Venezuelan pirates who operate out of Patos Island, one of Venezuela’s small uninhabited island, have reportedly kidnapped three Icacos fishermen for ransom.
The 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.
Up to late yesterday, negotiations were ongoing and relatives remained tight-lipped saying they had no information to give. Last night secretary of Fisherman and Friends of the Sea Gary Aboud said a US$10,000 has been demanded for their safe release.
Police said the fishermen Ramkissoon Harricharan, 64, Carlo Sneider, 61, of Lovers Lane, Icacos and a third unidentified man were snatched at gunpoint around 7 am while they fished off Galfa Point in Icacos about half a mile from the shore.
A fisherman who requested anonymity said he saw the Venezuelan pirates accompanied by other local Trinidadians chasing down fishing vessels.
“We ran from them because we realized they were pirates and they were coming to get our engines and nets,” the fisherman said. Another fishing crew from Erin was also pursued by the pirates. They eventually captured the two old fishermen and took them aboard their pirogue. Two boat engines were taken and Snider’s boat German 1 was left adrift.
Other fishermen later brought it back to shore.
When Guardian Media arrived at the Icacos Beach several of Sneider’s family were seen on the beach. One relative said, “Don’t ask we anything. We have nothing to say.” He then entered a van and drove off.
The other relatives said they were still searching for Sneider and Harricharan, whose brother Premchand Harricharan is a popular clergyman known as Pastor Love.
During an interview, Harricharan begged for his brother’s safe return. He said Harricharan left home around 4 am to go fishing and was kidnapped.
“Right now we are waiting to hear what is happening. We know they are alive and we praying that they will be released. People are praying for them. We heard the Spanish have them,” he added.
Harricharan also chastised the T&T Coast Guard for not doing regular patrols.
“Many times the authorities know what is happening. Look at what happened at Carli Bay and Claxton Bay. This is not the first time fishermen from Icacos got kidnapped. They are at the mercy of bandits,” he said.
Harricharan added, “ Why is it so hard to have the Coast Guard patrol. People gone to fish so that they could feed people. They are not there doing anything illegal. Why can’t the Coast Guard be out there with them so that they could feel a bit protected? It is only when something happens they go out to search. The government has to do something about that,” he said.
He added that scores of people are employed in the fishing industry and it was time for the government to take action to protect fishermen from the Venezuelan pirates.
National Security Minister Stuart Young said that he was aware of the alleged kidnapping and that National Security operatives were working on it.
“I have been provided with preliminary reports with respect to our two “nationals” and a Venezuelan who appear to have been abducted. The TTPS Anti Kidnapping Unit and other units of the TTPS are working on this matter,” Young told Guardian Media.
Since Venezuela’s socio-economic collapse, Venezuelan gang leaders have been recruiting large numbers of desperate, hungry Venezuelans and forcing them into banditry because of Venezuela’s dire socio-economic crisis.
One of the biggest gangs of pirates operates from the Caño Manamo River in Venezuela. The Caño Manamo is a distributary of the Orinoco River. It branches northwards from the main channel of the Orinoco to the western edge of the Orinoco Delta, before emptying into the Gulf of Paria. Tucupita, the capital of Delta Amacuro state, is located on the east bank (right) of the Caño Manamo.
The source claimed the river-based pirates were responsible for the kidnapping of many fishermen from Erin, Cedros, Icacos and Moruga.
Contacted for comment Cedros councillor Shankar Teelucksingh questioned why a Coast Guard vessel could be stationed out of the Cedros port at the border of Southwest Soldado. He also questioned whether the 360 radar at Greenhill base was monitoring all vessels coming into T&T waters.
Teelucksingh called on the government to address the high level of piracy as well as to boost patrols in the area.
Aboud wants answers
In a statement last night, Aboud questioned who will pay the US$10,000 ransom.
“Where were the Cedros based Coast Guard? Do we have any radars? Where are the 14 Coast Guard interceptors which Minister Young promised to be repaired since last November?” Aboud said.
He added, “FFOS and the families of “Seven of the best” murdered fishers (from the Orange Valley mass murder in July 2019) continue to appeal to our esteemed Prime Minister Rowley and Minister of National Security Young to appoint a multi-stakeholder committee to examine “safety at sea” issues and to report back to Cabinet. To date, even after writing the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Security on numerous occasions, we have not had the courtesy even of an acknowledgement or of a reply. Why are they silent on our safety? Why are our citizens being locked out, abandoned and being put in grave danger?”
Aboud said, “We continue to appeal to Prime Minister Rowley and Minister Young of National Security to advise the Nation as to what steps are being taken to ensure safety at sea. The Government owes us a duty of care to ensure that they are able to safeguard our men at sea and to respond in a timely manner to emergencies. To date, we still don’t know whether there are any working radars and our borders are wide open to the free flow of every type of mafia, contraband and human cargo.”
Now that the 2019/2020 Budget promises are made, Aboud appealed to Rowley to speak out on this matter of safety at sea.
“Until the Prime Minister acts, more vulnerable lives will be lost and their blood, regretfully, will be on his hands,” he added.