Caracas, October 12th 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) - A statue of Caribe indigenous resistance hero, Guaicaipuro, was unveiled in the early hours this Monday morning by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to commemorate Indigenous Resistance Day 2015.
Guaicaipuro, an indigenous chief of the Caribes, led one of the most successful resistance campaigns against the invading Spanish colonial forces throughout the 1560s and is revered by many of Venezuela’s grassroots movements.
The monument of the indigenous chief, which features him brandishing a mallet and spear, will stand in Plaza Venezuela, Caracas, occupying the spot where an effigy of Columbus was previously toppled by anti-colonial activists on October 12, 2004.
The date was previously known as “Race Day” in Venezuela to mark the arrival of European colonizers to the American continent. It was renamed Day of Indigenous Resistance at the behest of Venezuela’s revolutionary government in 2002.
During the unveiling ceremony, President Maduro took the opportunity to lambast the countries that continue to celebrate October 12th as “Columbus Day”. He reminded Venezuelans that 80 million indigenous people are estimated to have been wiped out by the European invasion of the Americas, which also led to the international slave trade and the kidnapping of millions of Africans into bondage.
“Does anyone doubt today the crime that was the indigenous and African holocaust of the 16th, 17th and 18th century?… In Europe they celebrate the 12 of October like it was Spain Day. What is Spain celebrating? It’s like celebrating the fact that Hitler exterminated 6 million Jews,” said Maduro.
Social movements greeted Maduro’s move with praise and called for a citizens’ congregation in the monument’s surroundings to celebrate.
“A Silent Genocide”
The Bolivarian government has pursued a number of pro-indigenous policies since coming to power in Venezuela 1999; including the creation of an indigenous university and legislating for three indigenous representatives in the country’s parliament.
Nonetheless, it received heavy criticism from researchers this Indigenous Resistance Day for having failed to deliver on promises in the 1999 Constitution.
In a letter published on the leftist public website, Aporrea, “The Indigenous Issues Work Group” (GTAI) from the University of Merida accused the government of falling through on its obligations towards its indigenous populations and charged it with permitting a “silent genocide” against indigenous peoples in Venezuela at the hands of illegal mining and “irregular groups”.
“As if that weren’t enough, the poverty indicators are increasing in the heart of indigenous communities,” reads the letter.
The group also accused “a handful of bureaucrats” allied with the state of having appropriated indigenous populations’ historic demands and urged the government to go beyond the symbolic recognition of indigenous rights and develope adequate legislation, as well as to legally demarcate indigenous territory.
In September, a controversial presidential decree granting the Chinese government’s hydroelectric firm, Sinohydro, a 30 year lease to conduct carbon exploration and mining in the Western Perija mountain range was reformed by Venezuelan President Maduro, ostensibly in response to a grassroots campaign to have it annulled.
The decree was met with huge backlash by indigenous and environmental rights groups, who stated that the plans would destroy local ecosystems, as well as cause irreversible damage to indigenous communities living in the area.
Last month's amendment means that Sinohydro will only be able to drill in two already functioning mines in the region and was hailed as a victory for environmental and indigenous groups.