Venezuela: Wayúu protest militarization

Leaders of the Wayúu indigenous people in Venezuela's La Guajira region, along the Colombian border, are protesting ongoing army exercises taking place in their traditional territory. Yamileth Palmar of the indigenous organization Wainjirawa told an audience at the University of Zulia last week that the augmented military presence has resulted in several deaths of indigenous residents, none of which have been adequately investigated. Palmar said 29 Wayúu people have been killed since La Guajira was declared a special military district. The militarization was launched in part to combat the illegal smuggling of subsidized Venezuelan foodstuffs across the border into Colombia for resale, a practice known locally as bachaqueo. But Palmar charged that the smuggling has not been affected by the troop presence in the zone. (Ultimas Noticias, Carcas, March 21)

La Guajira is one of 10 regions of Venezuela declared military districts by presidential decree in 2011 as part of the crackdown on smuggling and other crime. The decree contained language calling on military forces to guarantee the protection of the civil population, "especially the indigenous." (Crónicas Wayuu, Aug. 26, 2013)