Fishermen trading food for guns

Crime economist Anslem Richards
Crime economist Anslem Richards

Venezuelans are offering Tobago fishermen guns in exchange for food.

So claimed crime economist Anselm Richards as he weighed in on the recent increase in gun violence on the island.

On Saturday, the manager of the popular Jade Monkey bar was shot in his leg by a gunman as he entered the driveway of his New Grange home, Sou Sou Lands. Shootings also were also reported last week in Black Rock and Lambeau.

A notorious Venezuelan gang leader "El Culon" from the city of Tucupita was also arrested earlier this month in Point Fortin.

Speaking to Newsday Tobago, Richards pointed to a link between the increase in gun violence and the island's porous borders.

He said the borders need to be tightened, especially in light of the socio-political crisis in neighbouring Venezuela.

Richards claimed: "Our fishermen are reporting they are being engaged by Venezuelan vessels out there and they are being offered guns and ammunition in exchange for cocaine. One fisherman also said that a bucket of pigtail would be worth a 9 mm pistol and 24 rounds (bullets)."

Richards, a Newsday Tobago columnist, urged the authorities to deal with the seemingly easy access to guns in Tobago.

"The authorities need to pay some attention to the official transhipment points between Trinidad and Tobago."

He said the ports of Scarborough and Port of Spain should acquire an X-Ray machine as part of the security infrastructure to examine vehicles transported between the islands.

"That would help detect illegal cargo coming into the islands. It is a common feature of border security in the US and other countries."

Richards said discussions about investing in X-Ray machines have been on the agenda for years.
"It is time because there is no proper examination of things coming into the island."
He said ongoing turmoil in Venezuela can seriously impact TT.

"The Venezuelan situation is a classic one. It could become a serious security problem for Trinidad and Tobago. So, we have to treat these things with an understanding of the global implications of the things that could bear on a country and society."

Richards said the increase in gun violence can have a devastating impact on the psyche of Tobagonians.

He said when someone is shot in Tobago, between 30 to 40 per cent of the population would have some kind of association or knowledge of the individual. The island has a population of 60,000.

Richards said increasing gun violence would also cause anxiety and social instability among Tobagonians.

"The fear from one incident permeates to about 40 per cent of the population on average."
In addition, Richards said the negative publicity from such incidents does not augur well for Tobago, given its status as a service-driven island that relies largely on tourism.

"So, when you have gun violence at this level it also affects the well-being of the community, because you would have visitors and would-be visitors taking note of this and making decisions not to visit the island because of the threat posed."


"Fishermen trading food for guns"

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