David Smilde and Hugo Pérez Hernáiz

Sunday March 4 at approximately 7:00 pm Sabino Romero was shot dead while traveling on a road of Perijá, Zulia state. His wife Lucia Martinez has also hurt but survived the attack. Romero was on his way to vote in a local Head Chief election.

Sabino Romero was a known Yukpa leader engaged in the indigenous struggle for land rights. He often denounced the complicity between local government authorities and landowners against the indigenous of the Perijá area.

Romero was part of a conflict over land concessions that began in 2008. In recent years the Yukpa have organized to demand a homeland as stipulated by the 2005 law on indigenous peoples. However there are powerful economic and strategic interests are at play. The land is a key agricultural area, sits on top of massive coal fields, and is nestled between Maracaibo Lake and the Colombian border. As a result the Yukpa are sandwiched between local economic interests including ranchers and their armed defenders, and the government which has hedged on conceding strategic territory.

This has divided the Yukpa community as some have been willing to accept a patchwork of land concessions while others, including Sabino, have demanded that they stay unified to demand a unified territorial homeland.

In a press release Provea denounced that Sabino Romero had “suffered permanent harassment by police officers”. According to Provea, since 2012 six indigenous yupka have been reported murdered by sicariato.

As commented in a previous post, human rights organizations Provea and Homo et natura are currently facing trial for their support on July 2010 of yukpa manifestations in front of the Supreme Justice Tribunal. The third round of hearings on that trial is scheduled for tomorrow March 5th.

Today there is a demonstration in front of the Attorney General’s office in downtown Caracas. Homo et Natura director Lusbi Portillo will be making a statement.