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The Velvet Rope

Video: Narco-Trafficking
Video: Hostages

May 31, 2006 9:39 a.m.
Caracas, Venezuela

To get into the OPEC conference you need an accreditation, a card with your picture on it. I sat in a room with other journalists, mainly from Latin America. I sat next to a big guy from Honduras. He'd been waiting for three hours. Five or six guys in dark suits seemed to be managing the process, while three women actually took the pictures and made the cards.

Some white European journalists arrived and saw the crowd in the room. They talked to one of the suits and were let in.

"That's bull," I said to Ernan, who spoke English well.

"You should do it," he smiled.

"'Cause I'm white, I should cut to the head of the line?"

"Yes," he said.

I thought about it. I was reading through the government newspaper, (which reprinted the Times crossword with no byline) and a dull book on Russian oligarchs. I had flown that morning, was dirty and hungry. There were no windows in the room. More white guys showed up from the Associated Press and were ushered ahead of the room full of Latinos. I followed one AP guy to the velvet rope, but before I could open my mouth in protest, a woman ushered me in. Somehow Ernan got in next, and we sat in a row of chairs, every few minutes getting up to slide down a chair to get closer to the photographer.

A tall, blonde woman in a dark suit came over with a gift bag of OPEC brochures. She gave one to the AP guy and one to me, then walked away. I looked at Ernan on my left and said, "You're not getting one." He smiled.

I tried to think if there were any looming natural disasters or violent conflicts in Honduras.

"How are things in Honduras?" I asked Ernan.

"Calm," he said. I got his e-mail in any case.

E-mail Harrigan