Guyana’s children are bracing for the customary onslaught of hugs from politicians who are out on the campaign trail wanting to look like caring adults.
“It’s dangerous out there right now,” said a visibly frightened Kimberly Jones, six, of South Ruimveldt. “When we hear the sirens we know a politician is in the neighbourhood and that means any of us could be picked out of the crowd and hugged for the cameras. It happened to me in 2011. Some fat man in a red shirt picked me up and squeezed me tight while a bunch of photographers shot away. Next day I’m on the front page of the Chronicle. I still have nightmares about it.”
Another photo-hug victim, James Singh said he knows beforehand who will be chosen: “They almost always go across ethnic lines. Apparently it’s important to them,” said the eight-year-old who claimed to be a veteran of two elections and was now resigned to the practice. “I do it for my Mom. She says one day we might get a house lot. It doesn’t last long and as soon as the elections are over they have no interest in us any more. It’s just part of being a child in Guyana. ”
But some are not taking it so lightly. Tricia Bacchus of Better Hope declared, “Enough is enough. These politicians are always hugging us up, and what do we get in return apart from a rash on our faces from their itchy beards? We don’t even have the right to vote and they are using us for their own power seeking ambitions. For 50 years they have been saying children are the future of Guyana. We haven’t seen it yet. Next politician that tries to hug me is going to get a hard slap,” said the precocious five-year-old who skipped off to play with her friends.