Opinion: Some bold steps for indigenous policy in Venezuela
Posted: Wednesday, October 12, 2011
"In celebration of the Day of Indigenous Resistance on October 12th, the Venezuelan government announced numerous initiatives aimed at assisting and empowering indigenous communities. Nicia Maldonado, the minister for indigenous peoples, said that in the final months of the year the government plans to create several socialist communes to be inhabited by indigenous communities. These communes will be designed “to reconstruct what we call indo-American socialism, to reconstruct this ancestral feeling denied for a long time, which we are now vindicating,” the minister told the state-run news agency AVN. Meanwhile, Ricardo Menéndez, the minister for science and technology and vice president for the productive economy, said that indigenous communities are being incorporated into the Grand Venezuelan Housing Mission, through which the government has promised to build two million homes over the next seven years.
These efforts represent only a small part of the government’s broad set of policies toward indigenous communities. The National Constitution of 1999 and the Organic Law on Indigenous Peoples and Communities (LOPCI) obligate the government to serve and protect a series of special rights for people of indigenous ancestry. These include the right to demarcate and inhabit their ancestral territory, to be legally identified as indigenous, to receive bilingual or multi-lingual education, to choose their authentic authorities and have those authorities recognized, to elect three indigenous representatives in the National Assembly, to carry out traditional economic and religious customs of their choice, to practice traditional medicine with patients’ consent, and to have their genetic material protected from exploitation. This legal framework explicitly recognizes the unique identities, experiences, and issues affecting indigenous peoples, acknowledges the genocide and systematic persecution they have suffered, and lays the groundwork for their bold revitalizing."
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