[Marxism] Venezuela - justice for the Indigenous people for the first time

Dbachmozart at aol.com Dbachmozart at aol.com
Sun Oct 9 06:25:03 MDT 2005


VENEZUELA: Justice for indigenous people ‘for the first  time’


Lara Pullin 

On October 12, most countries in Latin  America will celebrate Dia de la Raza,
 or Colombus Day, which in 1492 marked the  beginning of the Spanish empire’s 
destruction of millions of years of the  continent’s indigenous history in 
just a few decades. Yet in Venezuela, the day  is now commemorated as the Day of 
Indigenous Resistance, and to participate in  public discussion about the 
impact of colonialism on indigenous communities and  what can be done to redress 
this. 

President Hugo Chavez, leader of  Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution, is 
himself a proud descendent of mixed  indigenous and African cultural heritage, con 
un pocito de blanco. There are 36  distinct indigenous cultures in Venezuela, 
all of whom have been participating  in the Guaicaipuro Mission, launched by 
Chavez just under two years ago. Chief  Guaicaipuro, leader of the Caracas and 
Teques people, fought off the first  Spanish coloniser-settlers for a decade 
in the 1560s, and eventually preferred  death to conceding his territories. 

According to the national census,  Venezuela has about 500,000 identified 
indigenous people, many living in 2300  distinct autonomous communities. While 
there have been many gains made over the  past six years, perhaps the most 
significant occurred on August 9 this year,  when on ancestral lands in Santa Rosa 
de Tacata, Anzoategui, Chavez issued  formal land titles over traditional 
lands to representatives of the Karina  peoples. 

Noheli Pocaterra, indigenous activist and member of the  Pesidential 
Commission Guaicaipuro, said at the ceremony: “Simon Bolivar, the  first liberator, 
gave back the lands, the best lands, to the original  inhabitants. But President 
Chavez is the first president to ever do this to  dispossessed Indigenous.” 
According to Pocaterra, recognition of ancestral lands  was a precondition for 
advancing the missions with indigenous communities. “For  the first time in 
Venezuela there is justice for our people. These lands have a  great magic and 
spiritual feeling for our indigenous peoples, land is life for  us.” 

Venezuela’s Bolivarian constitution devotes its entire eighth  chapter to 
indigenous rights, outlining land rights and the state’s obligation  to promote 
indigenous cultural values and to consult with communities regarding  
activities such as mining and development. There is a guaranteed presence of  three 
indigenous members in the National Assembly and one state governor. There  are 
also indigenous deputies in state parliaments and in the ministries, such as  
the National Youth Institute. The Bolivarian state also recognises traditional  
medicine and complementary treatments, and protects collective property,  
knowledge and technologies. 

When handing over the land titles, Chavez  also announced a US$130 million 
assistance package, which according to  Pocaterra, will go a long way towards 
increasing economic productivity (mostly  food production), leading to 
self-sufficiency in Venezuela. “The revolution has  arrived for us. Now it’s not just 
words, it’s concrete actions. And now our  first people’s rights are 
acknowledged — not the rights of the coloniser.  Indigenous people can truly 
participate.”

>From Green Left Weekly, October  12, 2005. 
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page.  




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