Bishop appeals for kindness towards fellow Venezuelans

A Venezue­lan Bish­op on a vis­it to Trinidad and To­ba­go has ap­pealed to lo­cals to treat his coun­try­men seek­ing refuge here with kind­ness.

Dur­ing a press con­fer­ence at the Liv­ing Wa­ter Com­mu­ni­ty in Port-of-Spain, Bish­op Jaime José Vil­lar­roel Ro­driguez said Venezue­lans have been en­dur­ing ter­ri­ble suf­fer­ing in their home­land.


He said in 2018 alone last year alone, 20,000 Venezue­lan new­borns died be­cause of a lack of pre­na­tal health care. He said ac­cord­ing to glob­al es­ti­mates, 190,000 Venezue­lans around the world have been forced in­to some form of slav­ery.

Ro­driguez could not say how many of those have been es­ti­mat­ed to be in Trinidad but he said the gap left be­hind by those women forced in­to pros­ti­tu­tion was ev­i­dent on the streets of Venezuela.

“This sit­u­a­tion has bro­ken fam­i­lies, more and more in Venezuela chil­dren are be­ing found left alone with­out the pres­ence of their par­ents. These chil­dren re­main on the streets alone, with­out ed­u­ca­tion, with­out prop­er food at the mer­cy of the delin­quent groups in Venezuela,” trans­la­tor Michelle Watkins told re­porters.

Ro­driguez said many fam­i­lies have al­so been left to grieve for their loved ones lost at sea try­ing to get to Trinidad as they have no clo­sure.

“Boats were ship­wrecked and they nev­er found their bod­ies. These fam­i­lies are liv­ing in an­guish and pain, there is no clo­sure. We are liv­ing in very dif­fi­cult times in Venezuela right now…open your hearts, it does not cost any­thing and it does not make you poor.”

Ro­driguez thanked the gov­ern­ment of T&T for al­low­ing Venezue­lans to reg­is­ter here and work legal­ly for a year. He said he un­der­stands that the gov­ern­ment could not have an­tic­i­pat­ed just how many Venezue­lans would come here seek­ing refuge.

“Cer­tain­ly the gov­ern­ment has tried to help some of the peo­ple who have come here but we al­so un­der­stand that so­lu­tions don’t come from one day to the next. But I al­so be­lieve that the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Trinidad and Venezuela goes back many, many years not just these last few years but for cen­turies and we can al­ways do more for each oth­er.”

He urged Venezue­lans liv­ing in T&T to have hope that one day Venezuela would be out of its cri­sis state and they would be able to re­turn to their home­lands and re­sume their lives.

 - by Sharlene Rampersad. Photo by Nicole Drayton