RADHICA DE SILVA
National Security Minister Stuart Young has initiated an urgent investigation into reports that Venezuelans were docking at Chaguaramas and coming on land without adhering to COVID-19 protocols, despite the border lockdown.
The investigation comes as another possible community case of COVID-19 was recorded yesterday.
Although the T&T Coast Guard has increased border patrols and stopped Venezuelans from entering T&T through the Cedros and Kings’ Wharf ports, Young confirmed that investigations were underway to determine if there were breaches in Chaguaramas.
“A preliminary investigation has suggested that these persons may be the employees of Trinidadian fishing vessels. The authorities will be pursuing this as the Government’s position is clear that no one must disembark vessels and not be quarantined,” Young said.
He added, “ If it is found that Trinidadian businessmen are breaching the COVID/ public health regulations and/ or law, they will face the legal implications, which include criminal charges. I am asking the authorities to pursue this.”
On his Facebook page, boat captain Gerard D Anthony, who conducts tours in Chaguaramas, questioned how Venezuelans were being allowed to dock at Chaguaramas even though the borders were closed.
Posting several photos on Facebook, Anthony wrote, “These Venezuelans came from the fishing boats to offload fish to be exported out of Trinidad. Are they allowed to be walking around and shopping at Massy stores in Crew’s Inn? I am a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago and because I have a non-national on the boat they refuse to give me permission.”
He added, “Mr Stuart Young and Mr Gary Griffith, please look into this. This is not fair that they are coming and going about their business and I am stuck outside. I have sent numerous applications and was told I have to wait till the borders open.”
Anthony said he was currently in St Lucia and was unable to return home.
Contacted for comment, a senior Customs official confirmed that in Chaguaramas the docking of Venezuelan boats has been allowed on a daily basis.
“They were always allowed to come to bring fish,” the source said.
Asked why these Venezuelans were being allowed to dock when the ports at Cedros and Kings Wharf were closed, the official said, “ Because the borders were never closed for cargo.”
He noted that the Venezuelans are not allowed to leave their vessels or mingle when offloading their fish cargo.
Meanwhile, a source at Kings Wharf said one or two vessels dock with cargo at that port but no one is allowed to leave the vessels.
Yesterday, 11 Venezuelans were detained by officers of the South-Western Division Task Force during an anti-crime exercise conducted in the Santa Flora district.
Police went to Number 4 Road, Palo Seco, where they saw several persons running into a bushy area. The 11 Venezuelans were taken to the Siparia Health facility where they were medically examined by a doctor and then taken to the Chaguaramas Heliport for a 14-day period quarantine.
Based on a study done by human trafficker researcher Dr Justine Pierre, an estimated 17,136 women went missing and were possibly trafficked in 2019 from Tucupita, Delta Amacuro, Pedernales, Casacoima and Antonia Diaz.