Six activists from the grassroots Revolutionary Bolivar and Zamora Current (CRBZ) were assassinated in Barinas State on July 27.
The victims, one of whom was pregnant, were part of the Hugo Chavez Popular Defence Brigades organised by the CRBZ in Barinas, Tachira, and other states regularly plagued by landowner violence against campesinos.
No information is yet known about the assailants, but the CRBZ claimed in their statement that they had “military training”.
“We want to denounce to the country and the world the murder of six comrades, presumably by mercenaries paid by right-wing landowners in the region,” the group declared, before adding that the six would remain present “in every battle and in every day of struggle”.
The incident reportedly took place as the militants were repairing a motorbike in the Ticoporo Reserve.
The killings sparked immediate outrage and expressions of solidarity from Venezuelan and international activists alike, with participants in the Sao Paulo Forum demanding justice.
“On behalf of the Patria Grande movement [in Argentina] I want to express my solidarity and repudiate this action of landowners who want to subjugate campesinos,” said Silvana Broggi during the meeting, which took place in Caracas.
Chavista popular movements likewise voiced their solidarity and cry for justice in a Twitter storm, with the hashtag “no more Chavista killings” (#NoMásChavistasAsesinados). It became the top trending hashtag in Venezuela on July 29.
National Constituent Assembly President Diosdado Cabello said that paramilitary violence in the countryside was not something new and demanded an investigation into the assassinations.
“We strongly condemn this violence and demand a thorough investigation to find the culprits,” the Chavista leader said on July 28, vowing that the crimes would not go unpunished. The Attorney General’s Office has yet to issue a public statement, though the CICPC investigative police have appeared on scene to gather evidence.
There has been a recent increase in targeted killings of campesinos in the context of escalating disputes over land rights.
Landowner violence was one of the issues driving the Admirable Campesino March in July 2018, in which dozens of campesinos march more than 400 kilmetres on foot to demand a meeting with President Maduro on the need to change the state’s rural policies. A televised meeting took place, and Maduro ordered that a commissions be created to resolve land disputes and end impunity for the violence.
However, campesinos have repeatedly claimed that little to no progress has been made, with several new campesino murders taking place since then. The continued setbacks have led campesino activists to return to Caracas and set up a vigil at the Land Institute to demand answers.
According to campesino groups, since the inauguration of Venezuela’s revolutionary land reform law in 2001, more than 300 small farmers have been murdered by hired guns employed by large landowners. While in some cases the assassins have been convicted for their crimes, impunity continues for the landed elites who are financing the killings.
[Reprinted from Venezuela Analysis.]