Employees of the Venezuelan Embassy were left confused yesterday, after their country's national flag was discovered burnt and the embassy's communication system destroyed.
Investigators at the Woodbrook Police Station said they were treating the incident, which occurred on the compound of the Venezuelan Embassy, Victoria Avenue, Port-of-Spain, as a case of malicious damage. A Venezuelan man, who police said was carrying a Chilean passport, was interrogated shortly after the discovery. The suspect, police said, was staying on the embassy's compound after reportedly being thrown out from a Port-of-Spain hotel on Saturday for failure to pay his bill. The following night, the man was arrested outside a Port-of-Spain restaurant after police were called in when he reportedly failed to pay.
The man then requested to be taken to the embassy, saying he was seeking political asylum, police said. Police said embassy officials, who arrived to work around 7.30 am yesterday, discovered the burnt flag and the electrical wiring at the side of the building ripped out. Investigators believe the attack occurred on Sunday night. One officer said he believed that was the first violent act incident at a local embassy. In an interview yesterday, Venezuelan's ambassador, Maria Eugenia Marcano, said stars which were introduced to her country's national flag under president Hugo Chavez were deliberately burnt by a cigarette. Marcano said she believed the perpetrators "wanted to take the embassy out of service," pointing at the completely destroyed telephone and Internet wiring.
Venezuelan's general election is expected to take place on September 26. According to Marcano, this was the first time that Venezuela's opposition played "an active role" in its country's politics. Marcano said that the incident had failed to instil fear in her and her colleagues. She added the embassy stood united with T&T's Government in the fight against crime. "We must stand united against all criminal organisations." Marcano said. Saying she was "very sad and disappointed" by the incident, Marcano said the embassy was forced to postpone activities planned for this week. She said she was heartened by the support received from Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Surujattan Rambachan, who pledged his ministry's resources to ensure the perpetrator was brought to justice.
Eleonora Guevara, the embassy's trade assistant, confirmed the suspect had sought political asylum. She, however, ruled out that the man may have been responsible for the acts, saying he might have been a witness instead. Describing the burning of the flag as "serious," Guevara said: "Something serious has happened here. We don't know who would have done this." Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Surujattan Rambachan has expressed concern over the attack and has assured the safety of employees at the embassy. In a telephone interview, he said following the incident, he has discussed with Marcano improved security.
"We have pledged to do all we can do to ensure the support and safety of all members of the embassy," Rambachan said. He said talks also were held with National Security Minister Brigadier John Sandy following which additional security measures would be implemented. "Minister Sandy assured me that all his officers were investigating the matter and all steps were being taken to secure the embassy and the ambassador," Rambachan said.