Trinidadian Police And Coast Guard Investigating Death Of Venezuelan Toddler

(CMC) — Trinidad and Tobago’s National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said that both the police and the Coast Guard have launched an investigation into the circumstances that led to the death of a nine-year-old Venezuelan child during an operation at sea over the last weekend involving the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard.

Responding to an opposition question regarding the incident last Saturday night, Hinds expressed “very sincere condolences to the parents of this child and to the government and people of Venezuela as it has since been determined that all the occupants on that vessel that approached Trinidad and Tobago without authority or notice to this state were in fact Venezuelans.”

“From the information that is available to me, Madam President, the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard and most certainly, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service have embarked upon investigations arising out of this unfortunate incident,” Hinds said.

Opposition Leader Kamala Persad Bissessar condemned what she termed the “murdering of a baby”.

Speaking at the Monday night forum of her opposition United National Congress (UNC), Persad Bissessar said that it was a “heart-rendering thing to see our Coast Guard…. firing on a migrant vessel, murdering a baby.”

“We are making international news, Trinidad and Tobago. We are making international news because of that. I cannot see and I await the explanations, I cannot see you have a migrant vessel with people there, who could open fire on women and children. Did they have weapons, anyone raised a weapon against you?”

“Why would you shoot? You have things to do if you say they coming to ram you. You could have taken evasive action. Why did you have to shoot,” she said, calling for the resignation of Hinds as National Security Minister.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has expressed his “deepest sympathy” regarding the incident.

“We continue to appeal to our Venezuelan neighbours to not be encouraged to risk their lives and the life of others in illicit and dangerous border crossings,” Rowley added.

In a statement, the Coast Guard said while patrolling the south coast, the TTS Scarborough detected a vessel that had crossed the border from Venezuela on Saturday night. It pursued the boat which attempted to evade them.

“All available methods were used including the use of the loud hailer, ship’s horn, searchlight and flares, to try to get the suspect vessel to stop, however, the vessel continued to attempt to evade TTS Scarborough. In keeping with standard protocols, warning shots ahead of the vessel were next employed,” the Coast Guard’s statement said.

“At this time, the ship’s boat from TTS Scarborough attempted to intercept the vessel, however, the vessel continued with aggressive manoeuvres, first coming into contact with the ship’s boat and then making attempts to ram it.”

The Coast Guard said the boat eventually stopped “and only then it was discovered that there were illegal migrants on board who had remained hidden and were therefore not seen before.

“Further checks discovered one adult female illegal migrant who was holding an infant and who indicated that she was bleeding.”

It said that the boat was brought alongside the TTS Scarborough and the injured mother was subsequently stabilised and transferred to a local health facility, adding “regrettably, the infant was found to be unresponsive.”

The Venezuelan government has called on Trinidad and Tobago to conduct an “exhaustive investigation” to clarify the death of a child.