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    Venezuelan Government Advances Indigenous Struggle

    By Aaron Mercredi

    In August, over a thousand Indigenous people from 21 different countries in the Americas gathered in Venezuela for the 1st International Congress of Anti-imperialist Indigenous peoples of America. Hosted by the Venezuelan government, this congress set out to tackle the many issues facing Indigenous people today, and to develop an international network of Indigenous people to support and strengthen their struggles.

    This gathering is a healthy example of the approach that the Venezuelan government has taken towards the most fundamental struggle in the colonial world. But it is not the first. Within Venezuela, the Bolivarian Revolution has been responding to the question of Indigenous people's inherent rights and their place within the overall social movement that swept the country. Their response was to provide the necessary space for Indigenous people to organize themselves, maintain their cultures and language, and further their rights within Venezuela. The 1999 constitution, which guarantees the rights of Indigenous people, saw the participation of an unprecedented number of leaders from Native communities and Indigenous organizations. Mision Guaicaipuro, which launched later in 2003, is one of a series of social and welfare programs carried out by the Venezuelan government, which specifically seeks to restore communal land titles and human rights to Venezuela's Indigenous communities, and strengthening their identity, language, education, and culture.

    Compare this to Canada, where the colonial government supports the continued theft of Native land for ski resort developments or resource extraction whose profits will only line the pockets of the corporations, and Indigenous people remain alienated from the political system in this country because it does not represent us. This, along with the loss of language, culture and identity, and rampant poverty are all an Indigenous reality today in this country.

    Venezuela has embarked on a new path. The tearing down of Columbus' statue in Caracas, and replacing Columbus Day with the Day of Indigenous Resistance were not just symbolic acts. The people are working to reverse hundreds of years of colonialism.

    Bringing Indigenous people to the gathering in August was Venezuela's attempt to bridge the gap that exists between many different Indigenous struggles and to help build the fighting force that has to work against the theft and plunder that continues against not only Indigenous people, but oppressed nations around the world. Gatherings like these are a necessary step for the dispossessed Indigenous population from North to South to strengthen itself, to organize and rise up against centuries of murder, destruction and humiliation. This internationalism was the basis of this congress and is most clearly shown in the Declaration of Kumarakapay.

    Declaration of Kumarakapay

    1st International Congress of Anti-imperialist Indigenous peoples of America Abya Yala Translated by Federico Fuentes, Bolivia Rising

    "Constructing Indoamerican Socialism"

    Meeting in the ancestral territories of Kumarakapay; which our indigenous brothers and sisters of the Pemon People inhabit; within the framework of the 1st International Congress of Anti-imperialist Indigenous Peoples of Abya Yala; held in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, over the days 7, 8 and 9 of August, 2007; conscious of our existence as peoples since millenarian times and with the full conviction of continuing to act in defense of life and the planet, the people united here, from 21 different countries of our continent, from Alaska to the Patagonia, have agreed to emit the following declaration:

    We are youth, women, men, grandmothers and grandfathers of the originario [first] peoples, who since time immemorial have live in Abya Yala; descendents from our aboriginal guerilla forefathers, defenders, precursors and founders of a free and sovereign homeland, of great liberators, such as Bolivar, Artigas, Morazan, Sandino etc.

    Today we are living proof of ancestral struggles, meeting again as a anti-imperialist front, with delegations coming from Alaska, Argentina, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Uruguay, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Canada, Honduras, Guyana, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Surinam, United States and Venezuela.

    We recognize that our struggle as indigenous originario peoples has been millenary and which has had key moments in modern times, amongst those being transcendental continental encounters; the result of the diverse efforts by many peoples, communities and indigenous organizations and communities carried out over a long of dialogue and having reached the point of putting forward conclusions and strategies that have strengthen the unity of the indigenous peoples of Abya Yala, expressed in diverse declarations such as those of:

    The First Continental Encounter of Indian Peoples held in Quito in 1990; the Continental Campaign of 500 years of Indigenous, Black and Popular Resistance, which involved mobilizations across all of our continent on October 12, 1992; the Declaration of Temoaya of 1993; the 1st Indigenous Summit in Teotihuacan, Mexico, in 2000; the 2nd Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Nationalities of Abya Yala, which was held in Quito in 2004; the Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Organisations, realized in Mar de Plata, Argentina, in 2005; the Continental Encounter of Indigenous Peoples and Nationalities of Abya Yala, in La Paz, Bolivia, in 2006; and the 3rd Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Nationalities of Abya Yala realized in Guatemala, in March of this year, 2007, out of which came the Declaration of Iximche, whose anti-imperialist positions we support.

    We have decided to give continuity to these efforts, in the search for unionist processes; conscious that the Abya Yala, from Alaska to the Patagonia, is a continent ancestrally indigenous, committed to the struggles against domination since the era of colonialism up until current times; where the threat and aggression by the US empire against the peoples of Abya Yala have been continuous and is taking us towards the imminent extinction of our cultures.

    It is essential for the indigenous peoples of Abya Yala to constitute and give body, life and movement to a space with continental character to allow us to integrate and unite, based on our spiritual, moral, and combative wealth and resistance, with the fundamental objective of defending ourselves and defending our peoples and the entire planet from attacks, principally led by the US empire.

    We see imperialism as the highest phase of capitalism, through its distinct expressions, such as consumerism; the wastage of natural resources, which is taking us towards the destruction of biodiversity; the transculturalisation of the people which implies wiping out our essence; the loss of our ancestral values and the negation of our existence as people, converting itself into the most terrible threat encroaching over the lives and existence of our planet.

    Conscious that an alternative to save the planet from voracious capitalism is the construction, execution and putting into march of the socialism of the 21st century on the basis of Indoamerican socialism, based on the principals of communality, solidarity, reciprocity, social justice, equality, complementarity and harmony with nature.

    We recognize that the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), as a viable and just proposal to integrate the people of Latin America and the Caribbean in one single economic, political, cultural and social bloc where complementation and the respect of our identity will be the principal rectores, values that coincide with our ancestral practices.

    We Declare:

    The urgent necessity to initiate a collective process of construction of ancestral thought, born out of and generated by our realities, our forms of construction of knowledge and our languages.

    Due to this, we have decided to constitute ourselves into the Continental Council of the Great Nation of Anti-imperialist Indigenous Peoples, whose temporary headquarters will be in Venezuela, and which will have as its primordial objectives:

    To be a space for the participation, articulation and integration of the diverse indigenous peoples of Abya Yala, and act as a single body in defense against the attacks, aggressions and threats of the empire, in all its forms.

    Constitute a platform of discussion of anti-imperialist policies and organizations, emerging from each one of the indigenous communities, via their own organizations or communal councils.

    To be the collective voice of the indigenous peoples and communities of America in support of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), with the aim of reclaiming the originario rights of indigenous people, through the policies of the member governments of ALBA.

    Push forward the construction of socialism of the 21st century through the contributions that Indoamerican socialism offers.

    Plan of Continental Struggle:

    Promote the creation of the University of the Indigenous Peoples of Abya Yala, which seeks to consolidate spaces of formation that preserve our identity, culture, language and traditional medical practices, according to the necessities of each people, with multiple installations in all the continent.

    We raise our voices, as anti-imperialist indigenous peoples, constituted in the Continental Council, against the governments of the empire, principally the United States; against the transnational corporations that promote the privatization of natural resources, destroyers of our biodiversity, language and culture; against the organizations, mass media, press, radio networks and television at the service of the empire; and against all those that promote savage neoliberalism in all its expressions. We demand that they:

    Stop the depraved exploitation of our natural resources that exist in our space, soil and subsoil; monocultures, the utilization of chemical fertilizers, insecticides, the risks with flugosato, transgenetics, and the genetic manipulation of all living beings contrary to the prinicipals of life; the poisoning of our peoples that is carried out via the distribution and sale of dangerous canned and bottled chemical products.

    Stop the violation of the intellectual property rights; the theft and extraction of medicinal plants; the persecution and harassment of community, alternative media and indigenous communications and journalists; the acts of violation of the right to information, which forms part of our original law.

    Stop the installation of imperialist military bases in our countries and immediately withdraw existing ones.

    We say no to US or imperialist intervention in the revolutionary processes of the countries of Latin America, principally the Bolivarian revolution being headed by the president and commandante Hugo Chavez, and commandante Fidel Castro.

    We pronounce ourselves against the genocide that is being committed against Iraq and Afghanistan and the people who make up those countries, as well as against the threat hanging over the brother country of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

    We reject with our all strength any attempts at invasion or bellicose intervention against any nation of this free and sovereign world. We demand the unrestricted respect for the sovereignty of all Indo-Latin America countries. Whenever our nations are attacked by imperialism, the indigenous people will be ready to defend them from all points of view, and in diverse manners.

    We support brother Evo Morales Ayma for the Nobel Peace Price, for having achieved a space for participation in Bolivia in favour of the majority, and having avoided a social confrontation, led by the people in search of their liberation, which today they have found constitutionally.

    We are against the state terrorism carried out by the empire; the criminalisation of the social movements; the repression which goes against truly legal and real freedom of expression; the impunity which surrounds the disrespectful freedom of expression that promotes hate, egoism, anger and resistance to changes in favour of the majority, the people.

    We oppose in its entirety any international declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples that does not respond to the revolutionary processes, and that, on the contrary aims to grab media attention, and control and fragment communities. Likewise with the multilateral organizations, such as the World Bank, Inter American Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund, that have indebted governments, and with that, the peoples.

    We pronounce ourselves against the Zionist movements, which are one form of expression of this imperialism.

    We back the efforts and struggles of the indigenous peoples carried out daily across the whole continent of Abya Yala, principally the current indigenous movements of Panama, El Salvador, Honduras, Uruguay, Argentina, Guatemala, where, not only are they not inexistent as they were believed to be, rather, the indigenous peoples are present, and each day are impeding the empire from continuing to destroy lives and communities in these important territories.

    We salute the anti-imperialist governments of the continent, with the presence of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador, where the indigenous struggle has found backing and recognition for their demands.

    Our fraternal support goes to the struggle of the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca and Chiapas in Mexico, expressed via the Popular Assembly of the Indigenous Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) and the Zapatista Movement.

    We back the policy of humanitarian and solidarity-based aid that is being carried out via the internationalization of the Missions of the Bolivarian Revolution, as a clear demonstration of what is Socialism of the 21st Century.

    We call on all the peoples of Abya Yala to become part of this Continental Council of the Great Nation of Anti-imperialist Indigenous Peoples, as one more space of struggle against the empire, capitalism and neoliberal globalisation that wants to impose itself; which does not substitute any other effort but rather complements our historic, local and regional struggles, so that we continue walking united, as one single body, as one single voice, towards the construction of the great homeland.

    We invite everyone to participate in the 2nd International Congress of Anti-imperialist Indigenous Peoples, to be held next year, 2008.

    To continue writing the history of our Indoamerican indigenous peoples, death to imperialism!

    Homeland, Socialism or Death!
    We will win!

    On the ancestral territory of Kumarakapay, Gran Sabana, Venezuela, on the 9th day of the month of August of 2007.

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