Wednesday 19 February, 2020

FFOS tells Gov't: Use Venezuelan ties to bring kidnapped Trinis home

The Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) is warning all seafarers to take every precaution while at sea following the kidnapping of eight Trinidadian men in separate incidents, by Venezuelan nationals. A couple of men were kidnapped on January 15 followed by six men who were abducted on Monday. For the first two held, a US$40,000 ransom was demanded while US$200,000 was demanded for the six.

In a statement issued on Thursday, FFOS called on the government to use their relationship with Venezuela to ensure that the men are returned safely to Trinidad.

“In 2018 Minister Franklin Khan stated at a media conference that ‘because of our Government’s extremely cordial relationship with the Government of Venezuela, the Tank 70 oil spill of April 23rd 2017, that crossed an international boundary and entered into Guiria, Venezuela “did not blow up into an international fiasco”. Could Minister Khans “extremely cordial relationship” be now called upon to bring our brothers home safely? Dennis Moses, (the Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs), was present at the Jan 10th 2019 Presidential coronation of Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, (giving our Nations unquestionable support to the Maduro Regime). Instead of being in New York, why is Minister Moses not now rushing to Caracas to secure our brothers' release? Should Minister Moses not be seeking the interest of our kidnapped citizens as a matter of national security? The FFOS is appealing to the Rowley Administration to come to the rescue of our kidnapped citizens.”

The conservation group also advised seafarers to be alert when going out at sea to ensure that they are able to flee at a moment’s notice if they are accosted by gun-toting Venezuelans.

“Vessels should be ready to cut anchor or nets at any time to flee in an instant. Venezuelan vessels are fast, armed with machine guns and are operating in broad daylight.”

FFOS said this situation is not new as fisherfolk have a history of being robbed, bound and thrown overboard and kidnapped for ransoms.

“There are mounting statistics of kidnapped citizens captured in our territorial waters, and ransomed in Venezuela. Dozens of fisherfolk boat engines have been stolen in the past 3 months.”

The group questioned why the National Security Ministry was silent. It noted that weeks ago (Nov 10th 2018), Minister Young promised that 14 derelict Interceptor boats will be repaired in the shortest time possible, however, this has not yet occurred.

“How can our seafarers be safe against this Venezuelan invasion if critical national security promises are not kept by Government?”

FFOS is of the view that this ongoing violence will continue as starvation, corruption and lawlessness worsens in Venezuela. It said Venezuela is on the brink of civil war and as such, it is expected that these kidnappings and other criminal events will increase in intensity and frequency.  

“Instead of relying on Venezuela only for the Dragon Gas deal, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago has a duty of care to come to the rescue of our citizens who are all being held under the barrel of the gun.”

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