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Columbus Statue Toppled in Venezuela on Day of Indigenous Resistance

Columbus statue is pulled from its pedestal
Credit: Reuters

Caracas, October 13, 2004--Yesterday in Caracas, on what used to be celebrated in Venezuela as the day of the Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, a group of young men and women tore down the statue of the 15th Century explorer during this national holiday that was renamed the Day of Indigenous Resistance.

Columbus statue is dragged through the streets
Credit: EFE

The Pro-Chavez website, aporea.org, reported that several groups openly claimed responsibility for the action, which was done independently of any authority in order "undo the symbols of our oppressors."

The statue was located in downtown Caracas atop a 30 foot high pedestal.  Protestors used thick yellow climbing ropes to bring down the 100 year old statue of Columbus and dragged the remains through downtown Caracas and towards the Teresa Carreño theatre, where hundreds of indigenous people presented their cultural songs and dance to each other and other supporters commemorating October 12.  The protestors intended to ask indigenous people to bring Columbus to trial after 512 years.

Protesters hung banners from the monolith and covered it in graffiti, drawing parallels between Christopher Columbus and US President George Bush, telling them both to ‘get out’ of Venezuela. Several hours later, cleaning crews began removing the graffiti.
Credit: Jonah Gindin

While no indigenous groups were involved, a national youth organization supports the action.  "It was an act of symbolic justice," said Angel Montiel, a member of the Organization of Indigenous Youth of Venezuela.  Montiel said that the statue of Columbus symbolized colonialism on the continent.  "It represented invasion and genocide in our land," Montiel said.

According to the opposition newspaper "El Universal," protestors hung the Columbus statue head down from a tree near the Teresa Carreño opera house and shouted, "Justice for the people, justice for the people!" Caracas police and the National Guard recovered the statue of the fallen Columbus and arrested 5 people.

Caracas mayor Freddy Bernal, a Chavez supporter, condemned the action, saying that the municipal government is looking into changing the symbols of the city, but not in "anarchic" ways.  "These anarchic actions do not accomplish one possible objective.  We agree that history has to be rewritten and we are doing it.  We reject honoring Columbus, but that is one thing and anarchy is another," Bernal said.

Bernal attended an act of symbolic resistance yesterday in downtown Caracas, where indigenous people covered a statue of a pointing Columbus with a white sheet and presented the mayor with a formal request to replace the statues of Columbus from the capital city with those of Venezuelan Chief Guaicaipuro.  Bernal accepted the request and said he will present the petition to the municipal government of Caracas, but said the process would take time as the decision is not his alone to make.

The tearing down of the Columbus statue was compared with that of the fall of the Saddam Hussein statue in Iraq by website aporrea.org.  "Just like the statue of Saddam in Bagdad, that of Columbus the tyrant also fell this October 12, 2004 in Caracas," the website advertises.

Published on Oct 13th 2004 at 11.48am