As Venezuela disintegrates, a new breed of pirates threatens the Caribbean

In the flickers of sunlight off the cobalt blue of the Caribbean sea, the vessel appeared as a cut on the horizon. It sailed closer. But the crew of the Asheena took no heed.

“We be lookin’ for our red fish as normal, thinkin’ they be fishin’, too,” said Jimmy Lalla, 36, part of the crew that had dropped lines in Trinidadian waters last April a few miles off the lawless Venezuelan coast.

The other vessel kept approaching. “They be needin’ help?” Lalla recalled wondering as it pulled aside their 28-foot pirogue. A short, sinewy man jumped on board, shouting in Spanish and waving a pistol.

“Then we knowin’,” Lalla said. “They be pirates.”

On the April afternoon when the Asheena was boarded, Lalla said, he was terrified.

“The man talkin’ Spanish, he point the gun at me, then he point at the water. I be knowin’. He be wantin’ that I jump,” he said.

So he leaped overboard. The first mate – Narendra Sankar, 22 – followed him moments later. The men were swimming toward an offshore oil rig when Sankar suffered a cramp.

“I had already reached the rig, so I had to be jumpin’ back in, to help him,” Lalla said. “He was goin’ to be drownin’.”

They watched as the pirates seized their vessel, outfitted with two expensive outboard motors. Their captain, Andell Plummer, was still aboard. The two men were rescued from the water by a passing fishing boat. When they reported the attack to authorities, Lalla said, they were told: “We have no boat to go after them; we can do nothing.”

There has been no word of Plummer since, the men say. Trinidad’s Ministry of National Security did not respond to a request for comment about his case.

“My boy, they take him!” said the captain’s father, Deoraj Balsingh, 58, standing by a muddy Trinidadian dock surrounded by boats.

“We don’t know,” Balsingh said. “We don’t know if he livin’ or if he dead.”

The Washington Post’s Rachelle Krygier in Caracas, Venezuela, contributed to this report.

Published by Washington Post.

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