Sur del Lago, Venezuela: Landowners Drive Peasants Off Montecarlo Property

CRBZ land dispute continues on the Pan American axis of the South Lake. Two days ago an event took place that evidences the unequal character of the struggle and part of the reasons why the advances are not greater. It was in the Montecarlo property, where a little less than a year ago the peasants mourned the murder of Kendri Márquez, son of one of the comrades who was fighting for the recovery of these lands: although all the facts, especially the direct threats, point to the landowner Mirella Vega Vega as the presumed perpetrator of the murder, justice has not been done and the crime remains unpunished.

The event in question occurred on May 15: a commission presented itself on the property and, without any credentials, identified itself as having been sent from the vice presidency of the Republic. The commission was made up of representatives of the Office of the People’s Advocate, Alejandro Mora, the judge of the agrarian courts in the first instance of El Vigía, Carmen Rosales, the first lieutenant of the FANB in that area, with the surname Contreras, and the prosecutor of the sixth prosecutor’s office, Jesús Leonardo Ojeda Coronel. This commission was accompanied by the lawyer of Mirella Vega Vega, who was also present at the site with her son.

The peasants became aware early in the morning, as they carried out the daily tasks of planting, several cars and trucks arrived at the property, which went to the house that the alleged owners have on the farm. Since the peasants were not notified of the visit, to avoid any doubt, some 50 peasants went peacefully to the courtyard of the house, where the alleged owners were with the authorities.

The peasants were received by the representative of the Ombudsman’s Office, who invited them to stay while he was holding the meeting, which consisted, to the surprise of the peasants, in the notification of an alleged order of protection of the 116 hectares of the farm and the cattle that inhabit it, which, according to them, was dated December 19, 2018. The Ombudsman’s Office, represented by Alejandro Mora, explained that the protection order was based on the complaint filed before the agrarian court by the Vega Vega family.

The meeting was then conducted in a highly aggressive and intimidating tone. The peasants were interrogated with a high degree of aggression about their stay on the property. The partiality of the authorities on the side of the alleged Mirella Vega was notorious. A peasant expressed that they had indeed gone to the agrarian court based in El Vigía, but that they were not welcomed, which generated the anger of Judge Rosales, who aggressively burst in to affirm that she was not attending to the parties. However, when she said this while drinking coffee at the landowner’s table, it was clear that she was not attending to one of the parties, the peasant, but to the other.

Then Adelis García, father of the murdered teenager, was verbally assaulted. Prosecutor Ojeda accused Kendri’s father of not feeling pain for his son’s death, since he did not follow up on the complaints made about the crime. García knows that the perpetrators of the crime are free, and he fears for the lives of his other children: “If you support me, I must take care of the lives of the rest of my children”.

It is necessary to remember that the Montecarlo property has been in dispute since August 2018, when the landless peasants entered their properties after denouncing the unproductiveness of the land before the National Land Institute (INTI) and observing the irregularities of the former owner of the land, Mirella Vega Vega, who after the denouncement started introducing machinery and livestock to the property, after years of abandonment, with the supposed intention of simulating productivity.

Today, thanks to the work of the peasants, the production of the land is being increased. The 14,000 banana trees and the 14,000 cocoa trees planted so far are convincing evidence of this, since they will produce an approximate harvest of 350,000 kg of banana and another 500,000 kg of cocoa. This contrasts with the state of total abandonment in which Ms. Vega had the land for more than 8 years, and in which she continues, since it can not be called productivity with a few heads of cattle thriving on their luck.

The peasants who are fighting to rescue these lands in order to advance in the productive reactivation of the countryside are calling on the country’s agrarian authorities, specifically the National Land Institute, to address the case. In addition, they demand an investigation of prosecutor Jesús Leonardo Ojeda Coronel, attorney Alejandro Mora and judge Carmen Rosales, who are clearly acting in collaboration with landowner Mirella Vega Vega.