Sabino Romero, a chief of the indigenous Yukpa people in the northwestern state of Zulia, was assassinated by contract killers on the night of March 3, 2013. Sabino was the principal leader of the Yukpa movement to reclaim their ancestral lands, which have been annexed by wealthy cattle ranchers from Machiques. His widow, Lucía Martínez Romero– who was also wounded in the assassination– has led the campaign for justice, which has seen the successful prosecution and conviction last year of the hired killer, known as El Manguera, as well as the police accomplices. Earlier in June, Venezuela’s Public Prosecution revealed that it would be closing its investigation into Sabino’s murder, but Lucía is continuing to demand that the Venezuelan Attorney General’s office bring charges against the cattle ranchers who allegedly hired the assassin.
I, Lucía Martínez Romero, identity card number 13.707.493, indigenous Yukpa, resident in the Chaktapa community in the Perija Valley, Libertad parish in the Machiques municipality of the state of Zulia in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, widow of Cacique Sabino Romero Izarra, murdered in the presence of my underage son and I in the community of Yukpa Tukuko on March 3rd 2013, an incident in which I was left wounded.
In my dual condition as a victim, I want you to respond to me in writing [detailing] the reasons for which the Public Prosecutor’s Office is refusing to bring to trial the criminal masterminds that paid the hired killer, El Manguera, to assassinate my husband Sabino Romero Izarra. The Yukpa communities of Yaza know which cattle ranchers paid to have us assassinated.
In November 2015, the vice-public prosecutor, Joel Gerardo Espinoza Dávila, personally informed me in his office– I was accompanied that day by the president of the Presidential Commission for Relatives that are Victims of Hired Killings– that the trial against the architects of the assassination of Cacique Sabino Romero Izarra would be carried out at the end of the year. The two previous trials against the physical perpetrators [of the murder]: the five police officers of Machiques and the cattle ranchers’ hired killer, El Manguera, were the responsibility of Judge Vanessa Yajaira Lista Lares from the 17th Court of Justice in the Metropolitan Area of Caracas and the 38th attorney from the Public Prosecution, lawyer Edgar Angulo Bentancourt.
Before beginning these trials, public attorney Espinoza Dávila as well as Angulo Bentancourt had informed us of the same thing: the trial would be separated into three parts: firstly, the five police officers, then the hired killer Ángel Romero Bracho alias El Manguera, and finally the intellectual architects, that’s to say the Gadema cattle ranchers.
The public attorney Laura Álvarez ascribed to the General Management of Judicial Processing Actions made it known via the telephone on the 14th of this month that the case was closed. However, all this seems strange, because the Public Prosecution appears to have changed its mind.
Neither the vice-public prosecutor, Joel Gerardo Espinoza Dávila, nor the 38th public prosecution attorney Edgar Angulo Bentancourt are today working in this ministry. We do not have witnesses to the testimonies made by these two attorneys. To date, nobody from the Public Prosecution has informed me of this arbitrary and illegal decision.
All of my rights as a double victim have been violated, there is no consideration for the indigenous [peoples] or for the defenders of the human rights of the indigenous peoples, given that I am a member of the “ORIPANTO OAYAPO TÜONDE” Association for Indigenous Yukpa Women of the Perija Valley.
We once again demand more justice from the Attorney General of the Republic, Luisa Ortega Díaz, just as we did before the death of Sabino, and once again now that he his dead, and the architects behind his assassination, just as before, continue to run us down without mercy. They remain free on the streets of Machiques, on the central reserves and paths of the Perija Valley, they still have many of our original and ancestral lands under their control, for which my husband, my father in law, son in law, and six more of us from Chaktapa have died. We are struggling for the territories that we have occupied for thousands of years. That is why they assassinate us.
We want justice.
Chaktapa, Perija Valley, June 2016.
Translated by Venezuelanalysis.