Indigenous Leaders Elect Three Representatives to Historical Process to Revamp Venezuela's Constitution

C O N I V E National Indigenous Council of Venezuela

For more information, contact:

Ada Recinos at +1.510.473.7542 or ada@amazonwatch.org


Caracas, Venezuela - Some six-hundred delegates representing 34 indigenous tribes participated in the National Assembly of Indigenous Peoples July 17 through 18 and elected three representatives to the National Constituent Assembly. Three prominent indigenous leaders, José Luis González, Guillermo Guevara, and Noelí Pocaterra were elected by an overwhelming majority of 453 votes, 456 votes, and 459 votes respectively to represent indigenous peoples in the historic Constituent Assembly to rewrite a more equitable Venezuelan constitution.

The three elected are the same indigenous leaders that were elected during an Extraordinary Congress of the Indigenous Peoples of Venezuela which took place March 21-24 of this year in the state of Bolivar. However, the results of the March elections were not officially recognized by the National Electoral Council who called for new elections.

The latest assembly organized by CONIVE, the National Indigenous Council of Venezuela took place under pressure and supervision from the National Electoral Council (CNE), which oversees all aspects of the electoral process in Venezuela. "The results of the latest elections shows that our previous election was fair and representative," said Jose Poyo, the General Coordinator of CONIVE.

The 600 delegates were selected in regional assemblies, also jointly organized by CONIVE and CNE which were held throughout the country during 12-16 of July. Through this process, the participation of indigenous populations living throughout the country was guaranteed.

José Luis González, Noelí Pocaterra and Guillermo Guevara expressed to the assembly their commitment to advance the Indigenous Constituent Plan approved by the previous Congress in March of 1999 in Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela.

The main points of plan are the recognition of Venezuela as a multi-ethnic, multicultural country; the rights of indigenous peoples to their ancestral lands, and to maintain their language and culture; the right to practice traditional medicine; and respect for their form of self-government and traditional authority. Noelí Pocaterra, the last speaker promised to become "the voice of those without voice, the voice of women, the voice of children and elderly, the voice of the street vendors and all those who have been excluded."

The elected constituent representatives will await the ratification of the election results by the CNE to be able to join the other 128 constituent assembly representatives which are to be elected in national elections on July 25. In the last ten years, many Latin American countries such as Ecuador, Brazil and Colombia have revised their constitutions to include articles on the legal protection of cultures and lands of indigenous peoples. Venezuela's constitution was last revised in 1961 and does not include any legal guarantees for indigenous peoples.

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