&T over his period. Indeed, Chavez once snubbed then PM Patrick Manning by pointedly excluding him from an energy-related Caracas meeting. Then there remains the unfinished business of Plataforma Deltana, the gas field straddling the maritime boundary separating the two countries that Caracas has shown little enthusiasm in developing jointly with T&T. And who could forget Chavez's provocative book stunt with the American President, Barack Obama, during the 2009 Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain?
Yes, Hugo Chavez was one leader who did not leave the world as he found it, even if the world remains divided on whether he left it better or worse.
In the post-Chavez period, T&T must hope for more actively fruitful relations with its geographically closest, neighbouring republic with whom it shares close, historical ties. Were it not for the vagaries of colonial hostilities between the Spanish and English in the Caribbean, Trinidad and Venezuela might have been, at the very least, economically and culturally integrated today. History has determined, instead, that we should gaze north, leaving largely untended the potential lying to the south.
Not so, Chavez. From the beginning, he saw himself as a hemispheric leader with the capacity to build a global alliance against his arch-enemy, the United States of America. Working with the principle that the enemy of his enemy was his friend, the ebullient Chavez employed Venezuela's oil in his bid to win friends and influence people.
His indefatigable championing of Latin American solidarity as a bulwark against American and European hegemony in the region earned him the respect and support of his ALBA colleagues. In declaring three days of mourning for Chavez yesterday, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina was paying her country's respect for a fellow leader who had taken Argentina's case for the Falklands Islands directly to the Queen of England.
He may have been rough around the edges and remarkably undiplomatic in style, but Hugo Chavez has left us with an example of self-confident leadership and energised purposefulness that all leaders might profit from. However, having intervened on the side of the poor in the chaotic politics of Venezuela, Chavez ultimately proved unable to rise above the class hostilities that he had provoked.
What impact his legacy will have on the future of Venezuela, only time will tell.
For now, our condolences to the people of Venezuela.