Venezuela: indigenous protest at supreme court

On July 21, over 80 indigenous Yukpa people arrived in Caracas for the third time from the Sierra de Perijá and began a protest vigil in front of the Venezuelan Supreme Court. The protesters are demanding a ruling on an appeal introduced in February to determine that three arrested Yukpas can be judged under indigenous law rather than the national legal system.

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. Yukpa indigenous leaders Sabino Romero and Olegario Romero, and Wayuu indigenous leader Alexander Fernández have been imprisoned since last October, following a confrontation between indigenous groups in which two were killed and four injured.

The Prosecutor General’s office and the Zulia state court charged the men with murder, assault and conspiracy. The Supreme Court has suspended the case pending a ruling on the appeal. Officials claim the violence was an internal conflict over stolen cattle, while Sabino Romero, who received three bullet wounds, said it was a result of divisions among the Yukpa over the government’s land grant offer. (VenezuelAnalysis, July 22)

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