Guyanese-American women allege abuse by T&T airport officers

Three Guyanese-American women who appeared in court in Trinidad and Tobago in June charged with assaulting a customs officer at the Piarco Airport are disputing the charge and alleging that they were the ones abused.

According to the Trinidad Express, Annette Vasquez and her two daughters Tenecia and Tameka Vasquez appeared before Arima Magistrate Adrian Darmanie charged with assault. They were placed on $65,000 each bail and were scheduled to once again appear in court on July 19. It is unclear what has become of the case.

The Express said it had contacted the Customs and Excise Department on the matter but received a statement saying that the matter was before the court and the agency would await an outcome before releasing its response.

In a blog titled ‘When Pigs are given a Badge’, which was posted on June 23, Tameka gives her account of the ordeal.

She said that on arriving in Trinidad with her mother and sister, they were subject to blatantly rude behaviour by a customs officer.

“We asked the officer where we would go… and he proceeded to insult us and say that we were clearly illiterate because there are signs providing such instructions,” Tameka wrote in her blog.

She related being grabbed by the neck by a man she later learned was a plain clothes police officer, who began shouting at her. The man, she said, punched her twice in her back after which her mother grabbed the man in attempt to get him to stop.

The three women were taken to a room where they were detained for eight hours while being questioned by higher officers. They were then charged and taken to the Arouca Police Station where they were placed in separate holding cells, filled with fecal matter and garbage, for the remainder of the night.

They were taken before the court where they were granted bail but had to lodge their passports.

A senior local Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said that while there have been many reports from Guyanese about the way they are treated in Caribbean islands, there had not been any formal report on harsh treatment by customs officials in Trinidad. The official said that any Guyanese who experienced such treatment should make a formal complaint.

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