Baby dies after coast guard opens fire on Venezuelan migrants

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Venezuela demanded Monday that Trinidad and Tobago launch a full probe after the country’s coast guard fired on a boat carrying about 40 Venezuelan migrants a day earlier, resulting in a baby dying in his mother’s arms.

Venezuela sent condolences to the mother involved and urged its neighbor to the east “to carry out an exhaustive investigation to clarify the facts surrounding this fatal incident,” a Foreign Affairs Ministry statement said.

The baby, identified as Yaelvis Santoyo Sarabia, died in the arms of his mother, Darielvis Sarabia, during maneuvers by the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard to intercept the boat in which they were traveling.

Sarabia also suffered gunshot wounds and was taken to Trinidad’s Sangre Grande Hospital.

According to the Trinidadian authorities, the vessel from Venezuela refused to stop before a halt, so coast guard agents fired shots in “self-defense,” as they allege that they feared for the lives of the crew in the face of a possible “onslaught.”

The prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Keith Rowley, urged Venezuelans “not to risk their lives” and “those of others in the illicit and dangerous crossings” into Trinidad and Tobago.

In a statement on Sunday night, the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard said one of its patrol ships ordered the vessel to stop and later fired at the vessel’s engines in an attempt to force it to halt, only later discovering that it was carrying migrants on board.

“Further checks discovered one adult female who was holding an infant who she indicated was bleeding,” the statement said, adding the woman was taken to a local health facility. “Regrettably, the infant was found unresponsive.”

Rowley said he had spoken with Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez about the incident and hoped for better future cooperation between Trinidad’s Coast Guard and Venezuela’s National Guard.

Since 2018, more than 100 people have lost their lives in the area between Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela – only around 100 kilometers (60 miles) apart.

The route is heavily trafficked by people smugglers transporting migrants trying to escape crisis-hit Venezuela.

Boats are often overloaded and accidents are common.

According to the United Nations, some 5 million Venezuelans have fled the country with 30 million population since 2015, with 25,000 choosing to go to Trinidad and Tobago, a country of 1.3 million, which says it has recorded the arrival of 16,000 Venezuelans.

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