Caracas, June 5, 2023 (OrinocoTribune.com)—The Venezuelan government is preparing a “comprehensive response” plan to address the demands of the Yukpa indigenous people of Zulia state. The Yukpa community has protested in recent days, demanding that they be allowed to sell their handicrafts in Caracas, among other demands, according to the Venezuelan Ministry of Interior and Justice.
In a statement on Thursday, June 15, the Ministry reported that Interior Minister Remigio Ceballos has met with leaders of Yukpa and other indigenous communities living in Zulia, to listen to their demands and “guaranteeing the deployment of public policies of the Bolivarian government to attend to the indigenous communities in the region.”
The meeting was attended by leaders of these indigenous groups and national and regional authorities, to achieve “the collective construction of the plan of action to be applied in the territory for a comprehensive approach to meet the demands of the indigenous peoples” of Zulia state, bordering Colombia.
#AHORA || Este Estado Mayor tiene como principal objetivo garantizar el despliegue de las políticas públicas del Gobierno Bolivariano del Pdte. @NicolasMaduro, para la atención de las comunidades indígenas de la región.#BastaDeRoboYManipulaciónImperial pic.twitter.com/xadM1aQUvs
— MPPRIJP (@MijpVzla) June 15, 2023
Minister Ceballos stated that the meeting aimed to “reestablish a direct and constant link” not only with the Yukpa people but also with the other indigenous groups of the region. He added that the authorities of the indigenous areas, as well as those of public infrastructure, housing, culture, food, health, and education are participating in the comprehensive response team.
On Monday, June 12, around 100 Yukpa people blocked the bridge over Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela’s largest lake, for 12 hours, demanding that they be allowed to market their products in Caracas, but this was not allowed by law enforcement agents. They also asked for dialogue with government officials to discuss other issues, such as road problems affecting their main economic activity, agriculture. Yukpas are facing shortages of medicines in the Sierra de Perijá region, something very common in Venezuela after the US and the European Union imposed illegal sanctions affecting the lives of millions of Venezuelans.
Yukpas have suffered severe aggression since the time of the Spanish Conquest, and later by the pro-US governments of Venezuela before the arrival of the Hugo Chávez government. The Chavista constitution of 1999 granted the Venezuelan indigenous peoples the right to land demarcation, but it has not been properly achieved in all cases, among which is the case of the Yukpa people.
The Yukpa community has been trying for more than a decade to reclaim their ancestral lands that are now occupied by latifundistas [large land-holders]. This led to violent responses from the latifundistas. On March 3, 2013, one of the foremost indigenous leaders in Venezuela in recent years, Sabino Romero, was assassinated. The masterminds behind this crime were never apprehended. The latifundistas have committed more acts of assassination targeting the Yukpa people.
Sabino’s struggle has been continued by his son Sabinito, and by widows of assassinated leaders, such as Lucía Martínez, Romero’s wife. However, in recent times, an agreement was reached whereby the Venezuela government would buy from the Yukpa their handicrafts, one of the few items they can still produce in their reduced territories. However, the government, suffering from the revenue crisis created by illegal US blockade, has not been able to fulfill its promise, which led to the recent Yukpa protests. The Yukpa people were prevented from traveling to Caracas to claim their rights; and they were not allowed to go even to Maracaibo. They ended up carrying out demonstrations in the terminal of Machiques and the main road of that municipality.
Lusbi Portillo from Homo et Natura
The funds that the Yukpas need, as explained by the anthropologist Lusbi Portillo to Versión Final, involves resolving a series of key issues for their own productive development. It includes the government not fulfilling the payment of $90,000 to buy their handicrafts as an alternative income solution, given the serious land-related limitations to their agriculture activities.
“They need a comprehensive plan to carry out agricultural activity,” Portillo explained. “They need tractors and equipment; real support: gasoline, oil and diesel tanks; and accompaniment of a staff that can be a technician, or the driver of the machine who is a special staff, and those who handle the oil, the rest can be Yukpas, but no, it is not possible.”
According to the expert who has been highlighting the hardship suffered by Yukpas for decades, “if the road had been fixed, they would not have been forced to make a living solely from handicrafts, because it is a secondary activity. But then all the bananas have turned yellow; they can no longer take them out to sell, because they have to be sold when they are green. Now they cannot carry them to sell because they would have to go kilometers up and down the hill until they reach the road that connects Machiques with El Tokuko, which is the last community of the Barí territory.”
Orinoco Tribune Special by staff
orinocotribunehttps://orinocotribune.com/author/orinocotribune/September 28, 2023