Venezuelan Lives Drift Away at Sea

In the past six months, three Venezuelan boats carrying Venezuelan migrants have sunk at sea. At least 50 people have disappeared on these dangerous journeys to the neighboring insular States.

Photo: MercoPress, retrieved.

You have to understand,

That no one puts their children in a boat

Unless the water is safer than the land

Warsan Shire

Aruba is so close to Venezuela that you can see its lights from parts of our Falcón state on clear nights, and only 70 km separate Trinidad and Tobago from the North-Eastern Venezuelan coast. Both islands are closer than Perú or Ecuador, but reaching them is a lot more dangerous: while Venezuelan caminantes have to endure a difficult journey through the Andes or the Gran Sabana on their way to the rest of South America, the toll of leaving the chavista-fabricated crisis by sea is getting higher.  

Joemar Vargas died on March, 2016, trying to make it to Aruba on a raft

On January 10th, 2018, a boat from Falcón capsized at Koraal Tabak on the way to Curaçao. At least ten people disappeared at sea. 

According to a Reuters special report, on April 23rd, 2019, 37 people left Venezuela from Güiria for Trinidad on the Jhonnaly José peñero, a traditional wooden boat mostly used for coastal fishing. Nine people were rescued from the water, one body was found and the rest remain unaccounted for. 

Later this year, on May 16th, a second boat carrying 30 people sank on the same route. Nobody knows what happened; a man the authorities believe to be the captain of the ship was found by a fisherman. Local media claim that he has a record for trafficking women for sexual exploitation. 

Since these trips are clandestine, it’s hard to tell if the passengers take the trip voluntarily or if they’re part, indeed, of human trafficking operations. Desperate people are nothing if not vulnerable: there’s no way of knowing for sure if they leave under false promises and if they know about the dangers of the journey. 

Some outlets say that most of the passengers on the Jhonnaly José, that capsized at Boca de Dragón, were women, further fueling suspicions about Venezuelans taken abroad for an illegal prostitution network, and since these journeys are irregular cross-border movements, it’s also hard to tell how many people are on the boats, who made it safely, which boats sank, how many survived or who perished. Clandestine migration plus the ocean, equals confusion. It’s as if we were reporting about Cuban balseros or African migrants making their way through the Mediterranean. For example, about that April 23rd wreckage, the BBC reports that 21 people were on that same boat that capsized on its way to Trinidad, but only four were rescued. 

Univisión reports that approximately 35 passengers paid around $400 to make the journey from the small town of Agüide, in Falcón, to Curaçao on June 7th, 2019. The boat capsized and nobody knows what happened to them. A body was found at Bullenbaai Bay in Curaçao, but authorities can’t even confirm the man’s identity. 

They say you should live free or die trying. Well, some people really die.

Nina Rancel

Nina is an actress and comedian living in Bogotá. She loves reading and correcting people when they screw up, which is perfect for working as a copy editor at Caracas Chronicles, because she gets to do both.