Fishermen chased by Venezuelan pirates

Venezuelan pirates chased after several Icacos fishermen in territorial waters early Monday, a mere four days after three fishermen were kidnapped in exchange for US$15,000 ransom.

The Venezuelan pirogue began circling the Icacos fishermen around 5 am while they fished about one mile from shore off Galfa Point.

Marlene Nurse, whose son was part of the fishing crew said the Venezuelan pirogue came closer and the occupants began shouting in Spanish.

"The fishermen just left their nets and sped off. They alerted the other fishermen who were closeby and everybody pick up and left," Nurse said. She explained that her son was a university student and was doing a few days of fishing to earn money for school.

"It is so dangerous to fish nowadays and there is no support from the Coast Guard. I told my son not to bother to go back to sea.  If he gets kidnapped how will we find money to pay any ransom?

These Venezuelans asking for a lot of money in US dollars. We don't have that kind of money to pay so its best to stay at home," she added.

Another fisherman who recalled the horrific ordeal said he was being deprived of his right to earn a livelihood.

"I depend on fishing to mind my family. Some of us are doing bank fishing and still, we are not safe.

The Venezuelan pirogues are coming right up to us. We cannot fish in peace," he added.

He noted, "We were trying to get a bait and the Spanish boat came and started to circle the boat.

The captain started to speed off and they chased them down. The Coast Guard needs to be more vigilant.

They are not protecting us," the fisherman said.

He said since the kidnap scare on Monday, none of the fishermen has gone back to work.

Over 50 Icacos fishermen depend on fishing to earn a livelihood.

Last week,  Ramkissoon Harricharan, 64, and Keith Schneider, 61, of Lovers Lane, Icacos were snatched at gunpoint around 7 am while they fished off Galfa Point in Icacos about half a mile from the shore.

A Trinidadian man whom police suspect organized the kidnapping of Schneider, is being sought by police. Venezuelan pirates who operate out of Patos Island, one of Venezuela's small uninhabited island, are believed to be connected to the kidnapping.

Initially, a US$10,000 ransom was demanded but while on the way to pay it, another batch of Venezuelans stole the cash and snatched the boat's engine.

Relatives of the two men had to pool money together to raise a US$15,000 ransom which was eventually paid.

A photograph of the two men with guns to their heads circulated on social media.

Patos Island is located in the northwestern Gulf of Paria and is said to be one of the hideouts for desperate  Venezuelan pirates who kidnap and smuggle drugs and guns in exchange for basic necessities.

Since the kidnapping, fishermen say they are being ignored by the authorities.

The fishermen from Cedros, Granville and Icacos are planning to take protest action to highlight their concerns.

An official of the T&T Coast Guard said they had no reports of the near kidnap attempt at Icacos but will investigate and issue an official comment later.

Reporter: Radhica De Silva

 

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