Indigenous resistance celebrated

October 12 was marked in Venezuela as the "Day of Indigenous Resistance" to the arrival of Spanish colonisers. On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus first landed in South America, beginning more than 500 years of genocide and oppression of the continent's indigenous inhabitants. The day is a national public holiday in Venezuela and was previously designated Christopher Columbus Day.

At a meeting in Caracas's Plaza Bolivar, liberation theologian Roberto Becerra denounced the role of the Spanish conquerors and the Catholic Church in destroying the lives and culture of the indigenous peoples of America. The gathering went on to celebrate the revival of indigenous culture in Venezuela with music and dancing.

A special resolution was issued on behalf of the National Assembly for the Day of Indigenous Resistance, "endorsing and reaffirming the integration of the people of America and of the world, taking as a basis the historical rights of the indigenous peoples and the Bolivarian project of the inter-cultural integration of Latin America and the Caribbean".

The resolution outlined a number of actions to be taken to advance the cause of indigenous rights, including "Installation of a National Executive of indigenous peoples, communities and organisations in order to guarantee their vital interests, and specific means for consultation and participation in realising the historical rights of the indigenous peoples and communities — in both the rural and urban sectors".

The statement resolved to include in the Plan for the Nation 2007-2012 proposals to integrate the rights of indigenous peoples into the national life of Venezuela, which "reflect unity and diversity in construction of socialism of the 21st century".

The resolution also emphasised the need to incorporate indigenous rights into the "co-administration of indigenous habitat and lands, as a mark of the alliance between the people and the government". This would include the protection and decontamination of the sources of the most important rivers, including the Orinoco, the Caroni, the Caura and the Cuyuni, to maintain the biodiversity of the indigenous regions.

The resolution also declared an intention to "support the cessation of mining activity in the Amazonas, the Upper Caura, the Caroni and in other zones that are so degraded that they pose a risk to life for the peoples and indigenous communities, as well as to the health of the rest of the population".

The statement concluded with the proposal to have October 12 made International Day of Indigenous Resistance and declared full support to the indigenous-led government of Evo Morales in Bolivia.

The Venezuelan government also utilised the day to publicise that, as part of Mission Guaicapuro, the first Indigenous Communal Cabinet had approved projects for communities totalling 14.5 billion bolivares, with a further 3.8 billion bolivares for special projects in the pipeline.