THE CAPTURE of the alleged leader of a gang from Venezuela within our borders brings to the fore a messy reality law enforcement authorities have been dealing with for some time now. Crime is transnational; this we know. But the influx of migrants from Venezuela poses both opportunities and challenges that require a special strategic direction. We would wish to fall on the side of averting double trouble at all cost.
The traditional arguments, both here and abroad, of those who oppose migration tend to focus on the possibility of criminals slipping into the country. We have enough crime here already and adding more criminals to the mix poses a double threat: heaping pressure on an already strained situation while also engendering opportunities for collaboration and syndication which could frustrate both anti-crime initiatives and measures designed to stem illegal flows of capital, weapons and manpower.
Yet there are two sides to every coin. Some, such as economist Roger Hosein, see opportunities to bolster local productivity through an influx of Venezuelan labour. But whether this influx will also bolster the productivity of criminal elements as well is the worry.
Before the capture of El Culón, the signs that Venezuelan gang warfare has hit our streets were already upon us. We witnessed assassinations in broad daylight as well as incidents which have been linked in preliminary intelligence reports to rumblings in the Venezuelan underworld.
The law enforcement authorities are to be complimented on nabbing El Culón. Apart from multiple murders, El Culón is wanted by Venezuelan authorities for drug trafficking, kidnapping and other offences. However, his capture raises the question: how many other wanted figures have managed to slip into the country? And are these figures being captured pursuant to intelligence or by happenstance? The latter possibility is cause for concern.
The Ministry of National Security and the law enforcement agencies need to be given the resources they need to be effective in handling this angle to the crime problem. This includes officials fluent in Spanish, as well as information-sharing between agencies on both sides of the Gulf of Paria.
All of this is a reminder of why the registration exercise for Venezuelans needs to be done as diligently as possible. This exercise has the potential both to assist the authorities while allowing the State to manage an undoubted humanitarian crisis.
But registration must be done carefully to safeguard the rights of Venezuelan citizens, many of whom are fleeing a situation in which political prosecution is rife. Temporary work permits are one thing, a system that subjects people to differential treatment is another.
With regard to arrested people, it is hoped they are given access to the courts in the form of legal representation and advice, particularly considering the shortage of interpreters. Spanish should be our second language and maybe all of this will push the State to foster greater knowledge in this regard.