Police await DPP’s advice on probe into Venezuelan baby shot, killed at sea

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Yermi Santoyo and other pallbearers carry out the coffin of his of one-year-old son Yaelvis Santoyo at his funeral at the Church of Nazarene, Arima, on February 18, 2022.
Yaelvis was shot and killed by a coast guard officer as he was smuggled into TT on February 6, 2022. FILE PHOTO/AYANNA KINSALE –

NATIONAL Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds says the police are awaiting advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) with respect to its investigation into the shooting of a Venezuelan national by the Coast Guard in February 2022 while that person was on board a vessel.

He made this comment in the House of Representatives on April 26.

“According to information provided by the Commissioner of Police, the investigation into incident at sea, involving the TT Coast Guard and a Venezuelan vessel on Sunday February 6, 2022, was concluded and the file on the matter was submitted to the DPP for his direction, when such file was submitted to him on the October 20, 2023.”

Hinds said, “We, like all else, await any further directions of the DPP.”

On the night of February 6, 2022, one-year-old Venezuelan Yaelvis Santoyo was shot and killed and his mother, Darielvis Sarabia, wounded when TT Coast Guard officers intercepted and shot at a boat as it attempted to enter TT waters illegally.

The pair were hiding under a blanket in the boat along with Santoyo’s sister, Dana, when the officers opened fire. Santoyo was shot in the head and died in his mother’s arms.

At the time, the Coast Guard said the officers had opened fire in self defence after the the illegal boat had tried to ram the coast guard vessel in an attempt to avoid interception.

On Friday, Naparima MP Rodney Charles asked if the report which Hinds referred to would be made public.

Hinds replied, “As I have hitherto indicated, the police having completed their investigation exercise, moved the file seamlessly to the Office of the DPP.”

Responding to a second question from Charles, Hinds said Government is taking steps to bring 12 vessels acquired by its People’s Partnership (PP) predecessor from Dutch shipbuilder Damen Ships Ltd for the Coast Guard, back into service.

The Damen vessels, he continued, are not fully operational for several reasons.

Those include onboard obsolete equipment needing to be replaced, overhaul of their engines and upgrade of their power generation systems.

Hinds said Government has entered into a re-certification and maintenance contract with Damen to return all of its vessels to full operational status.

He told MPs the first vessel, classified “CG 23”, is expected to return to service in September.

“The remaining Damen vessels will as well be re-certified and upgraded on a phased basis with the last vessel CG 27, returning to full operational status in early 2025.”

When Charles asked Hinds to elaborate on what he said, Hinds evoked complaints from opposition MPs when he hinted that Charles had a problem with his hearing.

Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George cautioned Hinds not to pursue this argument.

Hinds complied.

In response to a third question from Charles, Hinds said the Fire Service saw no need for any internal investigation into its acquisition of 20 wooden ladders and the ladders have been put to good use by the service.

Hinds dismissed Charles’ claim that this was wrong.

“That is false and it should be withdrawn.”