Mérida, June 26th 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan activist website Aporrea has reported the murder of Yukpa-Wayuu activist Alexander Fernandez Fernandez and two others, who were leaders and members of the Yukpa movement fighting for their land in Zulia state, Machiques de Perija municipality.
The victims had been living on recovered land since December last year. Their families have stated that wealthy nearby ranchers wanted to invade the land, originally owned by the Yukpa people, and have accused the ranchers of being behind the crime. Fernandez was also jailed with Yukpa chief Sabino Romero in 2010, in what some movements have labelled “political persecution”.
According to Aporrea, on Saturday morning “sicarios” or hired killers with Colombian accents and their faces hidden by black beanies, kidnapped Fernandez, his brother Jose Luis Fernandez Fernandez, and a cousin, Leonel Romero, and took them to a clearing where they shot them at close range.
Jose Luis’s wife, Magaly Romero, said the two murderers came to their house that morning, “surprising them” and then made the three men walk 2 kilometres, before shooting them.
Also, on 14 April this year, two other Yukpas, Wilfrido Romero and Lorenzo Romero Ramos, were ambushed and killed while they were hunting animals to feed their family, bringing the total to 5 Yukpas in three months, all who were related to each other and close to Sabino Romero.
Venezuela’s investigation body, the CICPC said that it has begun an investigation.
Alexander Fernandez was imprisoned along with two Yukpa chiefs, Sabino Romero and Olegario Romero, following a confrontation between Yukpa groups in which two people were killed.
According to a statement by the Homo et Natura Society, an environmental group that works with indigenous peoples, Fernandez said after he was released that he was tortured by the CICPC to say that Sabino Romero was guilty of two murders.
Some political movements claim that Sabino Romero is a victim of government politics, where its development plans conflict with indigenous land claims.
Homo et Natura said the “accompaniment process” by the Venezuelan state has been “weak” until now, as well as during and after the “process of demarcation and the handing over of collective [land] titles” in December last year. They also state that the titles imposed living with third parties and argued that Sabino Romero was “punished” by some government members for not “allowing himself to be bribed” and that their policy towards the situation has been “divisive”.
Venezuela’s Yukpa live close to the mid-northern border with Colombia, where a range of dynamics coincide, including drug trafficking, Colombian paramilitary movement, displacement of Colombian rural workers as a consequence of the U.S.-funded Plan Colombia, as well as a large, historic, rightwing in Zulia state. The Venezuelan government also has mining plans in the area.