Venezuelan pirates plague the Caribbean

With rich Caribbean fishing grounds on their doorstep, the villagers of Cedros in Trinidad are never short of fishermen's tales to tell.

The latest stories to do the rounds though, are not about record-breaking hauls of kingfish. Today the fishermen themselves have become the catch.

"I was out picking up my nets late one afternoon when a boatload of armed men came at me at full speed," said Brian Austin, 54. "From about 200 metres away they started firing shots around my boat - it was terrifying. Luckily, I have a high-powered engine, so I managed to speed off, but they took my nets and all the fish in them."

On that occasion, Mr Austin was the one that got away. Other local fishermen tell tales of being robbed of their boats, beaten, and even kidnapped - all victims of a new wave of pirates sweeping the Caribbean. Operating with speedboats rather than tall ships, they have made the waters around Trinidad just as perilous as they were in Blackbeard’s day.

As with Mr Austin's ordeal, most of the attacks off Trinidad's coastline take place just before sunset, allowing the culprits to flee under the cover of darkness. Nobody, though, has any doubt where they escape to - Venezuela, where years of economic meltdown under socialist President Nicolas Maduro has hundreds of jobless fishermen - and in some cases the national coastguard - into buccaneering.

As the southernmost island in the Caribbean, Trinidad lies just ten miles from the Venezuelan mainland, from where the pirates operate out of impoverished coastal fishing towns like Güiria.

Once home to a thriving fishing industry, today Güiria has become a modern-day answer to Hispaniola, the Caribbean pirate haven of the 17th century. Many of the pirates are thought to be ex-employees of Venezuela’s tuna fleet, which collapsed after a disastrous nationalisation program imposed by Mr Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chavez.
Piracy and socialism go hand in hand in the area.  The tuna fleet like the oil business that was nationalized have also suffered under the management of socialism.   If there were proper law enforcement in the area it should not be that hard to capture the pirates but that could be a problem since the Venezuelan government is likely complicit in the piracy.


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