The victims, including one pregnant woman, were part of the so-called Hugo Chavez Popular Defense Brigades organized by the CRBZ in Barinas, Tachira, and other states regularly plagued by landowner violence against campesinos.
No information is yet known about the assailants, with the CRBZ claiming in a statement that they had “military training.”
“We want to denounce to the country and the world the murder of six comrades, presumably by mercenaries paid by right-wing landowners in the region,” the group declared, before adding that the six would remain present “in every battle and in every day of struggle.”
The incident reportedly took place on Saturday morning as the Chavista militants were repairing a motorbike in the Ticoporo Reserve, Barinas State.
The killings sparked immediate outrage and shows of solidarity from Venezuelan and international activists alike, with participants in the Sao Paulo Forum demanding justice.
“On behalf of the Patria Grande movement [in Argentina] I want to express my solidarity and repudiate this action of landowners who want to subjugate campesinos,” said Silvana Broggi during the meeting currently taking place in Caracas.
Chavista popular movements likewise voiced their solidarity and cry for justice in a Twitter storm, with the hashtag “no more Chavista killings” (#NoMásChavistasAsesinados) becoming the top trend in Venezuela on Monday evening.
For his part, National Constituent Assembly President Diosdado Cabello said that paramilitary violence in the countryside was not something new and demanded an investigation into the assassinations.
“We strongly condemn this violence and demand a thorough investigation to find the culprits,” the Chavista leader said on Sunday, vowing that the crimes would not go unpunished. The Attorney General’s Office has yet to issue a public statement, though the CICPC investigative police has appeared on scene to gather evidence.
The Venezuelan countryside has seen a recent increase in targeted killings of campesinos in the context of escalating disputes over land rights. Landowner violence was one of the issues driving the Admirable Campesino March in July 2018 which saw dozens of campesinos march over 400 kilometers on foot to demand a meeting with President Maduro in order to change the state’s rural policies. A high-profile televised meeting took place, and Maduro ordered the creation of commissions to resolve land disputes and end impunity for rural violence.
However, campesinos have repeatedly denounced that little to no progress has been made, with several new campesino murders taking place since then. The continued setbacks have led campesino activists to return to Caracas and set up a vigil at the Land Institute to demand answers from authorities.
According to campesino groups, since the inauguration of Venezuela’s revolutionary land reform law in 2001, over 300 small farmers have been murdered by hired guns in the employ of large landowners. While in some cases the assassins have been convicted of their crimes, impunity continues with respect to the role of landed elites financing the killings.
Edited by Lucas Koerner from Caracas.