Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May 2016, 07:09 GMT

State of the World's Minorities 2008 - Venezuela

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 11 March 2008
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2008 - Venezuela, 11 March 2008, available at: [accessed 26 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

In December 2006 elections the high-profile Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez won a third term with over 60 per cent of the vote. Chávez has openly declared his African and indigenous heritage and draws much of his support from the country's poor and marginalized, most of whom share the same roots.

No accurate count exists but Venezuela's indigenous population is estimated at between 600,000 and 700,000, representing 32 distinct peoples. Venezuela's 1999 Constitution codified indigenous rights to an unprecedented degree, including in the preamble. In 2007 challenges continued to come from conservative business organizations like FEDECAMARA that have denounced indigenous rights recognition specifically and the idea of multiculturalism in general.

Indigenous representatives have participated in the Chávez government from its inception. The Venezuelan National Indian Council (CONIVE) helped to draft the 1999 Constitution, which provides for indigenous representation in Congress. Noeli Pocaterra, an indigenous Wayu congresswoman, continues to hold the position of vice-president of Congress.

On the other hand, as of 2007, the Afro-Venezuelan population has still not experienced a similar degree of ethnic recognition. Apart from estimates that they make up 20 per cent of the national population, there is no data regarding actual Afro-Venezuelan demographics.

On 20 March 2007 thousands of urban and rural Afro-Venezuelans took to the streets of the capital Caracas, in a march for recognition. The Network of Afro-Venezuelan Organizations (ROAV) presented a proposal calling for a rewriting of the constitution to include text in the preamble related to the many sacrifices made by Africans and their descendants in gaining the country's independence.

They also requested the inclusion of a special chapter dedicated to Afro-Venezuelan communities, highlighting respect for their spiritual values, protection of ancestral lands and ecology, and inclusion in the educational curriculum of their cultural and historical contributions.

Moreover, in June 2007, with support from the Venezuelan Ministry of Culture and UNICEF, the Network of Afro-Venezuelan Organizations organized an international seminar to gather regional experiences on statistical inclusion of Afro-descendant populations, with the aim of eliminating Afro-Venezuelan invisibility in the next census (2010).

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