On the 3rd March 2013 Yukpa Chief Sabino Romero was shot and killed in Sierra de Perija, Zulia State in western Venezuela. His daughter, prominent young leader Zenaida Romero, is now in danger and at risk of harm because of her continued defence of the land and human rights of the Yukpa people.
In the last ten years over 90% of the Yukpa ancestral territory, which borders with Colombia, has been lost to cattle ranchers, small-scale mining and government concessions to transnational mining companies. Defending their indigenous rights, the Yukpa people have experienced abuse, threats, violence and criminalisation. Being a prominent leader Chief Sabino Romero had a bounty for his head, yet he refused to be silenced. Leaving a Yukpa meeting at roughly 7pm, three men on motorbikes ambushed him and his wife Lucia Martinez. He was killed and she was left with injuries.
Fears over the safety of other Yukpa leaders, particularly of Zenaida Romero, have increased. Alongside her father, Zenaida Romero has led protests and organised her community. With her strong voice, she has become an international icon of the Yukpa struggle. She has denounced the abuses they are suffering on several radio shows and has spoken to politicians in Europe and the US. On a visit to Brussels, Geneva and London in November 2012 arranged by LAMMP, Zenaida spoke powerfully about her wish to follow in her father’s footsteps though fearing for her and her father’s lives.
The most recent threat has come from the army, who warned Zenaida’s brothers on the night of the murder that many more deaths would follow unless they were to stop their activities.
With her father now dead, Zenaida fears for her safety and is requesting protection for herself and her family.