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article imageVenezuelan fishermen turn to piracy as industry collapses

By Karen Graham     Dec 8, 2016 in World
As Venezuela continues on its downward spiral into economic collapse, in the coastal state of Sucre, out-of-work fishermen have turned to piracy, killing dozens who still venture out into the open sea, trying to make a living.
The fishing industry in Sucre was once home to the world's fourth-largest tuna fleet. But the fishing industry, along with almost every industry in Venezuela has collapsed, and people have become desperate.
It is a desperation born out of being unemployed, having no money to feed their families, and looking at a future that seems to be bleak and empty. So gangs of pirates have been formed, and they prey on those who still try to venture out to fish, stealing their catch and motors.
They gangs don't stop at just stealing, they quite often tie fishermen up and throw them overboard or shoot them, says the Associated Press. And a dead fisherman's family is not safe from the gangs, either.
One evening in September, seven members of the Marval clan were returning to land after a day of fishing when they heard shots. "There's no way to run when you're stopped dead in the water, so I just started praying, 'God, let them leave without hurting us,'" 42-year-old Edecio Marval said.
Instead, after stealing the clan's catch and the boat's motor, the pirates shot dead Edecio's oldest child, as well as two others. As the gang was preparing to shoot one more fisherman, one pirate shouted for the others to stop. "No, that's my friend," he said. The two fished together until last year.
"People can't make a living fishing anymore, so they're using their boats for the options that remain: smuggling gas, running drugs, and piracy," says Jose Antonio Garcia, leader of the state's largest union.
In Sucre, the catch is down to less than a third of the 120,000 tons of tuna Venezuela produced in 2004. Several private fishing companies have left Venezuela for other countries because the government requires them to sell half of their catch for virtually worthless bolivars.
In June, Sucre, one of Venezuela's poorest states, was at the epicenter of food riots that swept through the country. Desperate, many people are now stealing what remains of fatter times, taking everything from fishing nets to power generators and boat motors.
One Sucre lawyer, Luis Morales says, "Here it's just poor fishermen robbing other poor fishermen. It's the same kind of crime we've seen in the streets, but spreading to the sea. Tomorrow, it will be taking over life on the farms or in the mountains."
More about Venezuela, Fishermen, collapsed industry, Piracy, Dozens dead
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