Open letter in defense of Lusbi Portillo

Picture: Lusbi Portillo accompanying yukpa leaders Sabino Romero and Alexander Fernandez, a decade ago, after they were freed from political imprisonment. In subsecuent years Romero and Fernandez were killed.

Professor Lusbi Portillo is an academic committed to the Indigenous Peoples and the Defense of the Environment in the State of Zulia.

The governor of Zulia State, Omar Prieto, and one of his subordinate officials, Meira Guerrero, attempted to publicly smear University of Zulia (LUZ) professor and anthropologist Lusbi Portillo, by claiming that he works for “the CIA” and that he regularly receives alleged amounts of dollars intended to finance his opposition to the development of coal mines in Zulia State territory, “until the gringos arrive” (that is, until the U.S. multinationals arrive).

In this regard, the undersigned, university professors, students, professionals and social struggle activists, knowledgeable of Lusbi Portillo’s academic work and social commitment, make clear the following:

  • Professor Lusbi Portillo has been, since the 80s of the last century, an academic scholar of the indigenous peoples of the State of Zulia, particularly those who inhabit the Sierra de Perijá (border area with Colombia): the Yukpa, the Barí and the Japreria; having published numerous articles, books and given national and international conferences on the subject. He has also worked in the lower basin of the Socuy River (Mara Municipality), with the Wayuu people of the Wayuuma’na and Kasuusain communities, for the management and defense of the biocultural heritage.
  • Likewise, his academic activity has been linked to the defense of the environment in that border region, questioning the expansion plans of the coal exploitation that has been developed in that region for decades.
  • Professor Lusbi Portillo’s academic activity and social struggle has always been framed within the current legal and constitutional framework, highlighting in recent years his defense of the struggle for land carried out by the Yukpa people of Perijá, a struggle that unfortunately led to the assassination (by hired killers paid by landowners) of Chief Sabino Romero and numerous members of the Yukpa community of Chaktapa.
  • The struggle against coal exploitation in Zulia has involved numerous university professors and students for decades. This concern is based on the principles of the National Constitution itself (CRBV) which establishes the obligation of the State, together with the active participation of society, to guarantee an environment free of contamination (art. 127).
  • The ton of coal is valued on the international market for a little more than 100 dollars. It is a mining activity that does not produce real profits for the country that develops it, and instead destroys the environment with considerable damage in the areas of exploitation.
  • Open-pit mining has destroyed in an almost irrecoverable way the hydrographic basins of the Guasare, Limón and Cachirí rivers, which supply water to the reservoirs that supply drinking water to the city of Maracaibo (1.5 million inhabitants) and a considerable part of the western coast of Maracaibo Lake. The Aricuaizá, Negro and Catatumbo river basins are also threatened as long as mining expansion plans are implemented.
  • The use of coal as a source of energy for electricity production has tended to decrease worldwide, due to the development of alternative energies such as combined cycle power plants and wind farms.
  • Coal mining generates high atmospheric pollution in the areas through which the material is transported, in addition to causing fatal respiratory diseases among workers. In the Mara and Guajira municipalities, the population can testify how their relatives have died of respiratory diseases after working for years in the coal companies.
  • The continuity of coal mining in Zulia, and the plans for its expansion that the last governors of the State have tried to promote, directly threaten the water supply in Maracaibo, a city that is currently experiencing a deep crisis due to this cause, where there are numerous communities and parishes in which the water supply is suspended for weeks, months and even years.
  • Behind the exploitation of coal in Zulia lie the economic interests of large foreign companies (both Western and Russian), which influence the internal politics of the nation, by means of the traditional and historical hidden maneuvers implemented since the 19th century to obtain from Latin American governments measures favorable to these mechanisms of extractivist economic exploitation under enclave models (which here in Zulia were known during the dictatorship of Juan Vicente Gómez, 100 years ago).
  • No government that assumes a minimum responsibility for the integrity of the environment and with respect to carbon dioxide emissions can practice or promote carbon extractivism without entering into flagrant contradiction with the fundamental requirements of a sustainable development and without exposing itself to the total loss of credibility worldwide.
  • The defense of the indigenous peoples of Zulia State, the Wayuu, Yukpa, Barí, Añu and Japreria, has been present in the university life of the region. Research that has valued indigenous cultures, their ancestral languages, customs and traditions, has been a constant in the last decades in university academic life. The universities have assumed the principle defended by the indigenous peoples of the American continent, that indigenous cultures can only be preserved to the extent that the territories in which they live are preserved at the same time.
  • That is why from the university spaces we have accompanied the indigenous struggles, such as those of the murdered cacique Sabino Romero, which seek to preserve and reconquer the territories that the anarchic vortex of urban, mining and agricultural development has taken away from the indigenous peoples of Zulia. From the classrooms of our public universities we have defended that indigenous peoples without territories are condemned to disappear as a culture. To take away from the indigenous peoples their ancestral territories is equivalent to ethnocide and even indirect genocide. Article 119 of the CRBV guarantees the habitat of indigenous peoples, and the original rights over the lands they ancestrally and traditionally occupy.
  • For the defense of indigenous cultures we agree with a multicultural and multilingual vision, as enshrined in the current Constitution, as well as deeply intercultural in the educational and societal aspects. Economic and social development plans in indigenous territories cannot “harm the cultural, social and economic integrity” of the indigenous communities and must be previously consulted with them (article 120 of the CRBV).
  • The governor’s reference to the “Special Economic Zone” of La Guajira is an alert for all citizens of Zulia, since the special economic zones or zones of “maquiladora” industries, designate territories in which the multinational private capital can do its will more than in the rest of the territories, where it can be exonerated from complying with labor, tax and environmental laws. Greater freedom to plunder the natural resources of the country in question. No special economic zone in Latin America has brought benefits to workers and the people in general.

In conclusion, the academic and social struggle commitment maintained by Professor Lusbi Portillo throughout his life is based on the same environmental rights and rights of indigenous peoples enshrined in the National Constitution. His public activity has been in accordance with the historical foundations that have characterized the policy of university links with organized communities and with the commitment to investigate and offer solutions to the main problems of the Venezuelan people.

The accusation that Lusbi Portillo works for foreign intelligence agencies is not only an infamy. The reality is precisely the opposite of this absurd slander. The interests of the great powers of the international order are oriented precisely towards extractivist economic programs on neocolonial bases, such as those faced and denounced by Lusbi Portillo.

We demand from Governor Omar Prieto a rectification and public apology for these serious and false accusations. These accusations place the personal safety and the very life of Professor Lusbi Portillo and his family at serious risk.

In Maracaibo, on the 14th day of August 2021.


Roberto López Sánchez Professor LUZ

Johnny Alarcón Professor LUZ

Lino Meneses Doctorate in Anthropology ULA

Zaidy Fernández LUZ Professor

Noylibeth Rivero LUZ Professor

Asmery González University Professor

Servio Antulio Zambrano Lawyer

Leonel Galindo Lawyer

Carmen Alicia Hernández Lawyer

Nehemías Bracho Agricultural Engineer

Rogelio Suárez Rivas Social Communicator

Rosaura Bueno Professor LUZ

Belinda Colina Professor LUZ

Luis Romero Professor LUZ

Morelva Leal Professor LUZ

Lorelli Paredes LUZ Teaching Scholarship Holder

Pedro Capett LUZ Professor

Eunice Romero LUZ Professor

Kerlys Moreno LUZ Teaching Fellow

Diógenes Petit LUZ Professor

Ricardo Chirinos LUZ Professor

María Teresa Bravo LUZ Professor

Cecilia Montero LUZ Professor

Moisés Martínez LUZ Professor

Reyber Parra LUZ Professor

Jenniffer Fernández Anthropologist (LU Z)

Ramona Suarez Auxiliar Docente LUZ

Reynibeth Torres LUZ Professor

Jesús Puerta Professor UC

Esteban Emilio Mosonyi Anthropologist National Culture Prize1999

Mariano Crespo Professor UPEL Maracay

Hector Navarro Professor UCV

Darío Gómez University Professor (Lara)

José Parra Teacher

Ana Teresa Gómez Sociologist (UCV)

Gustavo Márquez Engineer

Ismenia Brito Anthropologist (UCV)

Oly Millán Professor UCV

Keymer Avila Professor UCV

Luis González Worker

Gabriela del Mar Ramírez Pérez Human rights specialist

Carlos Silva Popular communicator El Tocuyo

Angel Oroño University professor

Marco García Economist (UCV)

Oscar Rodríguez Hernández Economist, lawyer, University Professor

Angel Arias Sociologist

Enrique Escalona Social fighter and union leader (Zulia)

Stalin Pérez Borges Social fighter and trade union leader

Eloy Rosales Worker

Ana Elisa Osorio Environmentalist

Ivel Urbina Medina Anthropologist Archaeological Museum Quíbor

Zenaida Tahhan Lawyer

Erick Gutiérrez University Professor

Rafic Souki Rincón LUZ Professor

Omar Vázquez Heredia Academic Researcher

Freiman Páez García Sociologist (Apure)

Luis Alcedo Mora Worker (Mérida)

Simón Mora Worker (Mérida)

Humberto Antonio Zavala Guerrero Lecturer (Mérida)

Livia Vargas González Professor UCV

Moisés Durán Sociologist

Edgardo Lander Sociologist Professor UCV

Vladimir Aguilar Castro Professor ULA

Orlando Villalobos LUZ Professor

Manuel Casique Herrera University of Buenos Aires

Gladys Gordones Master in Ethnology ULA

José Balza Hernández LUZ Professor

Simón Hernández Barrios WUAO

Rubén Darío Nava Industrial Safety Specialist

Ana Sofía Viloria Bachelor in Social Work (UCV)

Juan García Popular Communicator

Efraín Bruges LUZ Professor

Santiago Arconada Rodríguez Environmental Activist

Miguel Angel Hernández Professor UCV

Emiliano Terán Mantovani Political Ecology Observatory

Luis Bonilla Molina Other Voices in Education

Norman Prieto University Professor

Víctor Arévalo University professional

Roque Castellano LUZ Professor

Obando Gelvis Leal UPTZ Professor

Edgar Andrade Reyes Professor

Mario Isea Bohórquez LUZ Professor

Genaro González LUZ Professor

Egar Leon Calderon Lawyer Cabimas

Angel Villalobos Engineer

Jesús Arrieta LUZ Professor

Lino Moran Beltrán University Professor

Alejandro Velasquez Lawyer

Beatriz Sambiagio Araque LUZ professor

Arsenio Bermúdez Social Fighter

Luis Enrique Sibira Biology Museum Laboratory Assistant

Nazarela Rojas Eco-environmentalist Front Yaracuy

Arianna Guerrero Chemical Engineering Student

Karledys García Journalist and anthropologist at LUZ

Alberto Zuleta Environmentalist

Steven Bermúdez LUZ Professor

Ender Grand Professional

Eleazar Carrión José Zabala Training School

María de los Angeles Peña Fonseca Professional

Pedro Querales Cultural Promoter

Neibeth Suárez Professional

Omar Muñoz LUZ Professor

Andrés Rodríguez Cultural Promoter 

Mayela Vilchez LUZ Professor

María Suárez Luque UCV Professor

Diosman Bobadilla Social activist

Virginia King Martínez Human Rights Defender

Fernando Saldivia Najul Popular Communicator

David Hernández Palmar CLACPI

Judith Josefina López Fuentes Electoral Power Retiree

Liliana Buitrago Arevalo Teacher, Activist and Researcher

Raimundo Fuenmayor CDEP- EZCCO 

Jennys Carolina Peñaranda yasphe Activist

Daisy González Varela University teacher

Elpidio Gonzalez Wayuu University professor

Ligia Berbesí University professor

German Pirela Pineda Anthropologist LUZ

Julio Mosquera Professor UNA

Maria Gabriela Delgado Lawyer, Agricultural Engineer

Diana Zambrano LUZ Professor

Pablo Kaplun Geographer

Libia Ferrer Professional

Morelis Gonzalo LUZ Professor

Manuel Suárez Rangel Sociologist

Rosa Ortiz Professor LUZ

Oscar Henrrique Fuenmayor Quintero Popular Communicator

Alirio Rangel Diaz Agriculturist Sillerista Farmer

Isaac Medina Journalist Guerrilla Gráfika Collective

Yoner Arrioja Gaitán Engineer Jivi Indigenous People

Bruno Gallo Historian

Lucía Morán Salazar FREZ LUZ Student

Alisia Polanco Professor (Falcón)

Eury Villalobos University Professor

José Raúl Domador Heredia Popular Communicator

Carlos González PDVSA Pensioner

Luis Gerardo Acosta Oil worker

Damián H Contreras M. Retired Petroleum Engineer

Paulina Villasmil University professor

Patricia Parra Hurtado Political Scientist (UCV)

Anna Olivera Lic. Social Management

Pedro Torres Graphic Journalist (Trujillo)

Ángela Barrios Professor Unearte- Caracas

Lilia Ferrer-Morillo Writer, Former LUZ Professor

Carmen Salazar Rodríguez Licentiate Educ. Cultural Development USR

Nelson Morán Ballesteros Bachelor of Accounting LUZ

Solangel Morán Salazar Economist LUZ

Carmen Morán Salazar LUZ Student

Catalina Montilla Vizcaíno B.A. in Business Administration

Rafael Ernesto Araujo Fte Ambientalista Padre Reupa madre Chaseun

Sivio Abreu Fte Ambientalista Padre Reupa madre Chaseun

Nini Bracho Paz Educator. Activist

Magdely Valbuena LUZ Professor

Fernando José Sánchez Salas Professor LUZ

José León Uzcátegui Research Professor UC

Iracara Chirinos Azuaje Social activist (Lara)

Mercedes Azuaje Social activist (Lara)

Natalia Colmenarez Chirinos Social activist (Lara)

Rafael Briceño Social activist (Lara)

Caribay Chirinos Social activist (Lara)

Cósimo Mandrillo LUZ Professor

Roger Luces University of Carabobo

Aureliano Sánchez Professor of Social Sciences (IUPC)

Ana María Castellano Lecturer and Researcher LUZ

Jairo Padrón Morales Civil Engineer

Kelys Amundaray Social Communicator

Rene Arias LUZ Professor

Wolfgang Villarreal Philosopher LUZ professor

Carlos Avila Worker

Tito Barros LUZ Professor

Zuleika Matamoros Teacher and Feminist

Ángel R López V. Engineer

Marialejandra Martínez Process Engineer 

Angela Barrios Teacher

Liliana Urribarri UPTZ Professor

Rogelio Mijares Duc Paris France. Former diplomat

Alejandro Landaeta Salvatierra Juana de Avila Collective

Raúl Antequera Sociologist

Ángel Ramírez Isea Worker

Ángel E. Ramírez Duarte Worker

Aulides García Worker

César Gómez Terán Cameraman.

Mariela Sánchez Urdaneta Editor

Zulay Rincon Worker

José Laurencio Pérez Yllarramendi Architect

Gonzalo Gómez Freire Co-Founder of Aporrea

Rafael Gassón Anthropologist

Edgar Moreno Worker

Leyda González Worker

Manuel Isidro Molina Ex-president of the National College of Journalists

Karina Navarro Jiménez LUZ Professor

Dionisio Márquez Graduate of the ULA

Patricio Prada Pérez Teacher Trujillo

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