Three Venezuelan nationals, who entered the county illegally to flee from the economic and social issues plaguing their country, were yesterday sentenced to six months jail with hard labour. In sentencing former army officer 28-year-old Carlos Boatswain, 22-year-old Christian Castillo and 20-year-old Luis Figueroa, senior magistrate Cherril-Anne Antoine said the court must send a strong message because of the number of illegal immigrants entering the country.
The case was heard in the San Fernando magistrates’ court. The charge read to the men alleged that on a date unknown in 2017, at an unknown beach, they entered the country and failed to report to an immigration officer. Boatswain, Castillo and Figueroa pleaded guilty. They were charged by Cpl Williams. Prosecutor PC Cleyon Seedan said when interviewed by Immigration officers on Wednesday, the men said that they did not know the area they entered was an illegal port of entry. Checks revealed they are holders of valid Venezuelan passports. Seedan said the men had no previous convictions and have been living in the country since November last year.
Through interpreter Luz Marina Tapias De Copilah, the men told the court that due to the financial crisis in their home country they came to Trinidad to seek refuge. Boatswain said that he was an officer in the army but resigned when he refused “to do what they were asking him to do.”
“I did not like the oppression and I resigned. I just had to get away, so I decided to come to Trinidad.” Figueroa said he owned a business in Venezuela operating a lottery shop.
“I had to leave because of the situation there. The minimum salary for the month in Venezuela is equivalent to US$5,” he told the magistrate. He said his businessplace was set on fire and destroyed by some men. Castillo, a psychology student at a university, said he also worked as a professional chef. “I participated in marches for democracy and freedom of expression. One day I was driving with my mom and got in an accident, they punctured my tyres. I had to leave,” he explained.