Published on 12 October 2015 by Venezuela Analysis
One of Venezuela’s main rural social movements, the Revolutionary Bolivar and Zamora Tide (CRBZ), has publicly denounced what it describes as the politically motivated murder of one of its activists, Luis Hernando Lázaro Chávez, last Tuesday, October 6th. A press release issued by the collective states that communal council spokesperson Lázaro Chávez was killed in a machete attack at his rural home in Tachira state on the Venezuela-Colombia border last week.
According to statements made by a CRBZ spokesperson to Venezuelanalysis, two assailants took advantage of a blackout in the area to enter Lázaro Chávez’s home and immediately decapitate the victim. The attackers also cut off the fingers of a minor who was in the house during the incident and one of the victim’s daughters remains in hospital after having received several blows from a machete.
To date, the local community has accused two Colombian residents of having carried out the attack. The CRBZ accuses both of belonging to “irregular groups” of former paramilitaries alleged to have been demobilised during the government of Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010). Former paramilitaries and criminal gangs are known to operate on the Colombian-Venezuelan border, often forcing residents to pay a “protection” fee known as a “vacuna”.
The Venezuelan government claims that these groups are heavily involved in lucrative smuggling activities at the border. The CRBZ has denounced the murder of more than 300 campesino rural land reform activists by hired killers in the pay of wealthy landowners over the last decade. The latest assassination reported by the group took place this past August in northwestern Carabobo state.
While no landed interests appear to have been threatened by Lázaro Chavez’s activism, the group states that the assassination is representative of a new violent rightwing strategy to terrorise and displace rural residents allied with the Bolivarian government.
"(It has to do with) the creation of new forms of attacking the revolution, the practice of neutralising community leaders, which is related to irregular warfare," the spokesperson told Venezuelanalysis.
According to the collective, early political assassinations have morphed into murders “dressed up” as personal matters or common robberies, provoking a lackadaisical response from authorities. In the case of Lázaro Chávez, one of the alleged murderers is purported to have had a personal issue with one of the victim’s children.
Nonetheless, the CRBZ says it’s not a coincidence that “outspoken Chavista leaders are the ones being killed”.
"No one decapitates someone and mutilates their children as part of a personal issue,” said the spokesperson, referring to the particularly gruesome nature of the murder.
The CRBZ is demanding a full investigation into the assassination, as well as the consolidation of the “People’s Bolivarian Militia” to confront the violence.
“Paramilitarism and hired killings are not some future threat, they are real practices and elements which our comrades are forced to endure and suffer at the border and in other communal territories in the country,” reads the statement.