Trinidad: Three fishermen kidnapped by Venezuelan pirates

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Trinidad: Three fishermen kidnapped by Venezuelan pirates
Ramkissoon Harricharan kidnapped by pirates while fishing half a mile from shore at Galfa Point, Icacos.
Ramkissoon Harricharan kidnapped by pirates while fishing half a mile from shore at Galfa Point, Icacos.

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — 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.

The fishing boat which Talo Schneider and Ramkissoon Harricharan were fishing in, the German 1, which was recovered near Galfa Point, without its engine.

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.

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