Venezuelan pirates - the new scourge of the Caribbean

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As Venezuela's economy collapses, a tide of lawlessness is spreading to the nearby island of Trinidad. Its fishermen now live in fear of Venezuelan pirates, discovers Colin Freeman, while Venezuelan smugglers exchange drugs and guns for basic necessities.

If your idea of a tropical paradise is based on what you've seen in tourist brochures, the coastline of south-west Trinidad will not disappoint. Golden beaches and coconut groves? Tick. Sleepy villages, full of fishermen snoozing under palm trees? Tick. A relaxed, laid-back vibe? Hmm. Actually, no.

Take a closer look in villages like Fullarton, and you'll notice a few things seem out of place. For one, why have so many of the fishermen got 200 horsepower engines on their boats, when 75 is more than enough? And why, when they go out fishing at night, do none of them put lights on any more?

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Image caption Trinidad's western tips are within sight of Venezuela

The answer, as fisherman Gerry Padarath explains from his beachside hammock, is pirates.

"We're all scared of them now," he tells me. "There's been about 50 fishermen in the village who've had run-ins with them, either being robbed or kidnapped. Our only chance is to fish in the dark, so they don't see us, or buy bigger engines so we can outrun them."

Hang on... Pirates? In the Caribbean? That was 300 years ago, wasn't it? Back when men like Blackbeard and Calico Jack sailed these water....

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