Mérida, 2nd December 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Two rural activists were murdered in Venezuela last Friday, which a national rural workers’ organisation is attributing to the activists’ role in combating contraband and price speculation.
Freddy Saya and Gerson Rojas were murdered in upper Apure state, which shares a long and porous border with neighbouring Colombia. They were spokespersons in their local commune and citizen volunteers with state consumer protection agency Indepabis, which fights against contraband and overpricing in the zone.
Pro-government national campesino (rural worker) front, the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current (CRBZ), claim the activists’ deaths came at the hands of hired gunmen. They accuse “elements” of Colombian guerilla group the National Liberation Army (ELN), and corrupt local military and business figures of being responsible.
According to the CRBZ these groups are involved in “multi-million dollar” contraband activity, where Venezuela’s regulated price gasoline, food and consumer products are smuggled to Colombia to be sold at higher prices.
“Along with the people and the revolutionary government, the CRBZ is fighting a battle against the contraband of household goods and gasoline, and this makes us the enemy of those who profit from such activities,” the group said in a press release.
At least five other rural activists in Apure have been killed for similar motives since 2011, the CRBZ says.
Following the two murdered activists’ funeral yesterday, the campesino organisation demanded a “thorough investigation” and justice for the murders, calling on Venezuelan Justice Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres to make a pronouncement on the case.
Along with fighting contraband, the CRBZ supports the “reclaiming” of land by campesinos from large scale landholders and supports new grassroots democratic bodies, known as communes, across the Venezuelan countryside.
According to unofficial figures, since 2001 over three hundred campesinos have been murdered as part of struggles to reclaim lands under Chavez-era land redistribution policies.