US cable: Jagdeo used 2006 World Cup TV coverage to boost image

-‘unrestrained self-promotion’ cited

President Bharrat Jagdeo used the airing of the FIFA World Cup 2006 on the National Communications Network (NCN) to boost his image, a US embassy cable to Washington posited.

The cable, recently released by WikiLeaks, said that State TV, NCN made it appear that Jagdeo personally part-sponsored the airing of the games when in fact the money came from the Guyana Lottery Fund.

The cable, dated June 14, 2006, noted that President Jagdeo had taken credit for bringing the World Cup games on NCN.

“The state-run National Communications Network (NCN) has bombarded the airwaves with this news in recent days, heralding the ‘personal intervention of His Excellency President Bharrat Jagdeo’ to make World Cup coverage possible. These announcements overtly suggest that Jagdeo himself forked over the GY$5 million (US$25,000) shortfall needed to secure the broadcast rights,” the cable said.

According to the cable given the president’s “ever-growing reputation for unrestrained self-promotion” embassy officials had their doubts and made further inquiries. They found that NCN had completely mischaracterized Jagdeo’s contribution.  “This was no personal act of philanthropy.  Rather, the money came from Guyana’s lottery fund, not from Jagdeo’s pocket — a key fact that NCN neglected to mention “, the cable read.

It was noted that the World Cup broadcast rights for Guyanese television cost US$70,000 and NCN could have only mustered US$45,000 from reluctant sponsors. As a result the government “turned this problem into an opportunity, using government funds to pay the difference and letting Jagdeo take the credit.”

“The move makes political sense, too.  Soccer is more popular with Afro-Guyanese, a group that largely supports the opposition PNC/R party. The one wrinkle in the plan is that NCN is showing the World Cup matches late at night on tape delay, which has caused public grumbling among soccer fans,” the cable said. General elections were held later that year.

The embassy officials pointed out that while the issue may have seemed innocuous, “it underscores the extent to which Jagdeo and the state media have tried to portray his presidency as benevolently overseeing his personal fiefdom.”

“Not so long ago, Jagdeo was still considered by most political observers as a pawn of the ruling PPP/C party’s Politburo- like Executive Committee.  Now some PPP/C insiders must be fretting over the president they created,” the cable concluded.