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Concern grows over ‘illicit’ trade to Venezuela

A brisk handover of precious food and medicine is taking place at high seas near Soldado Rock, off Cedros between Venezuelan operators and local fishermen.

Venezuelan vessels barred from entering the port are now collecting medicine, and food supplies to take back to Venezuela.

The items are purchased by Venezuelans who are now working in T&T to provide for their families. They hire local fishermen to transport the items for a fee.

The goods are packed on pirogues and sent at Soldado Rock or at the offshore Venezuelan oil facilities where the precious commodities are loaded onto waiting pirogues to be taken back to Venezuela.

A Venezuelan national who requested anonymity said they pay dealers up to US$2,000 to ensure the medicine and goods reach their loved ones in Venezuela. Trinidadian fishermen charge between TT$200 to $500 to make the trip.

Meanwhile, the Venezuelan ferries continue to be debarred from docking at the port.

Stringent visa requirements are needed to come to Trinidad but many Venezuelans seeking a better life have no documents. Getting a Venezuelan passport is near impossible.

Some wealthy Venezuelans pay as much as US$8,000 to get their documents.

Cedros councillor Shankar Teelucksingh said he was suspicious as to the reason why cargo vessels were being allowed to come in while ferries are not allowed to enter.

“Who is benefitting from this arrangement? They are allowing the scrap iron metal to come in but they are not allowing the ferries to dock. Venezuelans are in desperate need of food and medicine and they are restricting them from entering,” he said.

“I want to know what other items are on these vessels besides scrap metal. The cargo vessels are coming in at Cedros and Kings Wharf. We asking the Minister of National Security to reopen the Cedros port to allow the Venezuelans to curb the illegal entry of Venezuelans in many of our rural beaches. They are still coming in. Eight was held in Los Iros beach on Thursday,” Teelucksingh said.

A source who requested anonymity said law enforcement officers are charging the Venezuelan ferries up to US$2,000 to dock at the Kings Wharf port. Saying this was revealed by Venezuelan operators, the source called for an investigation to be done.

Contacted for comment, Minister of National Security Stuart Young said he was not aware of this. He did not respond to questions about why vessels were being allowed to dock while ferries were still debarred at Cedros.

Asked if he was aware of the illicit transactions where Coast Guard officers were taxing ferries US$2,000, Young said: “If you understand that you should tell the TTPS. I am not aware.”

President of the Scrap Iron Dealers Association Allan Ferguson could not be reached for comment.

Source Guardian

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