Mérida, April 24, 2021 (venezuelanalysis.com) – A boat capsized on the popular migrant route to Trinidad and Tobago leaving two Venezuelans dead and numerous injured on Saturday.
The tragedy comes after twenty people drowned attempting to make the treacherous journey in December.
Speaking Saturday, governor of the eastern Delta Amacuro state, Lizeta Hernandez, lamented the latest accident. She informed that the boat had left La Horqueta village late Friday night and capsized in the Snakesmouth opening into the Caribbean sea.
“We deeply regret the loss of life of at least two citizens, one male and the other female (…) seven people have been rescued so far,” she explained, expressing her “solidarity” with their families.
While the details of the accident remain unclear, independent reports suggest that the death count has since risen to three, and that at least 24 people, including women and children, were traveling in the small vessel. At the time of writing, it is unclear if any passengers remain missing.
According to local reports, family members have claimed that the cause of the accident was a “strong wave” which “surprised” the ship’s crew. The five hour crossing to Trinidad is known for its perilous maritime conditions.
President Nicolas Maduro and Attorney General Tarek William Saab are yet to comment on the case. Saab went on record pointing the finger at “human-trafficking mafias” for December’s naval disaster offshore the neighboring Sucre state. Following an investigation, the boat’s owner was arrested and six other warrants were issued.
Trinidad and Tobago lies less than 100 kilometers off Venezuela’s coastline. An estimated 25,000 - 40,000 Venezuelans have migrated there since 2015 when Venezuelans started to see a palpable drop in living standards due to the country’s economic struggles, with the majority arriving by boat. There have been reports of migrants being lured into illegal activities to keep afloat, with gang lords offering to finance the expensive US $500 fare and guaranteeing first employment upon arrival.
Migration has also been a sticking point between the two regional neighbors of late, with Port of Spain deporting 160 illegal immigrants in November and a further 120 earlier this month. In February, Caracas also organized a humanitarian flight from Piarco (Trinidad) to return 96 Venezuelans from the Caribbean island.
For their part, Venezuelan authorities have repeatedly denounced heavy-handed anti-migrant tactics by their Trinidadian counterparts.
On April 4, a Trinidadian court sentenced 17 Venezuelan immigrants to prison for entering the country illegally, while last November a different court ordered 16 Venezuelan children to return to the Latin American country on the same boat they had used to migrate to the Caribbean island. The boat, however, reportedly got lost at sea and was forced back to Trinidad after two days adrift. The children were later granted a precautionary protection measure by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, while the ruling was criticized for violation of international protocols.
Port of Spain authorities have argued that such measures were necessary in order to “protect its citizens,” while Prime Minister Keith Rowley has previously gone on the record to describe Venezuelan immigration as an “assault.”