GUNS IN TVs FROM USA
By Andre Bagoo Sunday, March 16 2014
* In-camera testimony discloses ‘new level of sophistication’ in illegal imports of firearms
* Guns also coming in through Venezuela
* Sir David urges new Anti-Corruption Unit to stop inflow
* Report: gang members controlling politicians’ turf
IN WHAT has been described as a “new level of sophistication” in the illegal import of firearms, guns are being hidden in furniture and appliances — such as TVs, stoves and refrigerators — imported from the United States of America, according to in- camera testimony of national security officials revealed in the Sir David Simmons Report.
The Report discloses evidence of how guns enter the country and recommends that steps be taken to address this such as beefing up customs procedures through the establishment of a new Anti-Corruption Unit (straddling Customs and Excise and the Police Service) and closer cooperation with Venezuela, a country which the Report identifies as being a major hub for the flow of these weapons which are today linked with higher levels of violent crime.
The Report discloses that an unnamed witness in an in-camera session of the enquiry stated, “The level of criminal activity today is linked to the introduction of young persons to illegal arms in the 1990s and the use of illegal drugs. From my experience, a number of young people try to explain away that there is nothing wrong with drug trafficking so that society today has a large number of young persons who think that it is alright to traffic in drugs.”
The Report adds, “With regard to the illegal importation of firearms, the witness observed that ‘over the years we have seen new levels of sophistication in concealment methods. Illegal weapons came in appliances such as fridges and stoves, TVs imported from the USA and concealed among legitimate cargo. In one case a water heater was used to conceal high-powered rifles.”
From this witness’s point of view, one of the greatest difficulties facing the security agencies of Trinidad and Tobago is, “that little triangle off the Gulf of Paria, in Venezuelan waters, close to Venezuela, where all kinds of illegal trading takes place. It is very sparse of Venezuelan military or police presence.”
One witness, also in-camera, explained to the Commission how guns enter Trinidad and Tobago.
“There is a place called Tucupita and Pedernales in Venezuela, that is, Delta Amacuro State,” the witness said. “Most of our gang leaders don’t speak Spanish so they have to have a translator in Venezuela to negotiate for them. We were finding out from these guys who were buying the guns, where they were going and so on...These people are able to access from AK47s to AR15s. Whatever type of gun they want, they could be accessed out of Venezuela. That is one of the problems. Unless we can stem the flow of guns out of Venezuela to the rest of the Caribbean, it will be very difficult to slow down the spate of murders.”
The Report finds that, “in Trinidad there are two routes that weapons come through”. It states: “One is the guns from Venezuela; the other is through appliances out of the USA.”
In relation to current trends in gangs, the Report also makes some observations.
It states that gang culture is now so bad that it affects the turf of politicians, dictating where they can and cannot go.
“The spread of the gang culture to Enterprise, Mt D’Or, Maloney and Sangre Grande has created social disequilibrium,” the Report states. “It has also had an intimidatory effect on politicians. There are certain areas of Trinidad and Tobago to which politicians cannot go unless gang leaders pave the way for their entry.”
The Report continues, “One of the disconcerting features of contemporary crime in Trinidad and Tobago is the geographical demarcation of territory by gangs or near-groups. Within particular areas, there are further sub-divisions of territory within which individuals or groups are confined. Crossing borders will inevitably result in violent conflict.”