Caracas. Smallholder collectives have taken to the streets in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, to demand justice for Carlos Bolivar to promote.
Bolívar, a longtime activist and spokesman for the Ezequiel Zamora Peasant Council and the Plataforma de Lucha Campesina (Platform of the Peasant Struggle), was killed on March 2 in Guárico state. He was one of the leaders of the long struggle to defend the Los Tramojos estate.
“We are here to call on the national authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the assassination of Carlos Bolívar,” said Jesús Osorio, also a well-known figure on the platform. “This is one of the most emblematic land struggles we have witnessed and one in which a powerful landowner used his influence to undermine justice.”
“This cannot go on with impunity,” he continued. “There is a new offensive by the big landowners in the rural regions who are targeting us to get hold of land.”
In February 2022, around 30 farming families secured land titles for approximately 2,900 of the 4,800-hectare Los Tramojos parcel. They had the unproductive land in 2010 under the Land Act accepted. However, they were forcibly evicted in 2017 after local landowner José Elías Chirimelli produced title deeds that were later found to be forgeries.
Protests by farming families put the spotlight on the struggle. After nearly five years, the Supreme Court finally ruled in favor of the Peasant Council Ezequiel Zamora, paving the way for a return to the countryside. Carlos Bolívar was heavily involved in efforts to restart production.
Soto told Venezuelanalysis that Chirimelli’s threats never stopped: “We feel threatened all the time because Chirimelli got the property right next to ours,” he said. “Why was he even rewarded with land after forging documents?” Soto asked. He called on the National Land Institute to take action to evict Chirimelli from the land and either give the land to small farmers or use it for public purposes.
Smallholder collectives from at least seven states took part in the rally. The speakers brought up cases of murdered activists killed by violence by landowners. One of them was Urbano Reina, who was killed in Cojedes state in December 2022.
Rural movements report that since the passage of the land law in 2001, between 350 and 400 peasants have been murdered, including 27 since the 2018 “Admirable March” (america21 reported), which also included Carlos Bolívar.
The activists went to the attorney general’s office and asked agency chief Tarek William Saab to hear their demands. A delegation was admitted. After the meeting, Andrés Alayo, spokesman for the platform, said that there had already been four arrests in the state of Guárico and that the authorities had confirmed that it was a targeted killing.
The attorney general’s office has pledged to reactivate joint working groups with the peasant movements and the Supreme Court to investigate violence against rural activists and attacks by the judiciary.
Various speakers spoke of more than 300 cases in which powerful landowners have used local authorities and courts to use fabricated evidence to file criminal charges against peasant spokesmen, thereby weakening land struggles.
The march continued to the National Assembly. A parliamentary commission welcomed the farmers’ representatives and also agreed to support action against human rights violations in rural areas and to mediate in conflicts.