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