Jim McIlroy & Coral Wynter, Caracas
Several thousand indigenous people gathered in the Plaza Venezuela on June 7 for the First National March of Indigenous Peoples, organised by Conive (the National Council of Indigenous People of Venezuela). Representatives of the Amazonas, Apure, Anzoategui, Delta Amacuro, Monagas and Zulia communities marched against imperialism and in support of the revolutionary Bolivarian government of President Hugo Chavez.
According to the June 8 Diario Vea, Nerio Marcano, leader of the Ezequiel Zamora National Agrarian Coordination, said that protest was "against the aggressions of George Bush, the agent of murder and genocide against the peoples. When we see the number of children killed in Iraq by bombs, it pains us because those children are also our children. And we remember the slaughter that took place against our ancestors through Christopher Columbus. We are making a call to all political groups of this country to unite with us and to show solidarity with the people of Iraq, and all the people who are resisting. Enough of wars!"
Conive general secretary Antonio Rodriguez told the June 8 Ultimas Noticias that the march was in opposition to manipulation by imperialism. He described an "unseen hand" that is intervening in indigenous communities to divide them. He said that in zones such as the Sierra de Perija and the Amazon, opponents of Chavez have given arms to the indigenous people, alleging that the Venezuelan government is going to take their lands and give their resources to transnational corporations, in order to provoke conflict.
Omar Parabavito, from the Cumanagoto people of Anzoategui state, told Green Left Weekly that "In the constitution, the president of the republic has returned the land to the indigenous people."
Jegner Matos, from the Amazonian region and the Kuyba tribe, explained to GLW that "The international community must realise that we are well served by the Chavez government. We are fully included in consultations. There are no specific demands by the indigenous people on this march because we are not suffering particular oppression [from the government].
"In the 1940s, '50s, '60s and '70s, there were massacres in different areas of the country by the latifundistas [large landownders]. They would give us a pig in exchange for taking a huge slice of land. But now with the Bolivarian constitution, if they kill someone, they face immediate justice.
"This is the first national demonstration of indigenous people in Venezuela, and it is a form of integration, of education and mutual support for all the indigenous people of the country."
From Green Left Weekly, June 21 2006.
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