Two Venezuelan tradesmen say the choice to leave their crisis-plagued country was a “desperate” effort to support their families.
The men, 33-year-old Niconaty Jose Guerra and 35-year-old Pedro Antonio Cabrera Sifonte, who were caught aboard a speedboat 25 metres off Heywood Beach in St Peter with a large sum of US currency, also admitted that they had committed “a big mistake”.
“Both of us are family men and we had to leave because of the crisis situation. We didn’t have any other means of supporting our family, so we needed to get out to find someway of supporting our family. Quite sometime has passed and we really need to see our families and we are asking to be forgiven,” Guerra told Magistrate Kristie Cuffy-Sargeant as he spoke through interpreter Bernard Cumberbatch.
The non-nationals had moments before pleaded guilty to disembarking without the consent of immigration when they arrived by sea and for entering Barbados other than at a port of entry between October 1, 2019 and February 16, 2020.
Attorney-at-law Dave Porter also pleaded for leniency on his clients’ behalf saying that they were among the four million people who migrated from Caracas “for various reasons” during the political crisis in their country last year.
He revealed that the two men, who first travelled to Trinidad, were both involved in common law relationships and had four young children each.
“I submit that because of the political crisis the situation created desperate measures. And because my clients sought to feed their families they saw an opportunity to travel and work in order to take back to Venezuela,” Porter said.
He agreed that the charges before the District ‘A’ Magistrates’ Court were “very serious offences” which were not condoned but “due to the nature of that crisis” his clients left with no documentation [and] they seized the opportunity to provide for their family.”
Given those circumstances Porter urged the court to extend “some leniency and convict, reprimand and discharge them” for the offences.
Magistrate Kristie Cuffy-Sargeant ruled against the application and remanded the non-nationals to Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds, until March 19, pending sentencing.
It was at this point that Guerra asked to address the court and after a brief word to his lawyer said: “All I want to say is if some leniency can be shown to me. I know that we committed a big mistake . . . .” As he spoke his accomplice, Sifonte, who sat on a side bench, put his hand under his chin and appeared to be in deep thought before holding his head with both hands and was seen silently fighting back tears.
The court heard from prosecutor Kenmore Phillips that Coast Guard officials were acting on a tip-off and navigated the waters to Heywoods, St Peter, along a beach there they observed the men on a speedboat before a local boarded the vessel as well.
The officers intercepted the men and requested a search. They discovered US$30,310 as well as $5,000 Bolivars. Guerra and Sifonte were taken to the Coast Guard base where they were questioned through of an interpreter.
There they admitted that they entered Barbados sometime in October 2019 but did not know the location.
A check by officers at the Immigration Department showed no records of the men arriving or where they were staying.
Immigration officer Joseph Marshall was in court with other colleagues and said there was no information on the department’s system about the men.
“As a result the persons entered Barbados not known to Immigration,” he stated.