Caracas, August 17, 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan social movements celebrated victory on Friday following a long awaited court ruling sentencing to 30 years the man accused of murdering Yukpa indigenous leader Sabino Romero.
Angel Antonio Romero Bracho, (aka “Manguera”) was given the maximum sentence under Venezuelan law for his role as the principal physical culprit behind the death of the indigenous chief, a verdict for which countless activists fought over the span of two years.
"This is a victory of very many people, Sabino's family, his wife and children, and above all the Yukpa people," sas Lusbi Portillo of the Zulia-based environmental and indigenous rights group Homo et Natura.
"The social movements worked very hard in taking this trial to the streets," he told reporters, adding that the nearly year-long trial was dragged out by the defense, which consisted of as many as four lawyers reportedly hired by Manguera's powerful benefactors.
Sabino Romero was shot and killed the night of March 3rd, 2013 by the hired assassin Manguera and several accomplices who are believed to have been contracted by wealthy cattle ranchers in the Perija Mountains, located in western Zulia state.
Prior to his murder, Romero reportedly earned the scorn of the powerful landowners when he began spearheading land occupations in an effort to reclaim the Yukpa people's ancestral territory, as recognized by the Bolivarian Constitution of 1999.
In light of the fierce land struggles in which the assassination of indigenous leaders by big landowners has long been met with impunity, this ruling against Manguera marks an historic precedent.
"This case is very important, because for the first time in Venezuela, the murderer of a [Yukpa] indigenous person is sentenced and the rancher financiers face trial and possibly jail," Portillo noted.
However, for the Romero family and the Yukpa people, the battle is far from over. Social movements will remain in the streets demanding the trial and sentencing of the wealthy ranchers who financed the assassination, a judicial process which Portillo says is underway.
Apart from trial for the landowners, activists are also calling for a new trial for five police officers linked to the crime, who were originally given a light sentence of seven years in a judicial irregularity which many attribute to the influence of the powerful ranchers over the local court.
Additionally, social movements are seeking justice in the case of eight other assassinated Yukpa leaders, dating back to the 1995 Kasmera massacre and extending to the killing of 19-old Cristobal Fernandez by national guard soldiers on June 24th, 2014. These cases have yet to be opened for investigation, let alone taken to trial.