After a serious, new outbreak of malaria in the Upper Caura river, University staff from Ciudad Bolivar and Ye’kwana health workers have once again appealed to the national and regional governments to end the illegal mining in the area.
The Piaroa indigenous leader Freddy Menare was killed earlier this month, in circumstances which remain to be investigated.
Venezuela: The indigenous peoples of the Caura River in South Venezuela, the Ye’kwana and Sanema, through their organisation Kuyuhani have rejected the imposition of a national park on their lands. The protected area which was announced in the Official Gazette in March 2017 embraces the whole of the Caura Basin, which is one of the largest areas of relatively pristine forests left in the Orinoco watershed.
Venezuela mainly features in the international news in reports of the country’s economic meltdown and of the increasingly repressive measures taken by the President, Nicolas Maduro, to cling on to power despite the opposition winning a majority in the Congress. The obverse of these realities gets less attention. In an effort to boost the flagging economy and garner support from the impoverished rural poor, last year the government announced new measures to open up to mining a huge swathe of the south of the country, referred to as the Arco Minero Orinoco.
Alarming reports have emerged of illegal miners harassing the lives of Piaroa, Yabarana and Hiwi indigenous peoples in the Manapiare valley in the Venezuelan Amazon. The latest report details how illegal miners attacked and seriously wounded the Yabarana leader, Benjamin Perez, who leads the organisation, OIYAPAM, and then burned down his farm.
Working Group on Indigenous Affairs of the University of the Andes in Merida, Venezuela, criticises the administration for its manipulative policy towards the country’s indigenous peoples.
On 4th June, the regional organisation of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon in Venezuela (ORPIA) issued an appeal to President Maduro and the national administration to halt the mining that is destroying the lands and livelihoods of the indigenous peoples of the States of Amazonas and Bolivar.
A delegation of indigenous representatives presented a petition to the Venezuela Government’s Ministry of Public Affairs to denounce the continuing of abuse of their rights by the armed forces who have been actively involved in illegal gold-mining on the indigenous peoples’ lands. They note that the commander of the local brigade, who along with several other members of his unit burned down two Ye’kwana houses in February and had then been detained by the Ye’kwana before being handed over to the authorities [who promised to investigate], remains in command of his brigade.
Yanomami from their organization, Horonami, marched through the regional capital in the Venezuelan Amazon on 20th February demanding better health-care and respect for their culture and dignity. Noting the problems they suffer from introduced diseases and lack of consistent health care, they issued a statement demanding a roundtable to address their problems.
The Ye’kuana and Sanema indigenous peoples of the Caura River in Estado Bolivar have again appealed to President Maduro of Venezuela, to halt the sub-human conditions to which they are being subjected in the illegal mines on the river. They claim there are now some 3,000 illegal miners operating in the Yuruani river an affluent of the Caura above the high waterfall of Salto Para, which hitherto had kept the headwaters of the river system among the best conserved in the whole Orinoco basin.
Two indigenous women’s organisations in the Venezuelan State of Amazonas have denounced the activities of armed groups who identify themselves as Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) and who are working with illegal miners in the Autana area.
Statement by Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin – COICA
The Peruvian Amazon turns blood red before COP20: Without territories and rights there will be no climate solutions
Invoking their right to self-determination, the Ye’kwana and Sanema peoples of the Caura River in the State of Guayana have issued a statement demanding recognition of their territorial rights. Pointing out that their fully documented land claim has been unanswered by the executive since 2006, the statement also rejects the imposition of any protected areas on their lands and territories until their constitutionally recognised rights to the ‘habitats’, as territories are referred to in Venezuela law, are first recognised.
A new report from the Centro de Investigaciones Ecológicas de Venezuela (CIEV) documents the incursion of armed bands of foreign miners in the Upper Caura river, an area the Government long ago agreed be set aside for the Sanema and Ye'kwana indigenous peoples.
Over 70 activists and leaders of Latin America’s indigenous peoples movement have written to President Maduro of Venezuela urging his intervention to end the repression of the Yukpa people in the Sierra de Perija region. This began with the Yukpa’s violent eviction from their lands in the 1920s and has continued to this day in the form of repeated imprisonment and oppression of their leaders and even their assassination including that of Sabino Romero in March 2013. The organisations urge President Maduro’s intervention to end the militarisation of the area, initiate processes of peaceful dialogue and fully implement Venezuela’s constitutional commitment to recognise indigenous peoples’ ‘original rights over the lands they have traditionally and ancestrally used and occupied’.
Indigenous peoples from the Venezuelan State of Amazonas grouped together under the umbrella organisation COIAM (Coordinadora de Organizaciones Indigenas de Amazonas) have mobilised in opposition to new plans to open up their State to mining.
The Ye'kuana and Sanema peoples of the Caura River, a major affluent of the Orinoco, have launched a renewed campaign for recognition of their lands rights and for the expulsion of illegal miners operating in their territory.
Recent research carried out by scientific research bodies in Venezuela shows that 92% of indigenous women of the Caura river, a major affluent of the Orinoco, have levels of mercury poisoning higher than internationally agreed permissible levels. Over one third of those tested have such high levels of mercury poisoning that they have a 5% risk of their newborn children having neurological disorders. The researchers note that the ongoing contamination of rivers, which results from the continuing illegal gold mining in the lands of the Ye'kuana and Sanema peoples, is getting worse and will lead to progressive bio-accumulation, posing an ever growing risk.