Venezuelan criminals in Trinidad are believed to be the masterminds behind the recent pirate attacks affecting fishermen from Cedros, Moruga and Penal.
It is believed that the criminals get information on their intended targets and then organise with pirates in Venezuela to capture fishermen in exchange for ransom.
The criminals are so well connected that they are able to ascertain how much money the fishermen have in their bank accounts and the exact dates and time they leave Trinidad to go to Venezuela.
The pirates operate out of impoverished coastal towns in Venezuela such as Tucupita and seem to be well protected by Venezuela’s Guardia Nacional.
During an interview yesterday, Trinidad ferry operator Anthony Joseph said he has been forced to abandon his operations because of the pirates.
Joseph said while Trinidadians have opened their homes and hearts to help Venezuelans, some of the foreigners were taking advantage of the fishermen by setting them up.
He said the pirates are well armed and the Trinidadian fishermen are defenceless during the attacks. Joseph noted that the Venezuelan pirates patrol the Tucupita rivers and anyone entering the area is charged a fine.
“The information is known to the Guardia Nacional who have been liaising with local fishermen to warn them of the piracy,” Joseph said. Recalling his last encounter with the pirates, Joseph said he left Trinidad last week Wednesday to go to Tucupita.
However, he said while in Venezuelan waters he received a call from the Guardia Nacional warning him not to enter the Tucupita river because the pirates were waiting for him.
Joseph said he was forced to stop at Capure, Venezuela about 40 kilometres away from Cedros and send his documents with a worker to be stamped by the Venezuelan authorities. Saying it was extremely risky being in Venezuelan waters, Joseph claimed the Guardia Nacional has not taken action to stop the piracy.
Another fisherman, Jewan Mawanlal said the kidnapping of the Mon Diablo fishermen and the gripping photograph of them surrounded by gunmen had left the country shocked but he said this was something the Cedros fishermen have been facing for many years.
“With the developments in Venezuela, the situation has become more drastic. Now we cannot work in peace. We cannot fish in our own waters. Our government has not responded to our calls to boost TT Coast Guard patrols in Cedros. The Guardia Nacional come right up to our boats and sometimes they shoot at us. Nobody helps us and if we are lucky they will throw us overboard and steal our boats and nets,” Manwanlal said.
Terry Assong, whose nephew Marvin Farrier was robbed by pirates last week, said many people have decided not to go back to sea because of the pirates. “We’re all scared of them now. They have weapons and power. We don’t have anything,” Assong said.
At Fullarton Village, a fisherman said more than 50 fishermen have already had run-ins with the pirates, either being robbed or kidnapped.
“Our only chance is to fish in the dark, so they don’t see us, so we buy bigger engines so we can outrun them,” the fisherman said.