Trinidad Guardian:– Just two weeks after 16 refugees died while trying to get to T&T on an overloaded pirogue, the crew and passengers of another vessel coming from Venezuela were blocked by the Coast Guard just off the coast of Chacachacare Island on Wednesday.
Miguel Costa, who is aboard the pirogue, Kuvanakan, left the port of Guiria, Venezuela around mid-morning with 13 crew members and passenger aboard. The passengers included children. They were on their way to Chaguaramas and on reaching approximately 200 metres off the coast of Chacachacare Island, they were halted by the Coast Guard.
According to Costa, the Coast Guard officers checked their immigration documents and found that everything was in order. However, the captain of the Kuvanakan was told that the pirogue was not allowed to enter T&T, under instructions from the Ministry of National Security.
Well placed sources told Guardian Media that members of the Defence Force were only following instructions.
While the passengers were disappointed at being denied entry into T&T, they were afraid to return to the Venezuelan mainland because the pirogue’s engine was in need of repairs.
“We’re in a boat but the Coast Guard asked us to go back because they do not want us to enter. They’re just 200 metres away from us right now and they are pushing us to go back to Venezuela. We are already here, we are close to Trinidad but the Coast Guard is pushing really hard to for us to go back home. We insist that our engines do not work but they don’t care about it,” Costa said. His mobile phone’s battery was dying while sitting in the open sea under scorching weather.
While the purpose of the passengers’ attempted visit was unknown, Costa was expected to board a flight at the Piarco International Airport at 3.30 pm en route to Florida, USA.
Julio Acosta, another Venezuelan living in the USA, told Guardian Media that he was waiting for Costa’s arrival in Miami. Acosta is expected to move to the US. Although Costa said he can purchase another plane ticket, he and his friend are worried that they won’t make it over the Bocas because of the pirogue’s engine.
“The vessel has mechanical problems. Pushing the vessel back over the Bocas with 13 people could be dangerous, Acosta said.
Acosta said that the least the Coast Guard could do was to transport the crew and passengers safely back to Venezuela to ensure that no lives were lost.
On April 23, the vessel Jhonnaly Jose left the Port of La Salina in the Valdez Municipality of the Sucre State to make a three-hour journey to the western coast of Chaguaramas. Overloaded with 25 refugees, it began experiencing difficulties in the choppy waters off the east coast of Patos Island and eventually sank. Nine people were rescued.