Cedros fishermen released by captors

Heermatie Sanker was excited yesterday as she waited anxiously at her Fullerton Village home awaiting the return of her husband Awardnath Hajarie and their son Nicholas who were held captive in Venezuela since last Thursday.

After feeling sick and depressed on Monday, Sanker said her spirits were lifted when a villager came calling.

“Come! Come! Your son wants to speak to you,” the neighbour told Sanker outside her home on Monday night.

She said tears came to her eyes as she heard her son’s voice for the first time in five days, especially as she was unsure what had happened to them.

She said they were released from jail in Tucupita, Venezuela and was expected to return home yesterday. She said she was unsure what time they would arrive as it would be a long trip from where they were staying.

“I’m just sitting down here at home waiting. It’s like I can see them in my eyes right now. I was frustrated and sick yesterday, but when the boy came calling last night and I heard my son on the other line, I was so happy. We spoke for about an hour and then they had to go. The phone signal was giving some trouble so we had to angle the phone in a particular way to speak to them.

“I got to speak to my husband and he told me, ‘Don’t cry, we are alive and we are safe’. Then Nicholas told me ‘Yes mommy, we are coming home tomorrow,” Sanker said.

Last Thursday, Awardnath, 52, Nicholas, 26 and fellow villager Shami Seepersad, 35, were fishing in the Soldado Main Field, off the coast of Cedros, when they were allegedly chased and arrested by the La Guardia Nacional de Venezuela.

Venezuelan authorities reported that the men were chased into local waters and arrested for illegally fishing in Venezuelan waters. They were taken back to Venezuela where they were expected to be charged and taken to court. A worker aboard a Trinmar offshore installation recorded the incident on his cellphone and posted the video on Facebook.

On Sunday, Sanker’s eldest son, who has in-laws living in Venezuela, made the trip across to secure the fishermen’s release. The issue has led to a discussion over the legality of the arrest as the fishermen said they were fishing in local waters when they were chased and arrested. Cedros fishermen said that La Guardia Nacional has been arresting local fishermen in Trinidad waters for years in order to extort money from their families. As the recession in Venezuela worsens, they said the La Guardia Nacional is demanding US currency and food supplies in exchange for the release and safe return of the fishermen they capture.

According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, it is illegal to enter the waters of a sovereign state without permission of that state. Defence Force sources said they did not receive any request for assistance or permission from La Guardia Nacional to enter T&T waters.

Source: www.guardian.co.tt

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