The International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, celebrated each August 9, was first proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1994. In Venezuela, only after the support of President Hugo Chávez and the 1999 Constituent Assembly the Venezuelan indigenous rights were seriously considered and developed in the country. Chapter 9 of the 1999 Constitution establishes the legal framework for indigenous rights.
“The state recognizes the existence of indigenous peoples and communities, their social, political and economic organization, cultures and habits, languages and religions, as well as their habitat and original rights to the lands they ancestrally and traditionally occupied and which are necessary to develop and guarantee their lifestyle. The National Executive, together with indigenous peoples, will demarcate and guarantee the right of collective ownership of their lands, which are inalienable, indefeasible and non-transferable in accordance with the provisions of the present Constitution and the Law,” refers article 119 of the Venezuelan Constitution.
Likewise, for the first time ever, the 1999 Constitution establishes that the National Assembly must include indigenous representatives. Now, the Venezuelan Parliament has three indigenous representatives, who are elected by popular vote among indigenous communities. Indigenous communities had an important role in drafting the 1999 Constitution.
In 2007 the Venezuelan government created the Ministry of People’s Power for Indigenous Affairs to ensure the effective development of their rights enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
Other achievements of indigenous peoples in Venezuela include the creation of Mission Guaicaipuro, a social program aimed at promoting, developing and implementing policies to improve the quality of life and conditions of indigenous communities and pay the historical debt. By 2012, this program had benefited more than 2 million indigenous communities.
The Minister of People’s Power for Indigenous Affairs, Nicia Maldonado said that “communities are being organized in communes, and for us is the people who put their land in progress for their benefit and of all Venezuelans.”
So far, 2,100 community councils have been created to develop indigenous communities. These organized communities use indigenous-oriented radio stations to inform the communities.
Through the Ministry of People’s Power for Indigenous Affairs over 2,700 houses for indigenous communities have been built throughout the country, six production and training units have been created to boost food sovereignty, and 242 indigenous leaders been trained in agro-ecology through the Cuba-Venezuela bilateral cooperation agreement.
Additionally, 1,064 projects have been funded, while 30 “Shamanic Recovering and Training Centers” have been opened to assist patients in traditional and ancient medicine.
Under the Bolivarian Revolution of Venezuela, one of the most important achievements for indigenous peoples is the allotment of 66 land titles to different indigenous communities, which is one of the actions developed in the process of habitat and land demarcation for indigenous communities.
Press Office-Venezuelan Embassy to the U.S / August 9, 2012