Guam's governor seizes main chance

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The Independent Online
When a plane full of young families crashes into the side of a hill, as Korean Air flight 801 did last week on the American island of Guam, it is vain to look for a silver lining. But for the Governor of Guam, Carl TC Gutierrez, some good has come out of the tragedy.

With an area smaller than that of the Isle of Man, the governor's domain is not traditionally a launch pad to fame, but in the days after the crash he became a ubiquitous presence on television screens around the world. After the plane crashed last Wednesday, the governor was one of the first on the scene. "After pulling several survivors from the wreckage," reported the Pacific Daily News, "Gutierrez came across an 11-year-old Japanese girl ... Matsuda Rika ... Tears welled up in the governor's eyes as he explained how Rika kept asking him to save her mother."

Mrs Matsuda was dead, but Mr Gutierrez invited Rika and her father to stay in his residence. At the media centre near the crash site, his cousin, Franklin Gutierrez, handed out biographies of the governor. The afternoon after the crash, Mr Gutierrez appeared again before the cameras, arm draped around the little girl.

Many islanders feel he has exploited the crash. One fireman, Jesus C Taitingfong, said his crew were forced to the side of the road by police so that the governor could get to the crash before them.

Tourist brochures depict Guam as an island paradise, but politically it seethes. The last governor but one, Ricardo Bordallo, shot himself following his trial for corruption. The present governor is up for re- election next year. It would be a remarkable politician who declined the photo-opportunities afforded by the plane crash, but Mr Gutierrez appears to have gone too far. "The people know who did the job in the rescue," said Mr Taitingfong.