Sunday, November 16, 2008

Three years ago, President Hugo Chavez discharged missionaries from the Venezuelan Amazon region where the Yanomami tribe dwells. Resentment is growing in the tribe due to what they consider the neglect that led to the deaths of 50 indigenous people in the Yanomami community. These deaths have been caused mostly by a lack of food, medicine, and access to medical facilities. Chavez responds to this resentment by claiming to have raised overall spending on social welfare programs for the indigenous community. Yanomami leader, 49 year old Ramón González, is quoted saying that this claim is merely rhetoric and not at all reality.

Indigenous healthcare has been an issue lately in Venezuela after a mysterious disease killed 38 Warao Indians in August. González says that indigenous lives are gravely underrated in the politics of Venezuela. "The boats, the planes, the money, it's all for the criollos", or the nonnative Venezuelans.

There are 26,000 Yanomamis in the Amazon rain forest, between Venezuela and Brazil, and they are semi-nomadic, subsisting on crops such as maniocs and bananas. These communities are not at all like the indigenous tribes from anthropology books. They can be seen in Puerto Ayacucho wearing modern-day attire and using cellphones. They are, however, extremely susceptible to many diseases for which they still have weak defenses, such as some respiratory diseases and drug-resistant strains of malaria.

Yanomamis say that while the Venezuelan governments put pictures of the tribes all over tourist brochures and in airport lobbies, the tribes are allowed no political positions. This shows the Yanomami community their governments complete lack of respect for the rights and individualism of the indigenous society.

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