Going to the Caribbean? Beware of the pirates!

As the crisis in Venezuela has revived an old craft. Here is what the BBC correspondent Colin Freeman.


The collapse of Venezuela’s economy deepens and the wave of violence and lawlessness, and covers neighbouring Trinidad. Trinidadian fishermen are now afraid of the Venezuelan pirates and smugglers from Venezuela in exchange of weapons and drugs on the Essentials.

If you imagine a tropical Paradise based on the photos in the tourist brochures, the South-Western coast of Trinidad will not disappoint you.

The endless beaches. Quaint villages where the fishermen are sleeping beneath the palms. All except for one thing: atmosphere.

Look around in the village of Fullarton and you will notice strange things.

Why are the boats of local fishermen installed motors 200 horsepower, when their fishery is sufficient and 75? Why, when they go to sea in the night, they don’t include lights?

The answer is simple, he said lying in a hammock fisherman named Jerry Padarath. Pirates.

“We all are afraid, he says. — Met with them at least 50 fishermen from our village. They either robbed, or kidnapped. We can now go to sea only at night when they can’t see us, otherwise you have to install powerful engines, to be able to hide from them”.

Pirates? In the Caribbean sea? They also uprooted 300 years ago, when in these waters swam ed teach nicknamed Blackbeard and calico Jack. The only pirate I saw in Trinidad, was captain Henry Morgan, and on the label on the bottle of rum.

Jerry Padarath knows more than me. It shows the Straits, where on the other side of muddy water visible on the shore. Is Venezuela, to her from this corner of Trinidad is just 20 km away.

In more prosperous times went through the Strait ferries, and Trinidad tourists come from Venezuela. But after the collapse of the Venezuelan economy Venezuela’s ports went into decline and turned into dens of modern pirates.

Most of the pirates are former fishermen, until recently they were earning decent money, getting in the warm waters of the Caribbean sea, tuna, octopus and shrimp. But during the previous Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s fishing industry was nationalized and the commercial fishing industry prefer to move abroad.

Because of this, and also due to the prevailing hyperinflation, many fishermen are left without work and cannot feed their families. But they still have boats, and given the chaos on the streets of Venezuelan cities to acquire weapons is also easy.

It reminds me of how 10 years ago, the pirates appeared off the coast of Somalia. There is also the local fishermen at first were left without a livelihood, and then armed themselves and began to attack passing vessels. But if Somali pirates chose to attack on a costly container ships with valuable cargo, the pirates targets are the Venezuelan Trinidadian fishermen, who themselves are not much richer.

Their victim was, for example, candy Edwards, who I met in the village of Icacos, at the beach, where stood a number of local boats-pies. He says he went to sea with two friends and approached the boat with men armed with machine guns.

“They jumped on-Board with us and tied our hands. Then they took us to Venezuela and held in a cage somewhere in the woods. They demanded a ransom of 35 thousand dollars. The whole village collected money, and a week later we were released. But I was so scared being out at sea for another year,” he says.

Similar stories can be heard in almost every village on the southwest coast of Trinidad. But scaring people is not only robbery and theft.

Venezuelan pirates were also active in smuggling and smuggling of Trinidad drugs and weapons, which is fueling the already bloody clashes between local criminal gangs.

In exchange for drugs and weapons the pirates carry back to Venezuela diapers, rice, cooking oil and other commodities, which in Venezuela there is an acute shortage.

In fact, Trinidad is also not a single decade has its own organized crime groups, but with the exception of the poorest districts of the capital, Port of Spain, their presence is almost unnoticed. However, the more will come drugs and weapons from Venezuela, the harder it will be to deal with the Trinidadian gangs.

At the same time, I must admit that Trinidadian fishermen — not always innocent victims. In one village, my assistant and I began to ask about kidnapped by pirates just a few days ago the fisherman.

“I can’t talk right now, around too many people,” whispered one woman. She later explained on the phone what it is.

“It’s a kidnapping for money, which someone here needs to cartels. The drug problem here is getting worse — as soon as you left, came to the boat with the drugs,” she said.

I can’t say that I’m sorry that we have this boat has not seen. The already many in Fullarton took me for a disguised police officer, so the nervousness of the locals can understand.

But then I remembered about the motors 200 horsepower. Perhaps they needed not only in order to escape from pirates.

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