Acting in response to statements from the Brazilian President, an estimated 20,000 illegal miners are reported to have invaded the lands of the indigenous Yanomami peoples in the Amazon basin.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
On 5th September 2012, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organisation of American States issued a press release in which it urged the Venezuelan Government to carry out an investigation in the Upper Ocamo village of Irotatheri where the alleged massacre of as many as 80 people is supposed to have taken place. On 10th September 2012, the IACHR issued a further press statement noting that Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela had officially 'denounced' the Convention. However, as the IACHR notes, withdrawal from the Convention requires one year's notice and moreover:
Government moves to cut the Hoti people's lands in the Venezuelan State of Amazonas by 42% have been denounced by all the main indigenous peoples' organizations. The Hoti were only brought into sustained contact with the national society by missionaries in the 1960s and many groups are still choosing to remain out of contact in the forested highlands. After flawed consultations, the Government has proposed reducing the Hoti territory by almost half, thereby excluding from protection the most isolated groups.
A new report from the Universidad Nacional Experimental de Guayana shows that less than 1% of the territory of Venezuela has been recognised as indigenous lands. The illustrated study compares the situation in Venezuela with neighbouring Colombia where more 34 million hectares making up nearly 30% of the national territory have been recognised as self-governing indigenous territories (resguardos).
The recent assassination of a Yukpa leader demanding recognition of his people's rights to their lands in the Sierra de Perijá in western Venezuela has been denounced by the Yukpa and by concerned academics who note that the worsening situation is a result of the government's refusal to recognise indigenous peoples' rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
Indigenous Peoples of the Venezuelan Amazon again call on the Government of Hugo Chavez to fulfil its constitutonal obligation to recognise indigenous peoples' rights to their territories (referred to as 'habitat' in Venezuelan law). Only 73 villages out of over 3,000 have had their lands recognised since the law for demarcations was passed in the late 1990s leaving most indigenous peoples in Venezuela in insecurity.
A new Presidential decree, which reduces indigenous participation in the process meant to recognise their rights to their lands and territories has been denounced by the indigenous peoples of the Venezuelan Amazon. The Constitution and laws of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela offer strong protections of indigenous peoples’ rights to own and control their lands and territories (referred to as ‘habitats’ in Venezuelan law). However, even though indigenous peoples have filed numerous well-documented land claims substantiated with detailed land use maps, actual recognition of these areas has been blocked by the President’s Office. The new Decree, it is feared, will make such recognition even more difficult.