In death, Hugo Chavez remains the good copy he always had been for all but the media and the Government of the two-island gulf state in the backwater of the republic he ruled. The picture of Venezuela, whose coastline, visible from Macqueripe, has been received here in highest definition as refracted from the big foreign media.
So Trinidad and Tobago, unilingual, incurious and self-absorbed, has no take of its own on Chavez, or on the "Chavismo", that has ruled its next-door neighbour. Beyond vague assumptions that guns and drugs arrive on beaches in speedboats from across the Bocas, T&T's "Venezuela" file remains thin.
Grimly counting more than 80 murders here since January, T&T is little distracted by reports that 510 people were killed in Caracas last December, and more than 20,000 in all of Venezuela in 2012. On a far larger scale, the Venezuela case study has confirmed what has been demonstrated in T&T: that murderous crime escalates even as poverty and unemployment decrease. Maybe this is a symptom of the "resource curse", unequally shared across the Bocas.
Under Chavismo, transfers and subsidies, made possible by windfall oil income, have targeted poorest people, such that desperate poverty came down to 8.5 per cent in 2011, from 23.4 per cent in 1999 when Chavez came to office. Maybe it costs 50 US cents to fill up a car's gas tank over there, in an extreme exaggeration of the T&T fuel subsidies. Food, schooling and health care have been extended to people, notably including Afro-Venezuelans, and to areas that never knew them.
All this and more appear in the outpouring of world media balance-sheet reporting on the Chavez record. And it's all that T&T, with no Venezuelan sources of its own, has to draw upon.
We do know of PetroCaribe, the oil-supply facility made available to Caribbean neighbours. This is help that energy-abounding T&T has obviously not needed. But Venezuela has memorably assisted this country in the development of symphonic music.
Like a man knowing his way around this place, President Chavez came to the 2009 Americas Summit in Port of Spain by way of Chaguaramas. He stayed at the Kapok, far from the other heads in the Hilton and the Hyatt hotels.
Still, Chavez's Venezuela also strikes me as an impossible place to abide and to do business. Nightmarish administrative shortcomings, resulting in supply shortages, infrastructure foul-ups and bureaucratic malfunctions magnified in comparison to T&T's, depress the quality of life.
The most eye-catching of all concerns crime, depicted in latest reports as unimaginably more horrific than what T&T experiences. Venezuelan law enforcers are also reported as unequal, in many respects, to the task of combating or containing crime. Prisons have become murderously self-governing gangster principalities. In cities, visitors are warned away from vast no-go areas. Only one murder in ten results in someone being caught and charged. Like here, impunity reigns.
President Chavez did apparently have some "crime plan", such as T&T has long agonised over. In this, T&T has little to learn from Venezuela, except the urgency to avoid letting things here deteriorate to anything like the same extent.
The Chavez funeral was taking place on the same day that the T&T Parliament began debating new legislation to give soldiers powers of arrest when deployed in operations to support police. The legislation marks the latest effort to enhance police capacity ever degrading, even as emboldened criminals get smarter and more ruthless in extending their own reach.
Eight years have passed since I myself promoted the idea of recruiting the equivalent of "deputy sheriffs" for the T&T police, who have been showing they need all the help they can get. I still think it possible to raise a cohort of volunteers, ready and willing to contribute time, effort and skill to help in various policing-related activities.
We never have enough police. Former commissioner Dwayne Gibbs determined that to be a function of how officers are managed and scheduled, rather than of sheer numbers of bodies. His "21st Century Policing" devised a new approach in this and other respects, which was furiously resisted and finally repudiated in the way common with change in T&T.
National Security Minister Jack Warner represents the approach of boosting the numbers through, presumably emergency, recruitment of 5,000 SRPs (special reserve police officers). In the Warner way, it would still be years before the new reservists could appear on the streets, trained, uniformed and armed.
Soldiers look like a more timely prospect for deploying more "Government boots". Inevitably, enabling greater involvement of soldiers in law enforcement recalls the six years of such involvement under SAUTT (Special Anti-Crime Unit of Trinidad and Tobago) and the discouraging results that were yielded.
To lead what in 2003-2004 represented cutting-edge innovation in policing, the Manning administration had picked a soldier, Brigadier Peter Joseph. It had earlier preferred him, unsuccessfully, to be police commissioner.
In Caracas, well before Chavez's period, I once saw soldiers directing traffic. Certainly, the T&T troops could be more effective by looking more credible than Mr Warner's traffic wardens, thereby freeing up "real police" to go after the so-far-untouchable T&T killer mafiosos and their capos.
• To be continued