Venezuela: indigenous leader assassinated

Sabino Romero, cacique (traditional chief) of the Yukpa indigenous people in Venezuela's Sierra de Perijá, was assassinated on the night of March 3, when unknown gunmen ambushed his vehicle on a road in Machiques municipality, Zulia state, as he was traveling to a community meeting at the village of Chaktapa. Supporters immediately said he had been targeted for opposing extractive industries, particularly coal mining, in the Yukpa territory. Said human rights group PROVEA in a statement: "Sabino Romero had suffered a constant ciminalization by the authorities due to his mobilization in defense of the rights of the Yukpa people. He suffered privation of his liberty for 18 months, and was permanently harassed by police functionaries."

PROVEA noted that in 2009, Sabino Romero's father, José Manuel Romero, was assassinated, with Yukpa leaders blaming a local rancher with whom indigenous communities had been in a land dispute. At least two other Yukpa leaders have been killed over the past four years, as the people have pressed for demarcation of their traditional territory. Despite government promises, the Yukpa say only 3% of their ancestral lands have been titled. (Provea, Libertario Blog, El Nacional, Caracas, March 4)

Sabino Romero

Photo: El Libertario, Caracas

Venezuela: environmentalist detained in Zulia

On March 27, environmentalist Lusbi Portillo, of the citizens' group Homo et Natura, was detained by Venezuelan National Police near his home in Maracaibo, Zulia state.Portillo was held for two hours and interrogated about his links to slain indigenous leader Sabino Romero, his involvement in land occupaitons, the political involvements of his friends and family, and the membership and finances of his organization. Indiegnous and environmental leaders in Zulia protested the detention and expressed grave concerns for Portillo's safety. (Venezuela Originaria, March 28)