All 12 Guyanese fishermen detained by Venezuela arrive home

Some of the fishermen at Charity Wharf on Saturday
Some of the fishermen at Charity Wharf on Saturday

The 12 Guyanese fishermen who were detained and subsequently released by Venezuela following international pressure have since arrived home in Guyana, making landfall in their vessels – Lady Nayera and the Sea Wolf – at Charity, Essequibo Coast, on Saturday and subsequently going into quarantine.

The fishermen arrived at Charity at about 02:30h Saturday. It was verified when the fishermen arrived that they were not harmed or mistreated during their ordeal/detention in Venezuela.

Their relatives told reporters that the fishermen were given food by the Venezuelans during their detention and just before they departed Port Guiria, Venezuela. However, the Venezuelan navy confiscated the fishermen’s catch, amounting to over $5 million worth of fish from the two vessels. As such, the men is hoping that government will assist them with fishing glue as most, if not all, their fishing materials were seized by Venezuela.

It was explained that the fishermen took COVID-19 tests in Venezuela prior to their departure. When they arrived in Guyana, they had to conduct further COVID-19 tests. They are currently awaiting those test results, while remaining in isolation.

Those results are likely to be delivered by Monday.

On January 21, the two Guyanese-registered fishing vessels and 12-man crew were operating off the coast of Waini Point in Guyana’s EEZ when they were intercepted by the Venezuelan naval vessel, Commandante Hugo Chavez GC 24, which was illegally traversing Guyana’s waters.

The Lady Nayera and the Sea Wolf docked at the Charity wharf

The Venezuelans boarded the vessels and the captains were instructed to chart a course to Port Guiria, where they were detained and kept.

The crew of one of the ships, the Lady Nayera, included Captain Richard Ramnarine and his crew members Ramlakan Kamal, Nick Raghubar, Javin Boston, Michael Domingo and Joel Joseph.

The other ship, the Sea Wolf, was captained by Captain Toney Garraway, while the crew members included Errol Gardener, Orland Roberts, Christopher Shaw, Shirvin Oneil and Randy Henry.

The men were subsequently brought before a Venezuelan court, after which reports had emerged that they could be kept in custody for some 45 days pending an investigation. However, Venezuela came under immense diplomatic pressure to release the men.

In fact, at an meeting of the Organisation of American States (OAS) Permanent Council two weeks ago,  a number of countries on the Council took a firm stance against Venezuela, including the United States (US), Canada, Trinidad, Brazil, Antigua and Barbuda and Belize.

Additionally, both Caricom and the OAS had issued statements in which they urged Venezuela to release the men and cease its acts of aggression against Guyana.

Statements also came from the new Joe Biden Administration in Washington, in the form of acting US State Department Assistant Secretary Julie Chung. French Ambassador to Guyana, Antoine Joly, also spoke on the issue.

On February 2, the fishermen were released on the orders of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro himself. According to Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, the men were released and the legal proceedings against them discontinued.

The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry also released a statement of its own, in which it attributed the release of the men to the intermediation of specific Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries like Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.