The Constitution recognises Venezuela as a multiethnic and multicultural society, and its basic provisions (Art. 9) establish that Indigenous languages are also official in the country. Indigenous Peoples account for approximately 2.8% of the total population of 32 million inhabitants. According to the 2011 Indigenous Census, there are some 51 different peoples. There was a remarkable resurgence of peoples considered extinct and from other countries in the region in the 2011 Census. The 15th National Population and Housing Census (2021) is currently being prepared, which includes Indigenous self-recognition, the use of languages, the criteria for communities in traditional contexts and the registration of centres of population of non-traditional Indigenous use.
The current legal framework is fairly wide and comprehensive. The Constitution establishes Indigenous rights in a chapter beginning with Article 119, recognising their existence, their social, political and economic organisation, their cultures, uses and customs, languages and religions, as well as their habitats and original rights over the lands they ancestrally and traditionally occupy, and an obligation on the part of the Venezuelan state to demarcate and guarantee the collective ownership of the lands. In 2001, the Venezuelan state ratified ILO Convention 169, and various regulations have been approved on specific rights such as the Law on Habitat and Land Demarcation (2001), the Organic Law on Indigenous Peoples and Communities (2005), the Law on Indigenous Languages (2007), and the Law on the Cultural Heritage of Indigenous Peoples and Communities (2009).
Official estimates indicate that indigenous peoples comprise approximately 2.8% of Venezuela’s total population of some 32 million inhabitants. Others, however, believe that the indigenous population is larger, perhaps surpassing 1.5 million.