Derek Achong

The T&T Coast Guard has de­nied any in­ter­ac­tion with a group of Venezue­lan adults and chil­dren, who re­port­ed­ly drowned while at­tempt­ing to make their way to this coun­try re­cent­ly.

In a press re­lease is­sued yes­ter­day, the Coast Guard claimed that on Sat­ur­day it re­ceived in­for­ma­tion from Venezue­lan au­thor­i­ties in­di­cat­ing that 11 bod­ies in­clud­ing those of four chil­dren had been re­cov­ered from the wa­ters close to Guiria, a Venezue­lan coastal town.

It said that pre­lim­i­nary in­for­ma­tion re­vealed that the ves­sel, My Mem­o­ry, had 20 pas­sen­gers when it left Guiria on De­cem­ber 6.

“Checks have in­di­cat­ed that the Coast Guard has not in­ter­cept­ed any ves­sels com­ing from Guiria on 06 De­cem­ber or any time there­after,” the re­lease said.

It said that its Res­cue Co­or­di­na­tion Cen­ter had dis­patched as­sets to as­sist Venezue­lan au­thor­i­ties in a joint search ef­fort for the re­main­ing pas­sen­gers.

“The Trinidad and To­ba­go Coast Guard con­tin­ues to pro­vide bor­der se­cu­ri­ty ser­vices in the face of the threat of Covid-19 in or­der to main­tain the safe­ty and se­cu­ri­ty of the Re­pub­lic of Trinidad and To­ba­go through the con­duct of mar­itime se­cu­ri­ty pa­trols with­in our area of op­er­a­tions,” it said.

Con­tact­ed yes­ter­day, a Venezue­lan ac­tivist liv­ing in Trinidad, who asked to re­main anony­mous, chal­lenged the Coast Guard’s claim based on a hearsay re­port.

She claimed that she spoke with a man, whose wife and child were on board the ves­sel and were in con­tact with him since they left Guiria.

She said that the man claimed that his wife had con­tact­ed him when they al­leged­ly ar­rived in T&T and were al­leged­ly rerout­ed by lo­cal au­thor­i­ties. She said that he did not have any con­tact with them un­til news of the drown­ings was shared on so­cial me­dia on Sat­ur­day.

The ac­tivist called on the Gov­ern­ment to soft­en its stance on Venezue­lan mi­grants as she claimed that its po­si­tion es­sen­tial­ly en­cour­aged mem­bers of the pro­tec­tive ser­vices to treat mi­grants in­hu­mane­ly.

“I agree that they need to screen them as there may be bad ap­ples. What I am against is the bad treat­ment,” she said.

She al­so ques­tioned claims that a re­cent in­crease in child mi­grants mak­ing their way to T&T was due to hu­man traf­fick­ing.

“Why are you putting the vic­tims like a lit­tle ba­by in jail. Where are the crim­i­nals (traf­fick­ers)?” she asked.

Venezue­lans liv­ing in T&T took to so­cial me­dia pages yes­ter­day to ex­press shock and out­rage over the in­ci­dent and to send con­do­lences to the fam­i­lies of the de­ceased. Some even sought to blame the T&T Gov­ern­ment for the tragedy with­out any ev­i­dence.

One mem­ber of the Face­book group Venezue­lans in T&T even ap­pealed to her com­pa­tri­ots liv­ing in T&T to re­frain from en­cour­ag­ing their rel­a­tives to at­tempt the risky voy­age.

“Do not con­tin­ue to risk lives in the sea, those who are here work and fight for ours in Venezuela, fight for them, and do not risk this hor­ri­ble night­mare in the sea,” Ivana Ve­jaas said, in the Face­book post.

Search on for three miss­ing fish­er­men from Guayagua­yare

The search for three fish­er­men from Guayagua­yare, who went miss­ing on Fri­day, con­tin­ued with­out suc­cess yes­ter­day.

 Ac­cord­ing to re­ports around 3 pm on Fri­day, 21-year-old Shaquille Charles, Wal­ter Whit­man, and An­tho­ny Sandy left the Guayagua­yare port to go on a fish­ing ex­pe­di­tion.

Charles’ moth­er re­port­ed them miss­ing on Sat­ur­day af­ter they failed to re­turn home and made no con­tact.

In a brief tele­phone in­ter­view, yes­ter­day af­ter­noon, Charles’ sis­ter said that their cousin rent­ed a light air­craft and flew the length of the coun­try’s east coast from To­co to Guayagua­yare in search of the ves­sel.

She said that four fish­ing ves­sels al­so went in search of the group be­tween 7.30 am and yes­ter­day af­ter­noon, but both search par­ties re­turned emp­ty-hand­ed.

Charles’ sis­ter said that the fam­i­ly was pray­ing and hold­ing out hope that their rel­a­tive and his friends would be found soon.

Source: Guardian T&T