Venezuela: indigenous leaders assassinated

Venezuelan activist website APORREA reported June 23 the murder of Yukpa-Wayuu indigenous activist Alexander Fernández Fernández and two others, who were leaders of the Yukpa movement fighting for their land in Machiques de Perija municipality, Zulia state, near the Colombian border. 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. Fernández was briefly jailed with Yukpa chief Sabino Romero in 2010, in what their followers have labelled "political persecution."

According to Aporrea, on the morning of the 23rd, "sicarios" or hired killers with Colombian accents and their faces hidden by black ski-masks, kidnapped Fernández, his brother José Luis Fernández Fernández, and a cousin, Leonel Romero, and took them to a clearing where they shot them at close range. On April 14, two other Yukpas, Wilfrido Romero and Lorenzo Romero Rámos, were ambushed and killed while they were hunting to feed their family—bringing the total to five Yukpas killed in three months, all who were related to each other and close to Sabino Romero. Venezuela's investigation agency, the CICPC said that it has opened an investigation.

Alexander Fernández 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 in the region, Fernández said after he was released that he was tortured by the CICPC to say that Sabino Romero was guilty of two murders. (VenezuelAnalysis, June 26)