Merida, 12th November 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Six people are now on trial for their alleged involvement in the murder of Yukpa leader Sabino Romero earlier this year. Those who allegedly paid them to commit the crime, however, are still at large.
Romero was murdered in Zulia state on 3 March this year, just two days before the death of President Hugo Chavez. Two men on a motorbike intercepted the vehicle he was in and shot at him, causing his death as well as injuries to his partner.
Romero was a leader in the fight for Yukpa lands in the Sierra de Perija. Much of the land has been formally granted to the Yukpa by the Bolivarian government, but cattle ranchers, citing lack of compensation, continue to occupy it. Last November Romero protested in Caracas against the violence by cattle ranchers towards the Yukpa. Other Yukpa have also been murdered, including Romero’s father.
On Friday a Caracas court admitted the accusation against Angel Romero, Rigoberto Socorro, Jhon Petit, Eusquides Derizan, Delvis Cardenas, and Giovanny Delgado. They are charged with homicide through criminal association and as hired killers, and also with the injuries to Sabino’s partner Lucia Martinez. The crimes are outlined in the Organic Law against Organised Crime and Financing Terrorism, as well as the Penal Code.
The accused are currently detained in the Criminal, Penal, Scientific Research Body (CICPC) headquarters in San Agustin, Caracas. They were arrested on 26 August.
The group does not include the ranchers who allegedly paid them to commit the murder. Martinez’s lawyer, Douglas Querales, however stated that the accused named twelve ranchers who participated in an assembly where BsF 2 million (US $317,460) was collected in order to plan the murder.
According to the organisation Homo et Natura, a Zulia based NGO which fights for “water and life” in the Sierra de Perija, some of the twelve ranchers have left the country, with one living in the US for the last eight months. The organisation also alleges that the ranchers paid “a large sum of money” to professionals in the judicial system to prevent an arrest warrant being emitted.