The Diocese of Carupano mourns the death of 27 people in a shipwreck in Guiria
The lifeless bodies of the castaways are lined up on a Güiria dock. One next to the other, swollen by the water, faces deformed, eaten by the fish, half-naked. A macabre image of the tragedy washed up on Venezuela’s shores.
Twenty-two corpses were returned to the coast, pushed by the waters more than a week later. They were crew members of two boats that had left on December 6th the fishing village of Güiria in the state of Sucre, in the northwest of Venezuela, to cover the 100 kilometres that separate it from the Port of Spain, capital of Trinidad and Tobago.
“First they found 16, then they went up to 21, today they have informed us that there are already 27 bodies. It is inhumane. It is not known for sure how many people were on these boats. There are bodies of children, pregnant women, young people. The people are desperate and they launch themselves into an adventure that ends in a tragedy,” Bishop Jaime Villarroel of Carúpano told the International Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in a broken and tired voice.
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The desperation of which the bishop speaks has led more than 4.5 million Venezuelans to leave the country, fleeing from misery and hunger. Levels of poverty and inequality that makes Venezuela a runner up to Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Boats leave Guiria almost every week. The mafias charge US$500 to embark on the dangerous routes used by traffickers in the past to move gasoline and drugs and now, to traffic human beings. “We have a work team there, we have a house for migrants passing through, we are providing a lot of support there so that young people and other people do not have to go risking their lives making these tragedies happen. Unfortunately, it cannot be stopped and the families here, in this diocese, and also in Venezuela in general, are left mourning,” the Margariteño bishop says with sorrow.
In his statements to ACN, the prelate also accused the mafias of both countries of taking advantage of the needs of the people and warned the authorities not to assume their responsibilities. “It is a very complex and very difficult situation. Our people have turned to pray, to ask, to demand, so that the competent authorities can respond to all that has happened to these families who are full of pain. Pray for them as well,” asks Monsignor Jaime Villarroel to the charity.
The site of the tragedy, three hours from Carúpano, is the second most important city in the diocese. “We went immediately to Güiria, on Monday, [December] 14, to accompany the families with our presence, supporting them with food, medical and psychological care and then we held a religious celebration to encourage, console and sow a little hope and trust in the Lord,” says Monsignor Villarroel.
According to stories from relatives of the victims, when the boats arrived in Trinidad and Tobago they were forced by the authorities to turn back, without giving them the possibility to refuel. The first victim who was picked up from the water, at the Güiria dock, turned out to be the sister of a Caritas volunteer. “She was in a high state of decomposition, only recognized by her tattoos,” Villarroel explained.
“We ask God for mercy for our faithful, for our people, and for dignified conditions, so that hope can be sown in the midst of this harsh and difficult reality. Thanks to you and all the other international organizations for the support you are giving to our people. Forget us in our pain,” the prelate concludes.