Ye’kwana, Sanema and Pemon Peoples’ Declaration Against Orinoco Mining Belt

Venezuelan indigenous peoples issue a manifesto rejecting the government's controversial mining project.


This declaration was written by the legitimate authorities of the 49 Ye’kwana and Sanema communities participating in the Kuyujani Organization’s 20th Ordinary General Assembly.

KUYUJANI is an Indigenous community based organization composed of ancestral indigenous peoples, whom agreed to this declaration during this plenary session in light of the following considerations [regarding the Orinoco Mining Belt]. As a result, we request that there be action taken in accordance with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela’s Indigenous Laws.

During the 20th Ordinary General Assembly held on April 21-24,2016 in the community of El Playón, we made a decision regarding the Orinoco Mining Belt Decree. The Orinoco Mining Belt directly affects populations along the Caura basin and especially the Indigenous Ye’kwana-Sanema and Pemon peoples. WE DEFINITIVELY REJECT THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE ORINOCO MINING BELT IN OUR TERRITORIES AND HABITATS.

In the Caura’s case, the 2010 and 2011 results of scientific studies are worrisome. They report the environmental impacts for our traditional lands including: an increase in chemical contaminants and suspended sediments in the Yuruani River and Caura River, as well as the bioaccumulation of mercury in the muscle tissue of major fish which are widely consumed by our Indigenous communities, especially affecting our children and elders. 

The scientific studies reported bioaccumulation of mercury in human tissue (hair) in members of Ye’kwana and Sanema  Indigenous communities living along the Caura River Basin. 

According to the Special Administration for Areas Under Administration (ABRAE) the Caura River Basin includes: the Jaua-Sarisariñama National Park; El Caura Forest Reserve; Ichun-Guanacoco and Cerro Guiquinima National Monuments as well as Bolivar State’s Protected Southern Area. All of which enshrine the protection and safeguarding of forests, water, land used for agriculture and other biodiversity, and through this regulate their usage and exploitation in line with the sustainable development of autochthonous peoples, Indigenous peoples and the Venezuelan nation, strictly prohibiting mining activity. 

We, the aforementioned Indigenous peoples, consider the Orinoco Mining Belt a violation of our legitimate right to health, our own safeguarded territory and quality of life.

We consider that the decision made regarding mining policy within Indigenous territories dismisses Indigenous Rights  recognized in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela’s 1999 Constitution, International Labor Law’s 169 Convention, Universal Human Rights Convention, the Organic Law of Indigenus Peoples in the Ordinary Law of Indigenous Lands and Habitats’ Demarcation and every other law, convention, agreement and treaty signed and ratified by the Republic and which are mandatory for all national civilian authorities and military [to fulfill] without exception.

 The Ye’kwana and Sanema cultures depend on forests, streams and other ecosystems as well as natural resources along the Caura River Basin in order to exist. As a result of illegal mining activity in our territory, we have seen the first environmental and human health impacts that are early indicators of a process that is categorized internationally as ethno-genocide, which we still have time to prevent.

The conservation of our ancestral territory’s natural resources are the source of nourishment and vital needs, managed since our origin. They are in grave danger due to illegal mining and the Orinoco Mining Belt decree. Yaajö Sawedi, told us to take care of the: Atukaadoda (iron), Adeumoiyana (water) and Enuujukuñamana (air) as he too cared for them. The land is key to the Ye’kwana and Sanema peoples where our heritage is born: our own education, culture and guaranteed food sovereignty, as well as our children and future generations.

In representation of all the legitimate authorities in attendance of the 20th Ordinary General Assembly of the Kuyujani Organization, duly constituted, we demand that this account be presented before the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and communicated in written form to other authorities, Ministrial cabinet and especially to the Defense Minister as well as the Attorney General.

 The Kuyujani Organization’s 20th Ordinary General Assembly wishes to express: NO TO THE ORINICO MINING BELT and YES TO LIVING WELL in Indigenous territories! We request that actions be taken in accordance with the legal framework provided by the Constitution, laws, conventions, treaties and agreements of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and as a result, we demand that the Military’s Highest Command and the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela  fulfill their obligations as dictated by the law.


Life is worth more than gold!

Translated by Jeanette Charles for Venezuelanalysis.com