acing economic collapse, more and more Venezuelan women and men are being lured to Trinidad by promises of well-paying jobs, only to fall victims to human trafficking, slavery for the men and prostitution for the women. Sources say Venezuelan women are placed on “auction”, where bidding by local pimps and brothel operators can reach as high as $20,000.
Wednesday, four Venezuelans –– a woman and three men –– who entered the country a week ago, were found in a two-bedroom, wooden house at Quash Trace in Sangre Grande during a raid by Sangre Grande CID officers. The four, aged 49, 32, 29, and 24, are believed to have been brought specifically to feed the thriving prostitution business.
None of them speak English.
Newsday was told that Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Surujdeen Persad received certain information and coordinated a party of detectives including Inspector Ken Lutchman, Corporal Randolph Castillo, PCs Darrel Francis, WPC Stephens-Sammy, Miranda, Gadar and Joseph. The officers at 9 am, surrounded and stormed the house. Inside, the woman was lying on a bed, a man was sitting in a chair while the other two men were lying on another mattress placed on the floor.
The four could not give any information to officers as to why they were in the country and who brought them in. Officers up to press time, were trying to seek the services of an interpreter to assist in the interrogation of the four.
Their passports, found hidden in the house, indicated they arrived in the country a week ago. No local person was in the house and police were unable to ascertain who is the owner.
Officers found suitcases with clothing and other personal items belonging to the four in the house which has no indoor plumbing.
Police are working on the theory that Venezuelans and other foreign nationals were kept at this house prior to them being “auctioned”, following which, they would then be under the control of the person/s who purchased them.
Officers of the Immigration Department and the Ministry of National Security’s Counter Trafficking Unit (CTU) were alerted and officials from both sections are expected to interview the four Venezuelans. ACP Persad urged members of the public to share whatever information they have, anonymously, on persons in their communities involved in human trafficking.
“We want to send a strong message that we will not tolerate any form of crime including human trafficking. It is abhorrent that persons would seek to exploit women and men for money. We are adopting a zero tolerance against this. We are advising persons involved in such practice to stay away from my three divisions, Eastern, Northern and North Eastern or face the full brunt of the law,” ACP Persad warned Wednesday.
He said intelligence gathered thus far revealed that Venezuelans especially women are being lured by promises of well-paying jobs, easy processing of immigration papers and a system by which money could be easily sent back to their loved ones in Venezuela, which is rapidly descending into economic and political chaos.
However, on arrival in Trinidad many of these Venezuelans, who do not speak English and have no family links in this country, have their passports and other legal documents seized to ensure subservience and are kept virtually as prisoners until time for auction.
“I commend Inspector Lutchman for his hard work, dedication and commitment to duty and the prompt manner in which he acted on the information,” ACP Persad told Newsday. Three weeks ago, officers of the Sangre Grande Police Station raided a club and detained six Venezuelan women and seven women from the Dominican Republic.
The 13 foreigners were later charged with lewd and suggestive dancing. Head of the CTU Alana Wheeler, when contacted, said she would not comment on the issue except to say that Wednesday’s rescue of the four Venezuelans in Sangre Grande is being actively investigated by the police, Immigration Division and the CTU. Immigration sources said that for the past three years, 30 women have been rescued from a life of sexual exploitation and of that figure, 75 percent were Venezuelans. Sources added that the women auctioned for $20,000 are then “rented” to locals especially businessmen, for as much as $5,000 a night, for “sexual services”.