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One Venezuelan jailed, five deported

One Venezuelan jailed, five deported

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Juan Lopez, one of six Venezuelan nationals arrested at sea by the Rapid Respoce Unit and members of the Coast Guard patrol, will spend the next 32 months at Her Majesty’s Prison.

During that arrest police say they retrieved 35 pounds of cocaine from the boat in which the Venezuelans, who gave their professions as fishermen, were travelling. {{more}}

Lopez pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply, while the five other men entered not guilty pleas.

The six, from the land of Bolivar, were caught in the waters off Pigeon Island near Bequia on October 8, just after 11 p.m. during a joint operation between members of the Rapid Response Unit and the Coast Guard.

The others – Jose Maestre, Efraimn Lopez, Yannis Manuel, Luis Lopez and Omar Montano – were ordered deported by Chief Magistrate Simone Churaman when their matter was heard Wednes-day morning. The men sobbed openly after sentencing.

Appearing before the Serious Offences Court, the six were originally charged with the importation of a controlled drug and a second charge of possession with intent to supply 35 pounds of cocaine; they had all pleaded not guilty. The prosecution, however, on Wednesday, dropped the importation charge, instead going for only the charge of possession.

Lawyer Ronald Marks, who defended the accused men, asked the Chief Magistrate to take into consideration the fact that Lopez was only 31 years old and was a family man with two boys ages nine and five, and had not wasted the court’s time by his guilty plea. Marks also argued that the fact that Lopez could only speak Spanish would make it harder on him if he were to serve a prison sentence here, and that rehabilitation would not be effected because of the language barrier.

However, in her reply, Chief Magistrate Simone Churaman said tersely that prison being more difficult for Lopez was “not the concern” of the court. Churaman said that a clear message needs to be sent to local and other drug dealers, that “Where you do the crime you [must] do the time.”

There remains, however, one other issue to be resolved, that of the confiscation of the boat in which the Venezuelans were travelling as the prosecution has stated its intention to retain the vessel. Chief Magistrate Chruman, however, ruled that Lopez will have to return to court on December 14 to find out whether the speedboat on which they were caught would be seized. The boat is said to be equipped with four-75 HP outboard engines.