Indigenous Yukpa Protest Outside Venezuelan Supreme Court

Over 80 Yukpa indigenous Venezuelans are protesting in front of Venezuela's Supreme Court in order to demand a ruling on whether three arrested Yukpas can be judged under indigenous law rather than the national legal system, in the wake of a conflict over land demarcation.


Merida, July 22nd, 2010 ( – Yesterday over 80 Yukpa indigenous Venezuelans arrived for the third time from the Sierra de Perija and stationed themselves permanently in front of the Supreme Court in order to demand that the court issue a ruling on a constitutional appeal introduced in February to determine that three arrested Yukpas can be judged under indigenous law rather than the national legal system.

The website reported that the Yukpa would camp outside the court until it provides a response to the appeal. Human rights organisation representatives told Aporrea that under the constitution the Supreme Court has three days to decide on a petition, but has taken over four months so far.

Caracas alternative media collectives and popular movements also visited the protest to support it.

Under article 133 of the Law of Indigenous Communities and Peoples and article 260 of the Venezuelan constitution, indigenous communities have jurisdiction and the right to apply their own law.

The Yukpas Sabino Romero and Olegario Romero, and Wayuu Alexander Fernandez have been imprisoned since October last year when there was a confrontation between indigenous groups and two were killed and four were injured.  The Attorney General’s office and the Zulia state court charged the men of murder, assault, and conspiring between members of the community.

The Supreme Court has suspended the case until it resolves the constitutional appeal.

Government officials have claimed the fight was an internal conflict over stolen cattle, while Sabino Romero, who received three bullet wounds, called it an attack by the other community and said it was a result of divisions among the Yukpa over the government’s land grant offer.

Some political movements claim that Sabino Romero is a victim of government politics, where its development plans conflict with indigenous land claims.

Romero opposed accepting the government’s offer, which involved granting the Yukpa a third of the land they were asking for, in dispersed allotments. The 40,000 hectares were officially granted to the Yukpa the day before the violent incident last October.

New coal mining plans in the region have also been suspended but not cancelled. Local Indigenous communities are somewhat divided over the move, with some working in the mines and others displaced by them.