BY LUIS SALAS RODRÍGUEZ & WATANIBA FOR DEBATES INDÍGENAS
The country’s economic crisis and the lack of expectations for most of its inhabitants have made Venezuela a breeding ground for despair that forces thousands of people to migrate to the Amazon. For many, illegal gold mining seems the way to beat the odds. The circumstances force equally young people without training, professionals, and criminals and professionals are forced to enter a mine to undergo this unhealthy activity. Indigenous communities are not immune to this illusory solution nor to its driving forces: they know that the mafias will go after them if they do not become miners or turn a blind eye. And as if this violence was not enough, the ecocide threat of deforestation and mercury contamination of rivers hangs over their communities.
For more than two decades now, Venezuela’s Constitution has recognised the country as multi-ethnic and pluricultural. It has also established that Indigenous languages can be officially used in the country. Indigenous Peoples make up approximately 2.8% of the country’s 32 million population. According to the 2011 Indigenous Census, some 51 different Indigenous Peoples live in Zulia, Amazonas, Bolivar, Delta Amacuro, Anzoátegui, Sucre, Apure, Nueva Esparta, Lara, Falcón and Mérida states. This same census highlights a resurgence in peoples once considered extinct and in others coming from different countries in the region.
BY LUIS JESÚS BELLO
The Jödi, the Yanomami and the Uwottüja living in voluntary isolation are threatened by the invasions that result from extractive activities and by the presence of illegal groups in the area: to the environmental impact we should add the sociocultural and sanitary ramifications. The isolated groups are aware that foreign agents are potential disease carriers, which represents a motivation to remain isolated. The Covid-19 pandemic worsens this situation due to the high epidemiological and immunological vulnerability.