Mérida, 11th August 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan government granted 27 land titles to indigenous peoples in Amazonas, Anzoátegui and Monagas states, to coincide with celebrations for International Indigenous Peoples Day on Thursday.
Venezuelan Vice-president Elias Jaua, who led an official ceremony to handover the land titles, confirmed that 467,000 hectares of land were being granted to benefit almost 9,000 people.
“Today we are handing over documents that judicially grant these communities their right to habitat where they have lived for years,” he said.
Thursday also marked eight years since the launch of the government’s Mission Guaicaipuro, a program aimed at guaranteeing the rights of indigenous peoples enshrined in the 1999 constitution.
One aspect of Mission Guaicaipuro is to work with indigenous people in the demarcation of ancestral land. Up to the present, almost 1,815,000 hectares of land have been granted to Venezuela’s indigenous peoples, covering 337 distinct communities and 31,526 people, according to Jaua.
In an interview on state television VTV on Tuesday, the minister for indigenous peoples, Nicia Maldonado, said that the government’s National Demarcation Commission is currently evaluating 34 other requests for territorial demarcation.
These are expected to be granted by September, upon which, “we would be declared a territory free of demarcation requests [from indigenous communities],” she confirmed.
On Thursday Vice-president Jaua also announced the granting of US $10.9 million (47 million bolivars) “for the transformation of the lives of indigenous peoples and communities”. Indigenous communities will be able to present development projects and request the funding through the Government Federal Council.
Jaua also highlighted President Hugo Chavez’s commitment to Venezuela’s indigenous peoples, as seen in the 1999 constitution, whose chapter eight recognises their multi-ethnic and pluri-cultural character, among other rights.
Indigenous Congress in Defence of Mother Earth
The land grants were made at the close of the V Great National Congress “Abya Yala” of Indigenous Peoples for the Preservation of Mother Earth, held in the Kavanayén indigenous community in the eastern Bolivar state.
The congress brought together 45 delegations from 20 countries to discuss the conservation of the environment and the strengthening of Latin American indigenous movements.
Commenting on the conference, Maldonado said “If indeed there’s still a lot to do, after 500 years of abandonment, what’s coming is the deepening of indigenous rights and their struggles”.
In their eighteen-point final declaration yesterday, the participants of the congress declared their support for the Venezuelan government’s policy of land demarcation, and the need to raise consciousness on the struggle of indigenous peoples in defence of the environment.
The document also called for the “generation of conscious criticism” to contribute toward “the deepening of indigenous-American socialism of the 21st century”. The declaration can be read in Spanish here.