HAVANA TIMES — Of course they don’t call themselves Indians, since that was never their name. But in the end everyone keeps calling them that, despite the ethnic group of which they’re a part of, regardless of the language in which they communicate.
They’re “Indians”… especially if it means speaking disparagingly about them, something that’s a historical custom in many countries – as well as in Venezuela.
This isn’t an attempt to address that issue on a single sheet of paper, but I don’t want to remain silent now that I have voice.
A few years ago the Ministry of Popular Power for Indigenous Peoples in Venezuela was created there, though the only result of its existence has been to make more visible the presence and rights of those people who for more than 500 years have been subjected to ceaseless attempts at their physical and cultural extermination.
The ministry has had its achievements…and made some very major missteps as well.
In the last few weeks people have again started talking about Sabino and the Yukpas in hushed voices in certain circles of Caracas. The issue barely appears in the media at the national level.
I learned about the conflict by pure chance and since then I’ve tried to learn more about it.
Yesterday I was alerted to recent developments in a presentation I attended with three Yukpas women. One of them was Zenaida Romero, the daughter of the rebel chief Sabino Romero (do you remember to Hatuey, Guama, Guaicaipuro?). Sabino, according to what everyone says, was one of the few Yukpas leaders struggling for the rights of his people in the Sierra of Perija (in the state of Zulia).
This past October marked one year since the subdividing and transfer of lands to the Yukpas, in collective titles. The supposed “owners” of these lands were also supposed to be given payments known as bienhechurias to compensate them for those “losses.”
However the money allocated to these farmers appears to have gotten lost somewhere…and it seems that the Yukpas got tired of waiting and took over an abandoned hacienda called “Medellin.”
Zenaida Romero traveled to Caracas to speak out about what the newspapers and television hardly dare to report.
On one hand, President Chavez insists that the money for the bienhechurias was already paid. On the other hand, the landowners — continuing or not to take advantage of those lands — refuse to allow entry onto those properties by these “new owners,” resorting to the use of hired gunmen — though this isn’t the first time they’ve shot Yukpas.
These people are the ones who remain in the middle, without land and without many rights to protest because — supposedly — these properties were already transferred to them.
Zenaida, in addition to other women, have been fired upon not only by the gunmen but also by the conspiring National Guard in the area of Machiques. In addition, the Zulia magazine La Verdad published an order for the capture of chief Sabino.
Like in the time of the Spanish Conquistadors, a “good Indian” is the one who stays silent and obeys; all those who rebel and struggle for their rights are hoodlums.
The Attorney General and the Ministry of Popular Power of the Interior and Justice still haven’t opened an investigation into the murders of at least six Yukpas so far this year.
Not only are the interests of cattle ranchers and farmers at stake in this matter, but also mining interests – like in most land conflicts involving men and women of “native peoples” (the name now being given to them).
This is perhaps the most important link and the true reason that almost an entire nation is “turning a blind eye” so that some gunman’s bullet silences Sabino and his people.