Three Campesino leaders were murdered on the La Escondida estate, in the state of Barinas, Venezuela hours after president Nicolas Maduro met with them in Caracas to hear their demands following a 21-day march.
The murdered were denounced via Twitter by Campesino platform Lucha Campesina, who said hooded hitmen allegedly paid for by landowner Ricardo Mora were responsible for the murders. Later Constituent Assemblywoman Enma Ortega confirmed Campesino leaders Reyes Parra and Pedro Vielma were among the victims.
The Campesinos of the council Los Lanceros de la Pescalinera de Zamora were awarded the La Escondida farm in May, and have since then reported harassment and armed attacks by Mora, who claimed ownership of the lands.
The killings took place after president Maduro issued an order to return to the Campesinos the lands that had been granted to them during the government of former president Hugo Chavez. The properties were taken from Campesinos by wealthy landowners who often enjoy the favorable rulings from judges overseeing agrarian issues in Venezuela.
Maduro also ordered a profound restructuring of the legal framework that regulates agricultural work and the justice system relating to agrarian matters. He also announced he would hold a meeting with the country’s attorney general and truth commission to fast-track action on the murder some 300 Campesino leaders since 2001 when the plan for redistribution of lands began.
“We demand justice. No more impunity,” the Campesinos said through social media.
The three Campesinos murdered had participated in the first stretch of the Campesino March, that walked for 400 kilometers.