Rowley Rues fatal shooting of Infant By Coast Guard
The shooting incident involving the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard which resulted in the killing of a baby and injury to his mother demands a full and independent enquiry.
Already, there are conflicting reports on exactly what happened in the waters off Trinidad’s south eastern coast just before midnight on Saturday night. The T&T Coast Guard has said it was forced to shoot in self-defence after a vessel that had illegally entered T&T’s waters began ramming its inflatable boat which had been deployed from the TTS Scarborough to help intercept the vessel.
This view is challenged in an interview given to the Washington Post by the sister-in-law of the injured mother. Daicelis Salgado said the injured mother told relatives that when the captain of the Venezuelan boat spotted the T&T Coast Guard he tried to turn back to Venezuela but was pursued by the Coast Guard which began shooting at his boat’s engine. Salgado reported that the injured mother said she was standing near the engine holding the baby to her chest when they were both shot.
It is not surprising that this incident has been making international news. The shooting of illegal migrants by national border patrols is not commonplace and the killing of a baby under any circumstances is a tragic and highly emotive issue.
In Venezuela, the incident has triggered outrage from human rights organisations and the Opposition.
Venezuelan Vice-President, Delcy Rodriguez, took a call from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. Given the diplomatic stakes involved, Dr Rowley’s prompt call to Caracas, expressing sympathy and moving to establish early high-level talks between the T&T Coast Guard and Venezuela’s Guardia Nacional was important for defusing possible tension between the respective coast guards and governments. However, Dr Rowley stopped short of making any reference to an enquiry, opting instead to “appeal to our Venezuelan neighbours to not be encouraged to risk their lives and the lives of others in illicit and dangerous border crossings”.
The shocker in his statement was the disclosure that almost six months after being appointed ambassador to Venezuela, Major General (Ret’d) Edmund Dillon is yet to present his credentials to the Government of Venezuela as is required before taking up the position. Whatever the reason for the delay, Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs, Dr Amery Browne needs to explain and to state Dillon’s current status with the ministry.
Trinidad and Tobago’s lack of ambassador-level diplomatic representation in Caracas over the past few years has been a serious foreign-policy shortcoming given the national and international relations implications of being a mere 11 kilometres from a country that is under United States embargo and experiencing sustained economic collapse.
Probe Coast Guard shooting Trinidad & Tobago Express Newspapers