Today the world celebrates International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Venezuela is the proud home of over 20 indigenous groups, making up about 2% of the total population. However, for these communities in Venezuela, there is little to celebrate today.
The indigenous communities in Venezuela are actively being undermined, repressed, and even massacred by the Maduro regime. The regime’s negligence and economic interest have left indigenous communities vulnerable to diseases, displacement, and violence. While the regime claims to champion and protect the people of Venezuela, it is actively violating the human rights of its natives.
On February 22nd 2019, Maduro’s forces opened fire against the Pemon community near the Venezuela-Brazil border, resulting, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in the death of seven and the wounding of 26 people. The Pemon community was trying to let much needed humanitarian aid in through the border, which the Maduro regime had blocked. Since then, thousands of Pemon community members have fled to safety in Brazil, leaving an entire community displaced and torn by violence.
In addition, the collapse of the Venezuelan health infrastructure as well as the toxic exploitation of indigenous land has left communities vulnerable to deadly diseases. The Panamerican Organization of Health (OPS) has reported epidemic-level outbreaks of diseases such as malaria, HIV, and measles amongst indigenous communities in the Delta Amacuro and Bolivar regions. Even though these diseases threaten to decimate large portions of indigenous communities, the regime has stopped vaccinating indigenous communities against preventable diseases and has issued no humanitarian response to this crisis.
Finally, today the habitat of indigenous communities in Venezuela is threatened by the regime’s illegal mining of their land. The regime’s Orinoco Mining Arc project has turned sacred indigenous lands in Southern Venezuela into sites of organized crime and irreversible ecological disasters. Entire communities and ecosystems are being wiped out to serve the economic needs of a regime and its criminal allies.
While the Maduro regime has tried to make these communities invisible, we will continue to speak up for their human rights. As the world celebrates International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, let’s shed a light on some of the most vulnerable and oppressed people in Venezuela.
by Marcela Bustillos
The Venezuelan flag has changed over the years, but has always been inspired on the design by Navy Captain Lino de Clemente y Palacios and General Francisco de Miranda Rodríguez, which was approved for the first time on July 9, 1811 by the Supreme Congress of Venezuela.
This first flag did not include any stars. The seven stars were officialized as an element in the Venezuelan flag in 1812 as a recognition to the seven provinces that supported the Declaration of Independence on April 10, 1810: Margarita, Cumaná, Barcelona, Barinas, Mérida, Trujillo, and Caracas.
In 1816, after the fall of the Second Republic, independence hero Simón Bolívar returned to Venezuela to resume the fight against the Spaniards. He remained in Guayana, a southern unexplored area. It was in Guayana where Bolívar planned the strategy to defeat the enemy once again, which wound up in a victory thanks to resources provided by the southern territory. After the triumph of the Guayana Campaign, Bolívar orders an eighth star to be included in the Venezuelan flag in representation of the eighth liberated province on November 20, 1817.
HISTORY OF VENEZUELA'S FLAGS
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From that time to 1954, the Venezuelan flag changed several times. New versions of the flag starting in 1863 stuck to the seven-star design in honor to the original seven provinces that adopted and declared their independence from Spanish domination.
On February 17, 1954, the Venezuelan Congress approved a new Flag, Coat of Arms, and National Anthem Law. It dictated the seven stars to be located in the blue stripe, positioned forming a semi-circle. The seven-star flag remained as an official symbol until March 2006.
Late President Hugo Chávez proposed to change the flag in order to fulfill Simón Bolívar’s desire of including Guayana as the eighth freed province. After revising Chávez’s proposal, the National Assembly (comprised by that time only by pro-government deputies) abolished the 1954 Flag, Coat of Arms, and National Anthem Law on March 7, 2006. Two days later, the Legislative branch approved by decree the inclusion of the eighth star representing Guayana in the Venezuelan flag to honor Simón Bolívar’s 1817 resolution.
Text by Dubraska Vale.
Illustrations by Johana Gomez Ryczo & Marlon Correa