Announcing the international congress on Saturday, Venezuelan vice-president of the National Assembly, Aristobulo Isturiz, declared, “As of tomorrow and until the 22nd of June, we will be discussing in numerous work groups, the different problems that affect African populations”.
The legislator also highlighted the importance of the event, as African and Indigenous peoples have historically been “the most exploited populations” in Latin America.
In efforts to further consolidate regional integration, delegates announced that they will also submit the conclusions of the forum, under the format of the “Caracas Declaration”, to the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) – the counter Organization of American States (OAS) group due to be ofﬁcially inaugurated on July 5th in Venezuela.
The ﬁnal document will recommend that CELAC ofﬁcially recognize the important contributions made by African communities and their descendents to each Latin American nation – a factor which should be reﬂected in CELAC programs, conﬁrmed Isturiz.
Social Movements: Agents of Change
From Hotel Alba, Colombian human rights activist Piedad Cordoba applauded the work of social movements in the region and emphasized their role as agents of change within the struggle for equality and justice in Latin America. When social movements are “conscious of their objectives, nothing can deter them”, she proclaimed.
Highlighting the relationship between race and class, Cordoba also emphasized that the presence of ministers with African features in the Venezuelan government sets an important precedent, and sends a much stronger message than merely instigating progressive public policy.
“There is a historical debt to pay with Afro-descendents, victims of exclusion and abandonment, especially where neo-liberalism is still a religion – as is the case in Colombia. This panorama impels us to become the protagonists of change - which is none other than the construction of socialism”, she added.
Committee for Haiti
The Colombian ex-senator will also play an important role in the Committee for Haiti, one of the initiatives announced at the forum. Other notable ﬁgures involved in the committee are Venezuelan Ambassador to Angola, Jesus Garcia, and Norma Romero, spokesperson for the Network of Afro-Venezuelan Organisations (ROA).
Constituted by “revolutionary afro-descendents”, the permanent committee will attend to the needs of the Haitian people – who orchestrated the only successful slave revolution in history and became the ﬁrst independent nation in Latin America.
Thoughts and ideas relating to the Haitian committee and its development will be drafted up and discussed in the plenary session of the forum.
“We are planning a visit to Haiti, a large group of us, in order to support our Haitian brothers and sisters from this division”, said Romero.
Delegates from the forum have also disclosed that they will present a counter-initiative to the United Nations, who declared 2011 to be the “international year for people of African descent”.
“One year is a very short amount of time, because the problems affecting Afro-descendents are numerous...that’s why we are insisting on having a decade for (people of) African descent”, announced Isturiz.
Venezuelan Vice-President Elias Jaua, Minister of Interior Relations Nicolas Maduro and parliamentary President Fernando Soto Rojas, have also been present at the forum.
The conference concluded by agreeing on six resolutions. These resolutions included recognition of the moral, political, social, and cultural contribution of people of African descent in the formation of America, the creation of a National Council for the Afro-descendent Community of Venezuela to deepen the radication of racism and exclusion, the creation of an ALBA fund to repair injustices committed against such communities, the creation of a Solidarity Fund for Haiti, demanding that NATO cease its bombing of Libya and military intervention in north Africa, and demanding the UN implement a Afro-descendent Forum.