Venezuelan Day Of Indigenous Marked With Launch Of Services

In honor of Indigenous Resistance Day, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez called on Europe to recognize the genocide which occurred, and delivered a number of resources to indigenous communities including land titles, funding, a roaming hospital, a school and an aqueduct.
Hugo Chavez speaking on the Day of Indigenous Resistance. (VTV)

Mérida, October 14, 2008 (– In honor of Indigenous Resistance Day, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez called on Europe to recognize the genocide which occurred, and delivered a number of resources to indigenous communities including land titles, funding, a roaming hospital, a school and an aqueduct.

On October 10, 2002, Chavez issued a decree that changed October 12 from a day celebrating the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the coast of America and called "Day of Race" to "Day of Indigenous Resistance," in honor the courage of indigenous communities as they confronted Spanish colonization, which almost wiped them out.

"A revolution had to arrive for us to leave behind those absurd celebrations where we would pay homage to those who violated our grandparents, …[and] to those who carried out one of the biggest [genocides]," Chavez said from San Rafael del Mojan, an indigenous population in the state of Zulia, where he inaugurated the first stage of the Winka aqueduct for the Guajira peninsula and also the first stage of the Indigenous Agriculture and Livestock Technical School "Kanuye Anu" and delivered a range of resources for the development of indigenous communities of the area.

The school will be focused around work training and will initially have 100 students. The aqueduct had an investment of BsF 130 million (US$60 million) and was begun in 2006. It will stimulate agricultural production and improve the supply of water to households. The first completed stage will supply drinking water for the first time
to 47,000 inhabitants of San Rafael del Mojan.

The government also approved BsF 235.4 million (US$109 million) for a plan for the defense, development, and consolidation of the border municipalities of Machiques, Rosario de Perija, and Jesus Maria Semprun, of Zulia state.

Chavez explained that the money came from interest earned on resources invested by the National Treasury, and that spending such interest on social causes is how Venezuela "is acquiring financial and economic independence."

Of this money BsF 191.2 million (US$89 million) will be for education and road infrastructure, health, and basic public services. BsF 27.3 million (US$ 12.6 million) is allocated for the citizen organizations of security and the Bolivarian Armed Forces, and BsF 16.8 million (US$ 8 million) for the projects of socialist production and for the organization which will coordinate and govern the plan.

The president handed out four land titles; three for the Warao people that will benefit the communities of Remanzon, Las Morochas, and Puerto Amador in the state of Monagas, and one to the Karina people in the community of La Florida, Anzoategui state.

He warned that there are people who want to misinform and manipulate the indigenous communities so that they misinterpret what communal property is, and fight amongst themselves.

He explained that such titles are only assigned to land where it is proven that indigenous communities live and which is necessary for their development projects.

"As head of state I can't approve, as some are saying, the giving of a collective title property of the entire Delta Orinoco to the Waraos, that's impossible, that's unviable."

However, he said the indigenous communal councils would receive all the technical, logistical, and financial assistance that they need for housing, livestock, health, or anything else the councils decide they need for their well being on the 259 hectares allocated.

Also, the Yukpa communities will receive credits for the cultivation and production of coffee and the Anu communities will receive financial support for productive work.

Chavez took the opportunity during the event to confirm, "The presiding government is with the Yukpa brothers and always will be," and made a call to all those working on the boards of land demarcation in the Sierra de Perija (an extension of the Andean Mountains) to hand out the collective property titles quicker.

Finally, a mobile hospital was inaugurated as part of a new health system that will go to and attend 418 remote indigenous communities of the Orinoco delta, involving 6,270 families. Chavez explained that the hospital includes consultation rooms, a dentist, laboratories, a pharmacy, kitchen, laundry, and pantry amongst other services, and is free.

In his speech, Chavez asked the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean to stop celebrating October 12 as the discovery of America but to instead recognize it as the start of the "genocide of the indigenous peoples," and added, "we are still waiting for Europe to recognize that there was a genocide here."

Chavez also encouraged teachers, parents and military leaders to teach the true history. "The discovery of America is a terrible falsification of history," he said.

The day was also commemorated in various regions of the country.

In the National Panthenon, Caracas, a building dedicated to Simon Bolivar, representatives of the Warao, Karina and Wayu'u people participated in an act of commemoration.  Children interpreted the national anthem, singing in Karina.

In Maracay, capital city of Aragua state, there were cultural acts in the main plaza by various communities from around the state.

In the state of Falcon the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) candidate for governor hosted an event in the main plaza and paid tribute to the indigenous people who "were not only a worthy example of resistance against imperialist invasion but also the true precursors of socialist action and thought."

21 Karina communal councils participated in a ceremony in the Plaza Ayacucho, Municipality of Sucre, with the PSUV candidate for Mayor, Rafael Acuna. Indigenous councilor, Ynes Andarcia said that there is still apathy amongst the institutions to participate. "You can see that only the indigenous people have come to commemorate this day," she said.

Various other ceremonies, exhibitions, plays, and other cultural events were held around the country, often accompanied by PSUV candidates.

About 1% of Venezuela's population is indigenous, and 31 indigenous languages are spoken including Guajibo, Pemon, Warao, Wayu'u, and the various Yanomaman languages.