More and more poverty-stricken Venezuelans are sneaking into Trinidad and Tobago through porous borders in around the south-western tip.
In recent weeks, hundreds have slipped through Columbus Channel, according to residents of Icacos, Cedros, Point Fortin and other communities.
The number of illegal arrivals is much more than the official statistics provided by the authorities, according to the residents, several of whom are fishermen and traders familiar with the strait between Trinidad and Venezuela.
There is a constant stream from the nearby mainland, most of whom are youths, TT Whistleblower was told.
One boatman said the Venezuelans leave their country through such remote and unmanned areas as Pedernales and Tucupita and travel mainly at nights.
“They are coming in all the time,” he said with a shrug of the shoulder.
He laughed off the relatively low number given by the government and was also dismissive of the statement that many returns after a few days.
He suggested that the Venezuelans have inventive ways of escaping the limited Coast Guard and other law enforcement officers at Cedros.
In May, then-Acting Prime Minister Colm Imbert said that for the year, 14,000 Venezuelans had arrived, with only 43 unaccounted for.
The knowledgeable residents of southwest Trinidad strongly dispute that figure.
They acknowledge, though, that some visitors from the nearby country buy essentials and return to their homeland.
But many others remain in Trinidad, and, according to investigations, get into domestic relationships or secure low-paying jobs as household workers or in the services sector, like family retail businesses.
“They are doing what Trinis do not want to do,” said one businessman.
He said the constant illegal flow of Venezuelans reminds him of the many Guyanese who fled the repressive Forbes Burnham regime a generation ago.
“We have a refugee situation on our hands,” he stated.
He warned that the situation could further deteriorate.
The quality of life in Venezuela continues to decline, with ever-worsening shortages of basic foodstuff and pharmaceuticals.
Independent news reports indicate that there are more lootings for essential food.
There have been some arrests by the Venezuelan police.
There are reports of Venezuelans also fleeing to Colombia and other South American countries.
Some are leaving through the western State of Tachira and through Puerto Santander in search of basic food to feed their starving families.
After buying a few food items, some cross back home.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro continues to blame the crisis on an “economic war” against his government.
Venezuela produces very little foodstuff, and its economy is heavily reliant on the petroleum sector, which is currently in a major slump.
There is also a water shortage in the country of 30.4 million people.