Indigenous Rights Recognized

The drums resounded in the capital building until the Assembly approved guarantee as constitutional rights the existence of indigenous peoples and communities, their social and economic organization, culture, uses and customs. Once the drums silenced, the National Anthem was sung by those who had entered the hemicycle resounding in their traditional customs.

Indigenous drums began beatiang early in the gardens of the Legislative Palace. They did not stop until the National Assembly approved completely by a majority Chapter VIII which guarantees and establishes with its eight articles, their existence as peoples and communities, their social and economic organizations, cultures, uses and customs, along with their languages and religions. They only ceased drumming to unite their voices in singing the national anthem, Glory to the Brave Peoples, recognizing that they are also Venezuelans.

Once the debate on the subject was announced, different representatives of the ethnic groups entered the Assembly and took their place donning their traditional gear on the first balcony. The discussion had been postponed from Monday, due to lack of consensus. It was only until Wednesday morning, and after five work sessions, that the Mixed Commission made up of the Assembly s Indigenous representatives and the Security and Defense Commission came to an agreement in relation to the use in the constitutional text of the terms: peoples and territories. To that end, they listened to experts such as the admiral Francis Loyra, Luis José Bello, Fermín Toro, Carlos Ayala Corao and Alexander Luzardo, among others to guarantee the sense of progress in the sense of rights.

The consensus was found with the approval of a clause which made up part of article 129 which states " the indigenous peoples as cultures with ancestral roots are part of the nation, of the State and Venezuela as unique, sovereign and indivisible, and conforming to this Constitution have the responsibility of defending the integrity and national sovereignty. The terminology of peoples should not be interpreted in this Constitution as having any implication with the rights which could be understood by this term with respects to International Law".

Aristóbulo Isturiz, who coordinated the mixed Commission, denied that there ever was a confrontation. "This Assembly has the patriotic obligation to respect the rights of the indigenous peoples without endangering our sovereignty- the unity and integrity of the nation". This debate, he added, was proposed in the framework of international law and the United Nations .The second vice-president of the Assembly considered the new norms "as a conquest by the indigenous peoples". The decision was made to eliminate the word territory, which was changed for habitat which will not cause future claims on the self-determination communities, and does not affect territorial integrity", he said.

Jorge Olavarría, who had announced his displeasure, spoke against the measure, had a heated discussion yesterday with the president of the Assembly, Luis Miquilena, which later produced the protest of Hermann Escarrá, who considered it a disrespect to those leading the Assembly.

Raúl Esté took advantage of his allotted time to denounce the "nuevas tribus" New Tribes Mission and solicit an investigation by the Assembly. Angela Zago announced that the Commission on Security and Defense in a meeting with the Officials of the National Guard and the army asked to investigate this foreign organization. Considering the approved articles a historical error and an attack upon the sovereignty, the delegates Olavarría, Otaiza, and Márquez abstained from voting.

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