Another Venezuelan boat denied T&T entry

Just two weeks af­ter a dozen peo­ple died while try­ing to flee Venezuela for T&T in a pirogue, the crew and pas­sen­gers of an­oth­er ves­sel com­ing from Venezuela are cur­rent­ly in a stand­off with the T&T Coast Guard, fear­ing they may suf­fer the same fate.

Miguel Cos­ta, who is aboard the pirogue Ku­vanakan, left the port of Guiria, Venezuela, around mid-morn­ing with 13 crew mem­bers and pas­sen­gers, in­clud­ing chil­dren, aboard. They were on their way to Ch­aguara­mas. But on reach­ing ap­prox­i­mate­ly 200 me­tres off the coast of Cha­cachacare Is­land, they were stopped by the Coast Guard.

Ac­cord­ing to Cos­ta, the Coast Guards­men checked their im­mi­gra­tion doc­u­ments and found that every­thing was in or­der. How­ev­er, the Ku­vanakan cap­tain was told that the pirogue was not be­ing al­lowed to en­ter T&T, un­der in­struc­tions from the Min­istry of Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty.

While the pas­sen­gers were dis­ap­point­ed at be­ing de­nied en­try in­to T&T, they were afraid be­cause the pirogue’s en­gine was in need of re­pairs.

“We’re in a boat but the Coast Guard asked us to go back be­cause they do not want us to en­ter. They’re just 200 me­tres away from us right now and they are push­ing us to go back to Venezuela. We are al­ready here, we are close to Trinidad but the Coast Guard is push­ing re­al­ly hard to for us to go back home. We in­sist that our en­gines do not work but they don’t care about it,” Cos­ta said via What­sApp.

His mo­bile phone's bat­tery was dy­ing while he was sit­ting in the open sea un­der scorch­ing weath­er.

While the pur­pose of the pas­sen­gers' at­tempt­ed vis­it was un­known, Cos­ta was ex­pect­ed to board a flight at the Pi­ar­co In­ter­na­tion­al Air­port at 3.30 pm en route to Flori­da, USA.

Julio Acos­ta, an­oth­er Venezue­lan liv­ing in the USA, told Guardian Me­dia he was wait­ing for Cos­ta’s ar­rival in Mi­a­mi. Acos­ta is ex­pect­ed to move to the US. Al­though Cos­ta said he can pur­chase an­oth­er plane tick­et, he and his friend are wor­ried they won’t make it across the Bo­cas be­cause of the pirogue’s en­gine.

“The ves­sel has me­chan­i­cal prob­lems. Push­ing the ves­sel back over the Bo­cas with 13 peo­ple could be dan­ger­ous,” Acos­ta said.

Acos­ta said the least the Coast Guard could do was to trans­port the crew and pas­sen­gers safe­ly back to Venezuela to en­sure that no lives are lost.

Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Stu­art Young did not re­spond to a phone call or a What­sapp mes­sage ask­ing whether he was aware of the sit­u­a­tion and if there was a ban on Venezue­lan ves­sels com­ing to T&T. But well-placed sources in­di­cat­ed to Guardian Me­dia that mem­bers of the De­fence Force were on­ly fol­low­ing in­struc­tions.

On April 23, the ves­sel Jhon­naly Jose left the Port of La Sali­na in the Valdez Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ty of the Su­cre State to make a three-hour jour­ney to Ch­aguara­mas.

Over­loaded with 25 pas­sen­gers, it be­gan ex­pe­ri­enc­ing dif­fi­cul­ties in the chop­py wa­ters off the east coast of Patos Is­land and even­tu­al­ly sank. On­ly nine peo­ple sur­vived.

Reporter: Kevon Felmine

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