THE SHOOTING death of a Venezuelan national on Wednesday night should raise alarm bells. It is potentially an incident with serious implications for bilateral relations between this country and its nearest neighbour and also underlines the need for better border controls as well as policing. If we are to go by initial reports, what unfolded placed members of the public in serious danger.
The man was shot after a black Toyota Yaris began to speed away from a police roadblock. Police said that at St Lucien Road, Diego Martin, the driver of the vehicle began shooting at them and they shot back. The driver was found with multiple gunshot wounds and pronounced dead on the scene, while a female passenger was found injured. Money and firearms were reportedly found in the car.
All this transpired at around 11.30 pm. Ordinary citizens could have easily been caught up in this crossfire.
This incident should be subject to a comprehensive review to ensure the best decisions were taken. Further, as should be standard in any incident involving a police killing, the Police Complaints Authority should probe the matter, as should the Professional Standards Bureau.
The duty of care required of the police, even in high-octane situations for which they should be trained, does not disappear simply because the case involves foreign nationals.
This is hardly the first incident in which the activities of Venezuelans have attracted the attention of local law enforcement authorities. In fact, some Venezuelans held here are wanted by our international partners such as the United States on a range of drug and firearm offences. They frequently face extradition proceedings before the courts.
But the fact that Venezuelans are ending up in court should not turn us into xenophobes. There are important economic, political and humanitarian reasons why we need to ensure we maintain a healthy relationship with Venezuela, especially given the trauma it is enduring now. Bad apples should not be allowed to spoil the bunch.
What the situation requires, however, is a tightening of our own immigration procedures, as well as immigration detention facilities. Additionally, we hope the report stating the police had to approach the Venezuelan Embassy for “assistance” in interviewing the woman referred to specific matters that needed clarification and not translation services. If the latter, this is an embarrassment for local forces as we should by now have our own translators in place given our proximity to Latin America.
Ultimately, our efforts to combat crime are seriously hindered by the involvement of foreign actors. Still, we have a duty to try to ensure the safety and security of our own people by making sure local officers have access to what they need to work well in the circumstances.