By Yesenia Garcia in Sucre.
Additional reporting by Carlos Camacho in Caracas.
“Imagine the pain I feel! I went from believing that my sister was detained to knowing that she was found dead floating in the water. The pain I feel is indescribable,” said Luzmiry Calzadilla upon learning that her older sister, Gabriela Subero, is one of the victims of the Güiria shipwreck, where on the night of December 12, 12 bodies appeared floating seven nautical miles from the municipality of Valdez, Sucre state. In the case of Gabriela, a tattoo was the key to identifying her body.
The Nicolas Maduro regime admitted Monday night 21 lives lost in the shipwreck of two makeshift vessels departed with Venezuelans trying to migrate to Trinidad and Tobago. The owner of Mi Recuerdo – My memory- one of the two boats involved in the shipwreck, is already in custody, regime authorities reported on Monday and have accused them of human trafficking.
Trinidad and Tobago continued its policy of sending Venezuelan migrants back, on the same precarious boats and over the same treacherous waters they used to reach its shores, even though Venezuela is now experiencing the largest exodus in the history of the Western Hemisphere. It is unclear if the shipwrecked Mi Recuerdo and Mi Refugio vessels were indeed at some point stopped and turned back by the authorities of the island or if they just never arrived at the island nation.
Gabriela wanted to raise money to buy food and clothing for her three children: 7-year-old twins and a 14-year-old boy. The sister of the victim, Luzmiry, crying, explained to El Pitazo via telephone on December, 14 that her 33-year-old sister dreamed of going to Trinidad and Tobago to try to solve the economic crisis they were experiencing, which increased by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The husband of Gabriela had left two months ago for the island, and she was going to join him. “We thought she was in jail on Trinidad because relatives of the passengers on the boat found out and told them that the people who arrived on Monday, December 7, were being held. I do not understand what could have happened,” she wondered.
“My sister left her twin daughters and son with us because she said she was going to help her husband raise the money to help us financially and buy her children clothes and food,” she said.
A tattoo gave clues
Gabriela was the oldest of six siblings, and her family describes her as a brave, enterprising, collaborative, and hard-working woman, someone who had been left with nothing by the economic, political, social, and health crisis in Venezuela, her sister says.
Luzmiry Calzadilla works for the Catholic charity Caritas in Guiria. She says that they only knew that her sister was leaving on Sunday, December 6, at 6:00 pm for Trinidad and Tobago, but that she never made it clear in which area she would be taking the boat. Organizing such trips is a clandestine endeavor boat often leave at night in a dangerous attempt to avoid being detected by authorities.
Two days passed, and they did not hear from Gabriela. Then, the worst possible news came.
The desperation and crying made Luzmiry words falter before she spoke about the state in which her sister got found. They recognized the body of Gabriela by a tattoo on her back with the names of their parents.
“We could not even see her because the body was in an advanced state of decomposition. We only gave the description and characteristics of her to the officials. We recognized her when we told the officials the names of the tattoo on her back. All the bodies are unrecognizable,” she said.
Crying and amidst the weeping, Luzmiry said: “My God! may the authorities put an end to this. Many families are devastated.” The body of Gabriela and 11 others arrived after 10:00 pm in Guiria after having been in a municipal cemetery in Cumana, Sucre municipality.
There, a commission of the Scientific and Investigation Police performed the forensic examinations.
So far, the inhabitants of Güiria count 19 bodies found at sea after the shipwreck, of which there are still no precise details as if the victims were on which boats because the two ships are missing and left on the same day. There is no exact number of victims due to how the boats leave from different beaches in the area.