The Myth and Reality of the Venezuelan migration to Trinidad and Tobago
The migrant flow to T&T in the 21st century started in the post failed April 2002 coup against Chavez, the assault on PDVSA and the rebellion displayed in Altamira thereafter. Hard core anti-Chavistas came with their skills to T&T, found employment and continue to seek to be the face and voice of the Venezuelan migrant community in the 21st century. But their reality is not the reality of those now entering T&T since 2013 and especially since 2018 as an entirely different demographic is now flooding our shores. The T&T media continues to peddle the rhetoric of this group as “the reality” and in so doing are willingly evading presenting the other realities which and will continue to impact our national security.
Before the coming of the anti-Chavista group, T&T as a result of the drug trade was always visited by organised crime from Venezuela and select individuals established families in T&T and took up residence in T&T. This organised crime group established deep operational linkages in T&T with T&T groups and was well placed to exploit any and all developments in Venezuela that allows them to earn, to generate wealth. They are silent, faceless and wield great power over the entire Venezuelan migrant community of T&T.
In the period 2012 the flow started where Venezuelan women came to Trinidad and were purchased with a bride price of TTD 20,000 to 30,000 and the man paying the bride price must marry her legally under the laws of T&T. With marriage and her legal residence in T&T the process commenced of importing her family, friends etc. At this same time the children of families with a T&T citizen as a parent or grandparent started the process of returning home. They are bilingual and easily found jobs and integrated themselves into the social order of part of their ancestry. The demand to enter T&T was now rising in Venezuela but specifically in the eastern zone of Venezuela namely Sucre, Delta Amacuro and Monagas states and amongst those in the rest of Venezuela who knew of T&T as in Valencia. This zone is critically underdeveloped compared to the oil zone and Caracas and is the eastern drug trafficking zone of Venezuela. Changes in the order of the drug trade in the 21st century deeply impacted this zone as the nature of the supply of product changed and more tonnage was shifted to Brazil for export. This dislocation flowed with the severe neo-liberal austerity Maduro applied in response to the fall in oil prices intensifying the dislocation and suffering in this zone. One response to this economic malaise was migration to T&T.
This rising demand created the provision of the supply of services by organised crime in Venezuela working with those in T&T. Packages of services were formulated with cost attached in US dollars and those with no linkages to , no resources in T&T to utilise bought those packages. Those who cannot afford those packages then found themselves in the hands of the bottom feeders. The fundamental rule is that to travel to T&T you must pay the transporter and the tax levied by the agents of the state. You choose a transporter who refuses to pay the tax then anything is possible. You choose a transporter who is underselling organised crime then anything can happen.
What is obvious is that the client is willingly taking part in a criminal enterprise to enter T&T and they abide by the rules of the game set out by the transporters. The commitment by the client to criminality is hierarchical as the apex is to be transported to T&T evading immigration and customs, picked up on landing in T&T, transported to a safe house and provided with employment. This package starts at USD 3,000 with the most expensive package being entry into T&T via an airline, a no problem exit via immigration, pick up at the airport and transportation to the safe house and employment starting at USD 5,000. The run of the mill route was via the ferries out of Guiria, passage through immigration and customs, pick up and transport etc USD 3,500 minimum. With the closure of the ferry for runs into T&T you now must pay for an illicit entry which is the barest minimum dropped off on T&T soil, no transportation internally, no safe house, no job: USD 500 per head. This is not a charity you must pay one way or the other. You pay cash US dollars or you sell yourself and your children if they are with you into slavery. Those with family in T&T who are paying where are they generating the income to pay this price per head? This is a price that many of us in T&T, citizens of T&T cannot afford! If they are paying from Venezuela understand the reality of this. In Venezuela today the minimum wage is about USD 8 per month which means that to earn USD 500 will take 62.5 months which means that you and your family have resources whether licit or illicit or both. The discourse is that you are suffering, poor and indigent which meant that you sold yourself and your children where applicable into slavery. Why then enter T&T fully outfitted in keeping with the manual of the human smugglers: no Venezuelan passport nor cedula which means that you are stateless and cannot be easily deported. A passport today in Venezuela officially costs SB 160,000 and a renewal SB 80,000 and you can purchase one unofficially for much less then the minimum package in USD to be illicitly inserted in T&T. Whilst a cedula is obtained unofficially for way much less so you are a genuine migrant and you don’t even have a cedula? Try that on the regime change media of T&T not a T&T panyol as myself. Next smuggling play, every Venezuelan interdicted in a brothel was trafficked and is a sex slave because you are taught that you are an illegal migrant working in an illegal industry so when caught cry a lot and give the story of being forced into sexual slavery as it buys you sympathy. The overwhelming reality in T&T and the rest of the Caribbean especially the Dominican Republic is that the demand for transportation for sexual work by Venezuelans outstrips supply. You then have to be a very small minority to have fallen into the hands of those who have to hold women in bondage to be sex workers when the overwhelming majority are willing. Contrary to the myth of Hollywood hard core human smugglers don’t view bondage sex workers as being earners and viable as they as they pose potent risks to the sustainability of the criminal enterprise. In T&T today the human smugglers are now faced with earning from those who cannot pay for their services and they intend to collect their debt which has resulted in handing them off to others who will exploit their labour and service the debt to the smugglers. We now have flesh markets with the most valuable being the markets for the children owned by the smugglers for services rendered attracting the pedophile rings that trawl the Caribbean moving in. Child pedo porn made in T&T anyone!
This flow of Venezuelan women into the sex trade in the T&T market has now resulted in a surplus of Spanish favours on the market which has destroyed the previous situation of demand outstripping supply to one of oversupply which has collapsed the price of Spanish favours. Venezuelan crime groups have moved in and established residences selling favours throughout T&T which has negatively impacted the market position of the powerful, traditional brothels that dominated the supply of Spanish favours. The collapse in the price of Spanish favours has impacted the demand for and the price of favours from non-Spanish women thereby dislocating the market for sexual favours in T&T. This trend is now operational in Tobago. This is a trend noted in the Dominican Republic where in a country that supplies the highest per capita number of its citizens to sex work in the world, the Venezuelans have now flooded into the industry in such numbers seeking to displace the citizens of the Dominican Republic in the industry in the Dominican Republic.
Before the flow of Venezuelan migrants to T&T became a wave Venezuelan organised crime in T&T was undergoing a change that commenced in the fourth quarter of 2013 that is now changing the landscape of supply and gangland in T&T. The new order of the Mexican transnational trafficking organisations impacted Venezuela and by extension T&T generating problems of supply for those who found themselves excluded from the Mexican supply chain. The migrant flow and then the wave brought Venezuelan organised crime and gangland into T&T who had no presence in T&T previously. These new entrants from street gang members on the run from FAES in Venezuela because they lost a war over supply and turf to members of trafficking organisations in Zulia and Tachira states they are now here and the terms of endearment with the occupiers of the turf with their allies in gangland have to be worked out. Both the original and the newly arrived control the smuggling into and intra T&T of the migrants and wield power over the migrant community who have all taken a vow of umerto. The central issue for T&T is the relationship with gangland T&T that will be worked out by the new entrants as they are disruptors in an already unstable terrain in transition under the hegemony of the Mexicans. Already the signs are that the new arrivals are promising those displaced by the new order, supply of what they are looking for ganja and guns but as to their ability to supply and their potential to trigger a gangland war if they can does not bode well for T&T. Another reality that must be understood and monitored is the arrival of Venezuelans with military and law enforcement training and experience within the migrant flow seeking employment. These are assets organised crime and gangland will not fail to exploit to their benefit especially if they are indebted to the transporters. Whilst the migrant flow is the best way to import foot soldiers from Venezuela. Finally, the members of organised crime groups and Venezuelan gangland present in T&T will not register with the government as they must remain nameless, faceless with no trace of them in the system. The challenge is come and find me and deport me! The terrain of criminality in T&T has now changed markedly with this wave of migrants from Venezuela.