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Chavez backs indiginouis struggle

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Analysis: Chavez backs native struggle
By Carlos Coello
Published 3/5/2004 3:42 AM
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CARACAS, Venezuela, March 4 (UPI) -- The Venezuelan government is acting as a driving force behind the populist Latin American indigenous movement, despite the fact that there are only about 250,000 natives in the county, who have no political clout. President Hugo Chavez has become a pillar of a continental revolution, along with his close associate Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

According to analyst Alberto Garrido, the revolutionary movement extends from Mexico to Tierra del Fuego, taking in farmers, indigenous peoples, labor unions and guerrilla organizations. It includes the indigenous movements of Mexico, Central America, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador as well as Nicaragua's Sandinistas, Salvador's Farabundo Marti movement, Argentinean strikers, Brazilian members of Sin Tierra's landless movement and Colombia's leftist guerrillas. All are tightly connected to the "Bolivarian Revolution" initiated and led by President Lieutenant Colonel Chavez.

Garrido is considered an expert in the history and aspirations of Chavez's movement; he emphasizes the process of what he calls the "revolutionary Andeanization" of the natives of the high plateau Andean region. An emerging figure in the indigenous movement is Bolivian coca grower Evo Morales. In a sign of the growing internalization of the indigenous movement encouraged by the Venezuelan government, Morales has participated in several meetings in Caracas promoted by the Chavez regime.

A meeting was held last September in support of Chavez's self-declared "Bolivarian Revolution" to unite forces against the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (ALCA), the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund "and any and all forms of imperialism." Another objective was to coordinate indigenous groups and peasants to participate in the Oct. 12 commemoration of the "Day of Indian Resistance" in Caracas, a counterpoint to Columbus Day celebrated on the same date in North America.

Other participants included Rafael Alegria from the Honduran Farmers' Path Movement, Blanca Chancoso from the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, Egidio Brunetto of Brazil's Sin Terra, the Latin American coordinator for the Farmers Organizations of Guatemala Juan Tiney and Braulio Alvarez, coordinator of Venezuela's agrarian Ezequiel Zamora movement, named after a 19th century military commander and populist.

The conference issued a declaration to commemorate Oct. 12 which declared, "They wanted to uproot our thousand-year-old culture, languages, beliefs and cults and subjugate us afterwards." The text made a further call to "globalize" and amalgamate the indigenous, agarian and revolutionary struggles.

Last month in Bolivar state in southwest Venezuela during the Third Communal Pan-Amazonian Forum, President Chavez urged the Indian population across the continent to unite in a common struggle.

During the forum, which included delegations from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Surinam and Venezuela, Chavez emphasized "a new liberating, transforming and revolutionary wave which swells from the Caribbean to Patagonia for the peoples who are tired of so much poverty, hunger and injustice."

Chavez has repeatedly condemned the "savage neoliberalism" of U.S. global dominion as well as Washington's interest in developing a continental "free trade market" and emphasized that, "ALCA is not what we want. The government of Venezuela is against monopolistic intentions to impose their destructive models of exploitation and domination."

Academic circles maintain that most of the ideology behind this attempt to involve natives in the social struggle comes from the Chilean Marxist ideologist Marta Harnecker. Harnecker writes in her work "Christians and Natives in the Revolution" that Latin American progressive elements must give "critical importance to the indigenous groups and ethnic minorities in order to bring about the future revolutions of the continent."

Chavez's opponents accuse him of using the ancient resentments and frustrations of the natives to subvert regional stability. They point out that Chavez wants to expand the confrontational class struggle model that he used in Venezuela throughout the continent.

Even though the problems of the indigenous peoples do not figure in the national political debate, there are social elements that condemn their collectivist social organization, which they consider as a brake on economic development. They quote Peruvian writer and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, who wrote, "development and civilization are incompatible with certain social phenomena and the main one is collectivism. No collectivist society or any society infused with this culture can develop, modernize and reach civilization."


(Carlos Coello is a writer with Tiempos del Mundo)

Copyright 2001-2004 United Press International

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