The Piaroa indigenous leader Freddy Menare was killed earlier this month, in circumstances which remain to be investigated.
Freddy who worked in the late 1990s with the National Experimental University of Guayana (UNEG), in an FPP-supported territorial mapping programme, had been the long-term spokesperson for the Piaroa people of the Sipapo river, a right-bank affluent of the middle Orinoco. Building on the mapping and self-demarcation project, he was one of the indigenous leaders who led the filing by the Piaroa and Hiwi peoples of their land claim to the Sipapo river basin, which they have inhabited since long before Venezuela existed as a country. Their land claim, while fully consistent with the Venezuelan Constitution and other legal procedures, has yet to be recognised.
In recent years, as a widely respected leader of the Piaroa Indigenous People’s Organisation of the Sipapo (OIPUS), Freddy was at the forefront of community efforts to halt the invasion of the Sipapo river by illegal gold-miners and Colombian insurgents. His killing is seen as yet another example of the lawlessness and lack of protection of indigenous peoples’ rights that prevails in the interior of Venezuela. Freddy Menare is deeply mourned by his friends.