from Weekly News Update on the Americas
ZULIA: INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY ATTACKED
On Sept. 15, a group of 15 heavily armed men in olive green military uniforms arrived in two pickup trucks at the Yukpa and Wayuu indigenous campesino community of Guaicaipuro in the El Tokuko sector of Machiques de Perija municipality in Venezuela’s Zulia state. The men entered the residents’ homes and beat a number of residents before setting everything on fire. Residents say they saw Noe Machado, former owner of the Ceilan estate on which the Guaicaipuro community settled, arrive in another pickup truck with the gasoline used to set the fires. Several community members were injured, and the attackers burned down 38 houses, leaving 376 people without homes. Furniture, livestock and other belongings were also burned and destroyed.
A week earlier, Sept. 8, some 30 armed indivivduals–mostly Wayuu indigenous people who were not from the area–had beaten and threatened the residents of Guaicaipuro. The attackers arrived in a truck and several motorcycles and told residents, in the Wuyuunaiki language, that they were there on Machado’s orders, and that they would pay the community’s residents to leave, but if the residents didn’t accept the offer, the next time they would come to kill them.
A commission from the national attorney general’s office visited the community on Sept. 17 to investigate the incident, take photographs and record witness testimony. The commission members asked residents about professor Lusbi Portillo–who was not at the scene during the attacks and whose name had not been mentioned by any of the community members–and asked them why they had occupied the Ceilan estate. Yukpa chief Ezequiel Anane responded, “No one told us to occupy, we are here because these were the lands of our grandparents.”
Following the commission’s visit, army and national guard troops were dispatched to protect the community. However, on Sept. 20 the troops were suddenly withdrawn, and rumors began circulating that the landowners were plotting a definitive attack. (Agencia Nacional del Pueblo-ANPA, Oct. 20 via Colombia Indymedia)
Portillo, an activist with Homo et Natura, told the Maracaibo weekly Sol de Occidente that violence against indigenous communities has increased in Zulia since the government announced it will not compensate landowners for lands occupied by indigenous groups with ancestral claims to those territories. Portillo said a Chaktapa indigenous community had been evicted from the Tizina estate, and a similar incident occurred on the Puerto Libre estate. Zulia state governor Manuel Rosales–one of only two state governors opposed to left-populist President Hugo Chavez Frias–has promised to create a commission to deal with land reform, but the commission has yet to be created. Five years ago indigenous people from the Wayuu, Bari, Japreria and Yupka ethnic groups began occupying lands in their ancestral territory in the Sierra de Perija mountains near the Venezuelan border. (Prensa Latina, Oct. 23)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct 23
INDIGENOUS GET LAND; MISSIONARIES EXPELLED
In Venezuela, the government of President Hugo Chavez marked Oct. 12–which it has officially declared a “Day of Indigenous Resistance”–by handing out 15 collective property titles to indigenous communities in the states of Apure, Delta Amacuro, Sucre and Anzoategui. The ceremony took place in the community of Barranco Yopal, in Apure. (Resumen Latinoamericano “Diarios de Urgencia,” Oct. 13 from Prensa Presidencial)
The same day, Chavez announced his government was expelling the Florida-based New Tribes Mission from Venezuela’s indigenous territories. The New Tribes Mission, founded in 1942, specializes in evangelism among indigenous groups and has 3,200 workers worldwide in 17 nations. Its 160 members in Venezuela include Canadian, British and US citizens, as well as about 30 Venezuelans. “This is real imperialist penetration,” Chavez said of the group. “They are taking sensitive and strategic information.” (New York Times, Oct. 13 from Reuters; AP, Oct. 15)
The New Tribes Mission has often been accused of links to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The organization closed down its operations in neighboring Colombia after two of its US missionaries were kidnapped in January 1994 by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC); their bodies were found in June 1995.
Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct. 16
CARACAS: CAMPESINOS MARCH
On Oct. 8, thousands of Venezuelan campesinos marched in the capital, Caracas, against the latifundio–the system of large landed estates held by a few wealthy families–and in support of the government’s agrarian reform efforts. The march was organized and supported by the left-populist government of President Hugo Chavez Frias and various campesino organizations, including the Venezuelan Campesino Federation and the Ezequiel Zamora National Campesino Front (FNCEZ). Also participating was the Homeless Committee, which pledged to bring the promise of rural agrarian reform to the cities, “the concrete latifundio.”
The march was timed to coincide with the commemoration of the execution of Argentine-Cuban leftist guerrilla hero Ernesto “Che” Guevara, killed in Bolivia in 1967. Associated Press said 4,000 people took part in the march, though the actual crowd count was likely much higher; the organizers had predicted more than 40,000 would attend. (Agencia Prensa Rural, Oct. 8; Adital, Oct. 5; AP, Oct. 9)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct 9
Weekly News Update on the Americas
See also WW4 REPORT #114
See also our special report on the militarization of Venezuela’s indigenous lands
See also our last blog post on Venezuela:
Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Nov. 1, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution