By Lenys Vargas.
The Nicolas Maduro regime has freed two Guyanese fishing boats and their crews after more than two weeks of arrest for allegedly fishing illegally in Venezuelan waters, the biggest flare-up in decades in the 120-years old Guyana-Venezuela border dispute.
Being detained in humanitarian-crisis suffering Venezuela was stressful 29-year-old fisherman Christopher Shaw told Guyana media upon his arrival. The vessels Lady Nayera and Sea Wolf returned this Sunday to port, together with the 12 Guyanese fishermen detained last January 21.
In the days leading to the detentions, Maduro had accused Guyana of acting in league with the US and US oil giant Exxon to harm the regime. The arrests were condemned by the Organization of American States and other international bodies.
The vessels arrived at the Lallbacchan port in Charity, in the Region II of the Guyana territory. They were received by Kumar Lallbacchan, owner of Lady Nayera, and the president of the Region II, Vilma De Silva.
“I feel very good. I am excited to be back home,” said Christopher Shaw, a crew member of the Sea Wolf ship, upon arrival at the port.
However, Shaw said that an undetermined group of his partners is still confined into the ship, awaiting the COVID-19 test results.
The fishermen were arrested last January 21 by Venezuelan naval forces in waters which Guyana considers part of its territory. At the time of their arrest by Nicolas Maduro forces, they were fishing on the Waini River in two groups of six on a board of vessels Lady Nayera and Sea Wolf.
The arrest was the latest episode between Guayana and Venezuela over the Essequibo.
The administration of Maduro rejects Guyana’s request that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) resolves the centennial border dispute, especially after last December, when the court decided, by 12 votes to 4, that it has jurisdiction to “analyze the validity of the arbitration award of October 3, 1899” that established the border with Guyana.
The experience of the detainees
Besides Shaw, the captain of the Lady Navera, Richard Ramnarine, said he was “happy” that he and his men finally returned home and that they had only words of support from their compatriots, including local officials.
Ramnarine lamented that the group returned to Guyana empty-handed; the little money they had, got confiscated by Venezuelan authorities.
“We all came back empty-handed, with no money, no money to give to our families. Some of us do not even have money to return to our homes. We are happy that we came back alive, but we are without money,” said Ramnarine.
Ramnarine appealed to the Government of Guyana to provide them with some financial assistance. “Everyone has debts,” Ramnarine stated.
“Some of the fellows have rent to pay and families to support. And on every trip, we use to bringing money to their families. But this trip was unproductive,” he added.
In response, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Guyana, Hugh Todd, provided the families with clothing and assured them that the fishermen were not involved in illegal fishing.
Todd met with the families of the released men in Region II, a day before the fishermen returned home after being released from prison on Tuesday.
The captain of the Sea Wolf, Toney Garraway, admitted that, at first, he was afraid for the fate of his worker. He was relieved when he heard that the Government of Guyana and the international community were working to free them.