As Venezuela’s socialist experiments continues to collapse, its populace is doing everything it can to survive the ideal economic system of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Millions of people have fled the country. Some are eating house pets and wild donkeys.
And some, have turned to piracy.
Once a peaceful fishing community where the only trouble was the odd bar brawl, today all too many of Icacos’s fishermen have a tale to tell of being chased, robbed, or kidnapped at sea. Yet unlike the Hollywood blockbuster starring Johnny Depp, there is little romance to this real-life Pirates of the Caribbean tale.
Rather than swashbuckling buccaneers, most of today’s pirates are penniless fishermen from nearby Venezuela, where the economic meltdown of recent years has tempted many into banditry.
As the southernmost island in the Caribbean, Trinidad lies well within the pirates’ reach. Icacos is less than 15 kilometres from the Venezuelan mainland, across an aptly-named channel called the Serpent’s Mouth.
The surge in ocean banditry has worrying parallels with the Somali piracy crisis of a decade ago, where once again, the problem started with jobless fishermen who took to robbing passing ships. Security experts fear it shows that like Somalia, Venezuela is now becoming a failed state.
And some of the piracy is “legal”. Or as legal as anything in Venezuela gets.
Vijay Hajarie, 53, said he spent seven weeks in a Venezuelan jail after being falsely accused by the Venezuelan coast guard of poaching in their waters.
“First they demanded we pay $3,000 on the spot, which we didn’t have,” he said. “Then, when they towed us away to Venezuela, they took photos of our vessel next to a stretch of Venezuelan coastline. They showed the judge the photos to prove we’d been in Venezuelan waters, and we had to pay a $500 fine to get out.”
Government is the original form of piracy.