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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.