US-based Trinidadian author Nathalie Taghaboni, right, recently returned home to launch her latest book, Side By Side We Stand.
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T&T mulls border lockdown
National Security Minister Gary Griffith has held talks with defence heads about T&T’s borders as a result of the current unrest in Venezuela, which might cause people there to flee their homeland. Protests have been occurring in Venezuela since February 12. About ten people have been killed to date, including a motorcyclist killed by a clothesline strung across a street. Protests have continued into this week. Government and opposition supporters blame each other for the situation. Opposition groups have accused the state of media manipulation and the Government has accused international media of fuelling tensions and Venezuelan private media of manipulating the news.
Venezuelan ambassador Coromoto Godoy, in a statement last week, said on February 14 Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro presented a national plan for peace and cohabitation which included the disarming of violent gangs and criminals and setting up a special police and military brigade to probe, combat and neutralise drug gangs and “mercenaries sent from Colombia by paramilitary groups.” On T&T border security, Griffith noted that several years ago similar unrest in Haiti caused hundreds of people to flee to nearby Jamaica, illegally entering that country and causing tensions within the region. Griffith said: “We are looking at all matters where security for T&T is concerned. I have met the Chief of Defence Staff and other agencies on such matters that may arise out of the current situation.” He added so far there had not been any reports of people trying to flee to T&T which is seven miles across the Gulf of Paria.
Airlift plan still on table
Yesterday acting Foreign Affairs Minister Roodal Moonilal said his daily update from T&T’s Caracas embassy confirmed things were calm in Venezuela yesterday. “We were informed there are two groups of T&T workers in Venezuela’s oil and gas industry, totalling 30 people, and the companies they work for have contingency plans in case evacuation is necessary,” he added.
Moonilal said Government’s own contingency plan to airlift embassy and other T&T nationals was still on the table at ministerial level. Caribbean Airlines communications manager Clint Williams noted that governmental authorities said on Sunday that in the event of the evacuation of T&T staff at the Caracas embassy and other T&T nationals is necessary, CAL would be involved.
“If it becomes necessary we will support any initiative to assist the Caribbean people,” he said.
Yesterday Venezuelan national Ida Hernandez, who has lived in T&T for over 20 years and has three children born in T&T, said the last estimate of Venezuelans in T&T was approximately 10,000, two years ago. She added: “But clearly by now it will be more.” Hernandez, who lives in Chaguanas, said she did not believe Venezuelans would flee the unrest to come to T&T illegally and stay, since, she added, any such people would more likely look to the US to settle. She said while most Venezuelans come here to work or go back and forth to buy supplies to take back to their families, they had more of an affinity with the US in terms of settling and would more likely gravitate to the US since that country and Venezuela had similar large populations, landscapes and other facets. Hernandez said several Venezuelans who came to T&T recently to buy supplies, planning to return home are stranded here temporarily owing to the unrest.