January 30, 2019
Going to the Caribbean? Be wary of pirates!
As a crisis in Venezuela, revived the old fishing. Here is what the Air Force correspondent Colin Freeman writes.
© Air Force
The collapse of the Venezuelan economy is deepening, and neighboring Trinidad is also sweeping a wave of violence and lawlessness. Trinidadian fishermen now fear Venezuelan pirates, and Venezuelan smugglers exchange weapons and drugs for basic necessities.
If you imagine a tropical paradise based on photographs in travel brochures, then the south-west coast of Trinidad will not disappoint you.
Endless beaches. Quiet villages where fishermen sleep under palm trees. Everything is there except one: a relaxed atmosphere.
Take a look around in the village of Fullarton and you will notice strange things.
Why are there 200 engines installed on the boats of local fishermen, when 75 are enough for their fishing? Why, when they go out to sea at night, they no longer turn on the lights?
The answer is simple, says a fisherman lying in a hammock called Jerry Padarat. Pirates
“We are all afraid of them now,” he says. “At least 50 fishermen from our village met with them. They were either robbed or kidnapped. We can now go to sea only at night when they cannot notice us, otherwise we have to install powerful motors to make it possible to hide from them. "
Pirates? In the Caribbean? They were also exterminated 300 years ago, when Ed Teach, nicknamed Blackbeard and Calico Jack, swam in these waters! The only pirate I saw in Trinidad was Captain Henry Morgan, and then on the label on the bottle of rum.
Jerry Padarat knows more than me. He points to a strait where the other side is visible on the other side of the muddy water. This is Venezuela, just 20 km from this corner of Trinidad.
In more prosperous times, ferries went through the strait, and tourists from Venezuela came to Trinidad. But after the collapse of the Venezuelan economy, the ports of Venezuela declined and turned into hangouts of modern sea robbers.
Most of the pirates are former fishermen, more recently they have earned decent money by collecting tuna, octopus and shrimp in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea. But in the time of the previous president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, the fishing industry was nationalized, and the fishing companies chose to move abroad.
Because of this, and also because of the hyperinflation prevailing in the country, many fishermen were left without work and could not feed their families. But they still have boats and boats, and given the chaos on the streets of Venezuelan cities, it’s also easy to acquire weapons.
All this strongly resembles the fact that 10 years ago pirates appeared off the coast of Somalia. There, too, local fishermen were first left without a livelihood, and then armed and began to attack the passing ships. But if Somali pirates preferred to attack expensive container ships with valuable cargo, the Trinidadian fishermen, who are not much richer themselves, are targets of Venezuelan pirates.
Their victim was, for example, Candy Edwards, whom I met in the village of Ikakos, on the beach, where local rowing boats stood in a row. He says that he went to sea with two friends and a boat approached them with people armed with machine guns.
"They jumped over to us on board and tied our hands. Then they took us to Venezuela and kept in a cage somewhere in the forest. They demanded a ransom of 35 thousand dollars. The whole village collected money, and a week later we were released. But I so scared that he didn’t go to sea for another year, "he says.
Similar stories can be heard in almost every village on the southwest coast of Trinidad. But people are not only frightened by robbery and abduction.
Venezuelan pirates are also actively smuggling and bringing drugs and weapons to Trinidad, which feeds on the already bloody clashes between local criminal groups.
In exchange for weapons and drugs, pirates bring diapers, rice, vegetable oil and other essential goods back to Venezuela, which are in acute shortage in Venezuela.
Trinidad itself also has its own organized criminal groups for more than a decade, but with the exception of the poorest districts of the capital, Port-of-Spain, their presence is almost imperceptible. However, the more weapons and drugs from Venezuela will flow in, the more difficult it will be to fight the Trinidadian gangs.
At the same time, we must admit that Trinidad fishermen are not always innocent victims. In one of the villages, I and my assistant began asking about a fisherman who had been abducted by pirates just a few days ago.
"I can't talk right now, there are too many people around," one woman whispered. She later on the phone explained what was the matter.
"This is a kidnapping because of the money that someone here owes to the cartels. The drug problem here is only getting worse – as soon as you left, a boat came in with drugs," she said.
I can not say that I am very sorry that we did not see this boat. And without that, many in Fullarton took me for a disguised policeman, so the nervousness of the locals can be understood.
But then I remembered the engines of 200 horsepower. Perhaps they are needed not only to escape from the pirates.
299 January 30, 2019 # 8753