Venezuela probes indigenous leader's murder

Venezuelan authorities launched an investigation on Monday into the murder of an indigenous leader who fought for the demarcation of native land in the northwest of the country.

Sabino Romero, the 58-year-old leader of the Yukpa ethnic group, was shot several times by two people on a motorcycle in the state of Zulia on Sunday, officials said. His wife was wounded in the attack.

Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said a prosecutor had been designated to investigate the "horrific assassination" and that police crime scene experts were sent to Zulia.

Juan Carlos de la Rosa, leader of the Wainjirawa indigenous organization, said the shooting was committed by "two masked assassins," adding that Romero's wife would be released from the hospital after suffering light wounds.

This type of attack, he said, "has historically taken place against all those who fight for land."

A human rights group, Provea, says on its web page that six Yukpas were murdered by hitmen last year.

The Venezuelan government expropriated more than 15,000 hectares of land in 2011 to hand it over to Yukpas, who have demanded the return of ancestral lands now used by cattle farmers.