The Güiria Tragedy

At least 20 Venezuelans drowned in the Caribbean sea, trying to get to Trinidad and Tobago. It should be an extraordinary event, it should be a day for national mourning, but we’re almost used to tragedies every day

Photo: Tal Cual Digital

  • The most recent shipwreck of Venezuelan migrants off the coast of Güiria, in Sucre state, became a civic drama that demanded a collective mourning, at least on social media. On the other hand, chavismo commemorated the 26th anniversary of the first hug between Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez, so they used several hours on TV for testimonies and interviews about a pair of narcissistic men, 21 hours after the first bodies were found (including children); Nicolás’s Interior Ministry admitted it did happened and reported they’d recovered 4 bodies, saying that Trinidadian authorities are investigating the cause of the accident too. The problem for them, it appears, is not the tragedy, but the way people use these events to criticize the Executive. Authorities brought the bodies to Cumaná because there are no pathologists in Güiria.
  • Only those in power seem to ignore what citizens are going through, from lack of basic services, to mass violations of their human rights, to losing sovereignty for political design: in Venezuela we have prisons, dominated and controlled by criminals and territories controlled by irregular armed groups, that are allowed to do so by civilian and military authorities. The horrific living conditions in Güiria have been denounced on several media outlets these years. This area of hostility has collected dozens of missing people (at sea and on land), kidnappings of Venezuelan girls and teenagers who are victims of human trafficking, and local authorities admitting they can’t control the criminals. Immigrants succumb to sea on dozens of illegal trips and the State remains silent on over 100 Venezuelans who have traveled to Trinidad and Tobago. The worst part is that Nicolás has chosen to protect his political ally and announced that he’ll help them “detain illegal immigration” when he’s the one causing it. 
  • Organized crime wouldn’t be as strong as it is today without the complicity of military and civilian authorities. The indignation and shock that the Executive is faking hasn’t generated any real change in the criminal power structure that they have allowed. Recognizing that the fracture of the productive apparatus was a political decision and therefore, so are hunger, shortages, the devaluation of our currency and the destruction of the State for any activity that isn’t punitive are even worse. If it isn’t about censoring, taxing or punishing, the Venezuelan State does not exist. Even if it’s easier to blame all the horror on sanctions, the country that existed before them was a disaster that they rather forget. It must be emphasized how important corruption has been in causing this drama and how the dismantling of democratic institutions will block any attempt to fix what is broken. If we also consider the inhumanity with which governments like Trinidad and Tobago treat migrants and refugees without any authorities guaranteeing their rights, the prospect is terrifying, but living conditions in Venezuela keep expelling people every day, pandemic and all. 
  • OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro called on countries in the region to receive Venezuelans who are seeking asylum “abiding by the non-refoulement principle and international law”. UN agencies reported an increase in the number of Venezuelans abandoning the country and they’re afraid the tendency will continue. They estimate that there will be 6 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees, which would be more than the Syrian crisis. After the number decreased because of the pandemic, and 130,000 people returned, 500 to 700 people leave the country every day, even though (as always) these figures provided by the State don’t reflect reality, as denounced by Eduardo Stein, IMO and UNHCR representative. UNHCR has detected a notable increment in the number of people who arrive in “precarious shape”, as said Babar Baloch, UNHCR spokesman, who warned they have detected “unprecedented levels of trauma and desperation”. Stein doesn’t rule out that the political crisis will keep pushing migration. Despite all this, we are still one of the least financed humanitarian crises in the world, which will make it hard to solve it in 2021. 
  • Mario Silva harassed Crónica Uno journalist Yohana Marra for publishing the news of 19 Venezuelan migrants drowning at sea on their way to Trinidad and Tobago. Silva said Marra was a “palangrista” (someone paid to write in a particular disingenious tone, to harm a third party) and attacked human rights activist Rocío San Miguel.
  • Nicolás exhorted U.S. congressmen to investigate the resources that Donald Trump’s government gave to Leopoldo López, Julio Borges and Juan Guaidó , “to conspire against the country”, an amount he calculated at around one thousand million dollars (?). He assured them that if they hold an investigation, they’ll find great surprises including “robbery, lies and fraud”. 
  • Activities all over the nation were restricted because of an “increase of cases of COVID-19”. Now the international flights authorized from Venezuela will only be with Mexico (a country with terrifying statistics), Bolivia (political allies) and Turkey (with around 2 million cases). 
  • Nicolás demanded on Sunday that every security body had to exert “law and order”, considering how the number of coronavirus cases has increased. He didn’t tie the increase to the electoral campaign but to the “people’s neglect”. He warned that he’s thinking about implementing a 14-day radical quarantine in January. 
  • There were 609 new cases and 5 deaths yesterday, for a total of 107,786 cases and 954 deaths they’ve admitted to. NGO Médicos Unidos de Venezuela said that over ten healthcare workers have died of COVID-19 so far this month, making it 282 deaths in this sector. 
  • The cases of COVID-19 in the world surpassed 72 million on Sunday, with 1.2 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The curve is rising again in the world. America has registered 30 million cases and 776,000 deaths. The most affected country is still the U.S., with 15.6 million cases, then India with 9.8 million, Brazil with 6.8 million and Russia with 2.6 million. 
  • The Panamanian government suspended commercial flights from Venezuela as a reciprocity measure after Nicolás’s regime canceled Copa Airlines’ flights to that destination. 
  • Families of over 20 Venezuelans who left from Trinidad and Tobago to Venezuela demand to know their whereabouts. They say their relatives were intercepted by the Trinidadian coast guard and were sent back to Venezuela. They assure these citizens aren’t part of the shipwreck. 
  • The IACHR exhorted Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago to establish coordination strategies to guarantee safe passage on their maritime border and access to protection procedures for forced migrants. 
  • AN Speaker and caretaker President Juan Guaidó called for a national march on January 5th, 2021, rejecting the fraud of the parliamentary “election” on December 6th. He called on the Armed Forces to be on Venezuelans’ side, who already expressed their will in the Popular Consultation on Saturday: “What are the Armed Forces going to do starting 2021, when there protests for lack of gas, food, cooking gas can’t be contained?” he asked. 
  • Guaidó assured that next year, protests will keep happening, supported and called by the opposition. He also said: “We’re mourning the lives of 19 people who were expelled from their country by a criminal dictatorship,” emphasizing that the country is undergoing the worst crisis in history, with poverty indexes only comparable to countries at war, like Syria.

Naky Soto

Naky gets called Naibet at home and at the bank. She coordinates training programs for an NGO. She collects moments and turns them into words. She has more stories than freckles.