Indigenous People of Latin America Declare Support for Venezuela’s Chavez

The Second Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples, which gathered in Quito, Ecuador over the past three days, passed a resolution in support of the Venezuelan people and President Chavez.

Quito, July 24, 2004 (–Today, the Second Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Nationalities closed with a declaration of support for the people of Venezuela and Cuba.

The indigenous delegations present at the summit offered full support for the people of Venezuela and President Chavez before the August 15 referendum. The confrence took place a few days prior to the first “Social Forum of the Americas,” which is a regional version of the annual World Social Forum. Indigenous representatives from twenty countries from accross Latin America participated in the conference.

According to Nicia Maldonado, the president of the Confederation of Indigenous people of Venezuela (CONIVE), indigenous people are backing the people of Venezuela and President Chavez because they see that concrete actions have been taken by the Venezuelan president to protect and promote the rights of indigenous people.

“For the first time indigenous peoples (of Venezuela) are playing an active role in decision making in the country,” Maldonado said. “The participatory process allows for ongoing consultation between government and the people.”

Maldonado said that the concrete positive actions showed by the current government in Venezuela towards indigenous people is unique in the world.  “Perhaps in other parts of the world there have been declarations of good intentions towards indigenous people, but never have we seen these principles in practice as we see now in Venezuela,”  Maldonado said.  And for this to continue, “President Chavez is our guarantee,” she added.

Venezuela’s 1999 constitution, which was passed and drafted by an elected constitutional assembly of mostly Chavez supporters, contains an entire section that Venezuela’s indigenous representatives drafted themselves. The section was adopted nearly unchanged into the 1999 constitution.

For Izeanobia Mercano, of the Cumangoto people of Sucre state, the summit was a learning experience.  “I learned to identify myself with my own people, rather than just as a Venezuelan.   I learned about the need to recuperate our spirituality and to look back to our own systems before the conquest,” Mercano said. 

The indigenous people of Venezuela have to propose their own models of economic development to president Chavez rather than waiting for the government to come up with projects, says Mercano. “It’s not just the government that has things to teach us but the people themselves. They have a lot to teach us.”

The declaration to support the people of Venezuela and Cuba went hand in hand with the repudiation of neo-liberalism and its action plans embodied in agreements like the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and in global organizations like the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which require militarization to enforce their plans, according to summit conclusions.

In a show of action against neo-liberalism, an economic model which indigenous people consider the new vehicle of colonialism, an international strike day has been proposed for Oct.12, 2004, the same day that marks the landing of Columbus on this continent in 1492.