Last update: 07-Dec-2013 3:12 am
Saturday, December 07, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
You are here
Spanish: I’m just foreman at Duncan Street police post ‘Politicians using me as scapegoat’
Kenneth “Spanish” Rodriguez yesterday confirmed he was the foreman on the police post being constructed at Duncan Street, Port-of-Spain. His comment came a day after Housing Development Corporation managing director Jearlean John said he was merely an over enthusiastic worker and possibly not even working on the site. Yesterday, however, when the T&T Guardian visited the construction site, Rodriguez said he was the foreman of the job, employed in that role by FIQH General Contractors. He said he had been working there for six weeks. He again denied being a gang member or gang leader, saying although he had been charged with crimes as a youth he was never convicted. In 2011, he and his son were imprisoned but later released without charge, he said.
He added: “They say I am a gang member and a gang leader. “I worked here now for about a month and two weeks on the streets of Port-of-Spain, the corner of Duncan and Nelson, and not one of them has made (an attempt) on my life out here in the open.” Rodriguez, however, said he believed he was being used as a political scapegoat. “I hear they calling my name on platform and all of them things,” he said. “Jack Warner is a millionaire and I find he real belittle himself to be taking my name to use it on a platform in politics and using me as a scapegoat in politics,” he added.
Asked where the allegations that he was involved with gangs had come from, he said; “Well maybe when I was younger I had a few charges but I was never convicted of nothing. And maybe because I from Beetham Gardens which them have as a crime hotspot area.”
Voted for change in 2010
Asked about his political affiliations, he said: “I voted for this government already. I voted for change.” Rodriguez said he owned a contracting company, Rico Development Co Ltd, but said he was working for the Chaguanas-based FIQH on the police post. A search of the companies registrar yesterday revealed Rico Development was registered as a company based at Beetham Gardens and lists him as a director along with three others: Ancil Villafana, Michael Taylor and Jonathan Stoute. But, he said, Rico was never contracted to do the job on the police post for the HDC. He is employed by FIQH as a foreman, he claimed. “I don’t care if the contract is removed,” said a defiant Rodriguez. “I’ll find another job,” he added. On Wednesday, HDC managing director Jearlean John knocked the media for reports that Rodriguez had been awarded the $2 million contract to construct the police post. She said he was neither the contractor nor sub-contractor.
While labelling him as an over enthusiastic worker, she said she still could not confirm whether he was even an employee at the site. John made the comment at a press conference she called to address the matter, saying the reports had put Rodriguez’s life in danger. The media reports, however, followed a tour of the site by John and several members of the government, including then acting prime minister Roodal Moonilal and National Security Minister Gary Griffith, in which Rodriguez participated. Speaking to the media after the tour, Rodriguez addressed claims that a gang member had been given the contract for the police post. He denied being a gang leader, saying he had no criminal record. Rodriguez also said he was involved in an HDC construction project at Beetham Gardens and even worked for the East Port-of-Spain Development Company, another state entity.
Rodriguez: Jobs will change things
Last Friday, Kenneth “Spanish” Rodriguez shot to prominence when he denied claims he was the person identified as the gang leader who had been given the $2 million HDC contract to construct the Duncan Street police post. After touring the site with a delegation which included then acting prime minister Roodal Moonilal, National Security Minister Gary Griffith, Police Commissioner Stephen Williams and HDC managing director Jearlean John, Rodriguez approached the media and fielded questions. He said he was the contractor for the project but said he was a hard-working man and no one had any evidence to support those claims. Days later, acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams claimed police had information that Rodriguez was involved in gang activity and had passed the information on to the government. He said, however, that like several other cases involving gangs, they did not have the evidence for a conviction.
John subsequently called a press conference in which she denied Rodriguez was either a contractor or sub-contractor on the project. Today, reporter Richard Lord, who was at the assignment last Friday, gives a brief account of how Rodriguez came to speak to the media on the issue, followed by the transcript of his interview with Spanish. Kenneth “Spanish” Rodriguez was never introduced to the media. He approached Dr Roodal Moonilal and shook hands. Spanish was interviewed by reporters following Moonilal’s tour of the facility.
October 4 , 2013
Reporter: How do you respond to claims that you are a gang leader who has got contracts from the Government?
Rodriguez: Well, I don’t know myself to be no gang leader, I am a community activist that does carry out my jobs, if you understand. If I was a gang leader, I don’t see anything that could stop the T&T Police Service from putting me in prison, you understand? I was never charged or sentenced in this country and nobody in T&T could say that “Spanish” does have them doing crime.
I work for everything I want. People will say all kinds of things but who know me will say different.
Reporter: Why do you think that allegation was made?
Rodriguez: Well, maybe from past—you understand—things might have been different but I don’t know if the Government seem to have the past in their mind still. The youths in Port -of-Spain and environs just need plenty development to change a picture and structure of mind, if you understand what I am saying. Look, it is close to Christmas time and when this project close down, if it have nothing to do you find the streets, you understand, ‘cause since I doing this project here, very rare you hear any —you understand—because there are people employed from all over Port-of-Spain, everybody getting paid, so I don’t have a problem. I am a registered contractor and I work for what I want. Right now I am doing a next project in Beetham for HDC, where I am putting up two buildings. Presently I am doing work for East Port-of-Spain Development, so I don’t understand. I now see the minister come here and I haven’t heard him say anything but I see articles in the papers.I haven’t questioned anything, I just leave it at that.
Reporter: Do you want to refute all the statements being made against you?
Rodriguez: No, politics is all about all kinds of talk, nobody has any proof of anything against me, so I don’t really have to further any talk, if you understand. I don’t really want to go into that. I am just working and that is about it.
Reporter: How do you feel about the allegations being made about you?
Rodriguez: I really don’t study it ‘cause I am no gang member or gang leader, so it really isn’t any problem to me. I don’t go to sleep with that on my mind when the night comes. Maybe the minister heard the wrong things so, if you understand. You are reporters and this is about the first time all you ever interview me. If “Spanish” is this big name, how come I was never reported on before, Ian Alleyne programme, nobody? So I am not studying any talk. That can’t hold back my life. I am going forward.
Reporter: What do you think about the project, police post?
Rodriguez: The project nice. All the things they’re opening within Port-of-Spain for the youths, they will be nice. Once you have the right people behind it, to push it, you know? It is time they do over these buildings. The whole place need developing and once the Government focus on that, things could be different. A payday is a very important thing to every human. Talk is one thing and hunger is an next. So while you’re talking you have to be able to feed too, you understand, and if you can’t do that you still have problems on your hand. It has plenty youths out here parentless and they have reached a certain age with the wrong mentality. Nothing is no problem, the only problem is the need for plenty employment, we have enough money for that. We could be a first-class country, so we don’t want to go into all of that neither.
Reporter: So are you saying once the youths of this area have jobs.....
Rodriguez answers before question was completed: All of Trinidad in the crime hotspots, not only Duncan Street, Nelson Street or Beetham—you know what I am saying —in south, Monkey Town. Plenty employment will change up the streets of T&T.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.