This act of piracy goes beyond the thefts that have occurred in Corozal, Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, and others where boats have been stolen for their engines and electronics. The Belize Coast Guard is too small in numbers and equipment. Protecting the livelihood of fishermen is beyond their abilities, let alone small sailboats and other cruisers.
Fisherman Shot With "AK" On Southern Seas
Wed, July 4, 2012
Last night, a fisherman from Sarteneja was shot in Belize's remote southern waters - and he almost bled to death because he was out of communication range. 60 year old Cornelio Verde is in the hospital recovering from a gunshot wound to his buttocks after being shot with an AK47.
That's what a crew of pirates was carrying when they pulled up on Verde and his two sons, Ezekiel and Mescali, at around 7:00 p.m.
The coast guard reports that it happened in the vicinity of Colson Caye - which is northeast of Dangriga.
The Coast Guard responded when they got the call over three hours after the shooting, and the operations officer gave us their account of the terrifying event:
Lt. Greg Soberanis - Operations Officer, Belize Coast Guard
"They were fishermen from Sarteneja. They stated that they were approached by 4 men requesting fuel. The men immediately pulled out a weapon which resembled an AK-47, and the incident turned from one of requesting assistance, to one of robbery. They were instructed to jump overboard from their vessel. They complied and jumped overboard. Shots were fired at the individual, one Mr. Cornelio Verde from Sarteneja Village. He was shot between his right thigh and his buttocks. At that time, they were instructed to get back into their vessel, where they were transported to Colson Caye at their fishing camp, where they robbed of all their products, robbed their 2 engines, and the individual, Mr. Verde, was left bleed and to basically succumb to his injuries. 2 of his sons swam - I might say - a great distance to a vessel that was in the area, but of course, a distance away. Once they reached this vessel, the individuals onboard this vessel were able to make contact with the Coast Guard Headquarters, via phone, and that was when we responded to the incident."
Because they had no means of communication and due to the distances involved, Verde did not get to the KHMH until around 2:00 am; he had been shot almost seven hours earlier.
But, he is in a stable condition - after he underwent an emergency surgery. His family is afraid that they could be targeted again, and so they declined comment.
And indeed, fishermen need to be on their guard, because there are armed pirates lurking.
Soberanis discussed the hazards on the high seas:
Lt. Greg Soberanis, Operations Officer, Belize Coast Guard
"We've been seeing the criminal elements moving out into our maritime domain and basically exploiting the fishermen who are vulnerable out at sea, robbing them of their products. We've seen in the last few months where not only are they robbing them of their products, but they are also taking lives."
Jules Vasquez, News7 Reporter
"Is there any hope of apprehending these particular pirates?"
Lt. Greg Soberanis
"I believe so, Jules, our intelligence team, along with our operations team will definitely work along with the Commandant. Information is there; people keep calling in, and that's what we want. We want people to know how to continue to call us. But we believe that these perpetrators and these culprits will be caught."
According to reports, they stole the fishermen's fuel, groceries, lobster catch, and outboard engine.
Reports are that last night, there was also a skiff stolen in the same area - at a fishing camp on the northern side of Long Caye.