Comment & analysis
Afro-Venezuelans: An open letter to the Venezuelan National Assembly
Jesús "Chucho" García
2007-12-11, Issue 332
Jesús Chucho García calls for a greater recognition of Afro-Venezuelans in the country's constitution.
Afro-Venezuelans are not satisfied with how they are recognized in the constitution:An open letter to members of the national assembly
Esteemed members of the National Assembly,
Last Tuesday, you began to discuss the Constitutional Reform article by article. Days beforehand, Social Communicator Modesto Ruiz, an Afro-Venezuelan member from Barlovento, had expressed the feelings of the Afro-Venezuelan movement as none other had done in the constitutional history of Venezuela. It wasn’t simply the voice of Ruiz speaking, it was the voices of African ancestors and their descendants, who—after the abolition of slavery in 1854—were making a historic claim before the injustice, racism and discrimination to which we had been subjected, just as our decisive contributions to the irreversible social advancement for more than 200 years of this country’s history have done. For the first time after more than 25 constitutions discussed in that same room where you sit, the reason why we should be “legally” recognized in the Venezuelan Constitution was being explained in our own symbols, our own language, and our most profound feelings.
Each one of you knows that the Constitution should be the reflection of the people, with an understanding of how Amilcar Cabral expressed them, “The people are the principal actors and beneficiaries of the liberation struggle. This concerns a political notion that should be defined in the given historical moment.”
Who built the economies in the colonial era? Who was it that paid with their blood, intelligences and bare struggle in the Independence and Federal Wars? Who contributed to the fight for Revolutionary Democracy in the 1970s and 1980s with their blood? Perhaps it wasn’t Barlovento, Veroes (in Yaracuy state) and the most impoverished ghettoes of Caracas—where afrodescendants live—that saved the country during the 2002 coup and oil stoppage?
How can esteemed members and the President of the Republic Hugo Chávez Frías try to reduce us to one Article—number 100—of the Constitutional Reform (which, by the way, was badly written and historically decontextualized)? How can you oppose the proposals that we have made to 11 of the 33 articles proposed by President Chávez, wherein we are demanding our historical character to be an integral part of the Venezuelan people?
Esteemed members, if this is how things will be, then we are facing new, subtle forms of racism and discrimination. Your names will be forever stamped in the history of Venezuelan hypocrisy, just as in 1830 and 1854, when the names of National Assembly members who mocked the aspirations of our ancestors—who demanded citizenship, land and recognition of their cultural particularities - were stamped with hypocrisy in that same room. If the Constitutional Reform is ratified with a reductionism towards afrodescendants, then from the point of view of respect toward diversity, pluralism and the advancement to the total integration of our country, we would even be below an ultra-rightist state such as Colombia, and we would be very much below the Brazilian, Nicaraguan and Ecuadorian Constitutions.
The historic debt definitely continues, and it will depend on you and the President of the Republic, because we as afrodescendants already made our proposals for a newly articulated Preamble and technical contributions to the 33 articles, along with two street mobilizations, throughout which, by the way, the doors to that same room were never opened for us to enter. Our welcome by the highest authorities of the National Assembly and of the Presidential Committee for Constitutional Reform has thus far only been in the streets.
* Jesús "Chucho" García is a leading activist against and researcher of racism in Venezuela
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