HomeNewsThe Coast of Sucre - Venezuela's Most Dangerous Place for Piracy
NEWS

The Coast of Sucre - Venezuela's Most Dangerous Place for Piracy

CARIBBEAN / 15 OCT 2021 BY VENEZUELA INVESTIGATIVE UNIT EN

Merchants traveling to Trinidad and Tobago, fishing vessels, even the occasional tourist: all are tempting targets for pirates off Venezuela’s northern state of Sucre.  

In early October, Venezuela’s agency for maritime safety and rescue (Organización Nacional de Salvamento y Seguridad Marítima de los Espacios Acuáticos de Venezuela – Onsa) established new risk zones for pirate attacks in a new report, based on incidents in recent years.

The most dangerous area in the country, carrying the highest level of warning, was in the northern state of Sucre, especially the stretch of water between the city of Carúpano and the Paria national park.

This area received national attention in September due to the case of Fabio Tavares. On September 14, Tavares was sailing alone from Panama to his native Brazil. As he passed near the Paria península, off the coast of Sucre, he was allegedly intercepted by four boats, each reportedly carrying around ten men armed with automatic weapons. He set off a distress call but his ship was captured, towed back to shore in Venezuela and a ransom of $100,000 was allegedly demanded for his release.

SEE ALSO: Pirates Control Ocean Between Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago

Two days later, Tavares arrived in Trinidad and Tobago where he told his story to authorities, stating he had been tortured in a camp where he had seen human remains. Questions remain unanswered about his experience, including whether any ransom was paid, why he was let go so quickly and who these remains belong to.

Despite these questions, this story is similar to others reported in the area. In 2020, over 150 attacks on vessels were reported in Sucre, up from 120 in 2019, according to data from the Venezuelan Violence Observatory (Observatorio Venezolano de Violencia — OVV).

In the report, Onsa also lamented the lack of action from the government. “From the Paria national park to Delta Amacuro, it’s out of control, it’s a danger zone. The authorities, including the army, should have control of the area…the level of criminality and piracy is far from normal,” said Onsa Secretary General Luis Guillermo Inciarte said at a press conference to release the report.

InSight Crime Analysis

While Onsa statistics show that piracy in Venezuela has increased steadily over the last ten years, the organization says the situation has become worse than ever.

According to Inciarte, reports of piracy attacks are dwindling, not because of fewer attacks, but because the groups responsible have a tighter rein on local communities and authorities do not respond.

The gangs that attack ships off the Paria península have two modus operandi. Sometimes, they pretend their ships have broken down and they attack those who try to help them, or they send various boats to surround their targets, as happened with the [Fabio Tavares's] Klinker,” Inciarte told InSight Crime.

Onsa also stated that the gangs of pirates have grown stronger. “We call them pirates but, while we don’t know the identity of these groups, their capacity to act can be compared to drug trafficking gangs who operate between Venezuela and the Caribbean,” explained Inciarte.

SEE ALSO: Venezuela's Smaller Gangs Carve Out Local Criminal Fiefdoms

When asked about the lack of action from authorities, Iniciarte stated that certain officials likely received payments from pirates to let them operate, similarly to what happens with criminal groups on land.

One fisherman in Sucre confirmed these concerns. “When we go past Carúpano, we used to travel close to the coast, between 3 and 10 miles offshore. Now we have to travel 30 to 40 miles offshore because of the pirates in the area,” he told InSight Crime, speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear for his safety.

“They have very good ships, very big engines, they usually use two engines. There’s always 10 to 15 men on board, sometimes more. They come out armed to the teeth, in very fast boats, and intercept us,” the fisherman said.

However, he added that while the pirates have automatic weapons and grenades, the attacks have become less violent.

“It seems now like they have orders not to murder anyone but to take things, such as fuel, food and contraband,” he told InSight Crime.

The fisherman also decried the lack of intervention by authorities, stating that even the army is afraid of the pirates.

“This has led to a drop in traffic. It used to be full of boats here, it looked like a highway. Now, I’m often alone,” he concluded.



share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

CARIBBEAN / 2 JAN 2013

At least 290 people were killed by police in the Dominican Republic in 2012, amidst a backdrop of declining…

BOLIVIA / 24 OCT 2011

A special task force on public corruption has arrested eight military police accused of participation in a smuggling…

CARIBBEAN / 26 APR 2021

Puerto Rico is seeing a surge in cocaine seizures, indicating that drug flows are being reactivated after months of dormancy…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela El Dorado Investigation Makes Headlines

3 DEC 2021

InSight Crime's investigation into the trafficking of illegal gold in Venezuela's Amazon region generated impact on both social media and in the press. Besides being republished and mentioned by several…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…

THE ORGANIZATION

Backing Investigative Journalism Around the Globe

5 NOV 2021

InSight Crime was a proud supporter of this year's Global Investigative Journalism Conference, which took place November 1 through November 5 and convened nearly 2,000 journalists…