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Chavez’s CIA: Cut Indigenous Aid

By Alex Beech

16.10.05 | Once in a while, the Chavez government reveals its true objective, which is to amass power rather to help the poor.

Such is the case President Chavez’s recent decision to expel from Venezuela the US-based New Tribes Mission, which works with the Puinare Tribe in the state of Amazonas. Jose Kayupare, a tribe spokesman, said that the missionary group “helped Indian communities ravaged by malaria and other diseases in Venezuela, sometimes airlifting the sick to medical assistance, when the government and others had abandoned them.” The Evangelical Council of Venezuela issued a statement stating “the group, aside from its missionary work, was involved in programs to help Indian communities preserve their languages and bilingual programs to teach them Spanish.”

However, supporting a group which provides aid to a poor indigenous community is not on President Chavez’s agenda. Without presenting any evidence, he accused the religious organization of having links to the CIA, and of “collecting strategic information” on Venezuela. Acting on Chavez’s decision, Amazonas Governor Liborio Guarulla ordered New Tribe missionaries to leave. (What “strategic information” could be collected in the jungle remains unclear. What is clear is that the indigenous people of the Amazon will be left without an important source of aid.)

As Chavez’s propaganda machines, including the government-financed website, venezuelanalysis, disseminate claims that the government has succeeded in reducing poverty, one glance at the country’s double digit inflation, growing income discrepancies, falling non-oil private sector employment, and – yes, increasing extreme poverty levels - demonstrate that the government has very little concern for the well-being of Venezuelans as a whole. Cuban aspirins scattered throughout poor neighborhoods will not solve the country’s endemic poverty crisis, nor will booting out religious organizations which often represent the only aid that the poor receive in rural areas. All the social programs in the world will not create employment, and without employment, there is no progress. Without any strong and sustained private sector investment, there is no way to strengthen the country’s employment creation prospects. Chavez’s greatest mistake has been addressing the symptoms while doing nothing for the disease.

''Why don't they ask (the Indian communities) ... if they've really been abused?'' asked Domingo Gonzalez, an indigenous Venezuelan who works with the group.

''The indigenous Venezuelans need to be heard, not to be spoken for,'' Gonzalez said, who accused the Venezuelan government of being ''the ones who really harm and oppress them.''

alexbeech at hotmail.com


Venezuelans blast missionaries' expulsion

By NATALIE OBIKO PEARSON, ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Members of a Venezuelan indigenous tribe on Saturday criticized President Hugo Chavez's order to expel a U.S. missionary group he accused of links to the CIA, saying the decision goes against the interests of their impoverished communities.

Jose Kayupare of the Puinare tribe challenged Chavez's claims that the Sanford, Fla.-based New Tribes Mission constituted an "imperialist infiltration" that was exploiting native communities.

"For those of us who live in the jungle, this really is a decision that the majority of indigenous people in Amazonas (state) don't support and that we are not going to accept under any circumstances," Kayupare told reporters.

He said the New Tribes Mission has helped Indian communities ravaged by malaria and other diseases in Venezuela, sometimes airlifting the sick to medical assistance, when the government and others had abandoned them.

Chavez has accused the missionaries of ties to the CIA and collecting "strategic information" on Venezuela - charges the group denies. Although Venezuela is a key oil supplier to the United States, relations between the two countries have long been strained, and Chavez has repeatedly accused Washington of supporting efforts to oust him.

The government has also said the group has built luxurious camps next to poor Indian villages, circumvents Venezuelan customs by flying in and out of dozens of private airstrips with their planes, and is conducting mining studies in the gold-rich region.

"Why don't they ask (the Indian communities) ... if they've really been abused?" asked Domingo Gonzalez, an indigenous Venezuelan working with the group.

"The indigenous Venezuelans need to be heard, not to be spoken for," Gonzalez said, accusing the government of being "the ones who really harm and oppress them."

The country's top evangelical organization, The Evangelical Council of Venezuela, issued a statement defending the missionaries' work and denying the group had any ties with the U.S. government or was working for profit.

It said the group, aside from its missionary work, was involved in programs to help Indian communities preserve their languages and bilingual programs to teach them Spanish.

Amazonas Governor Liborio Guarulla, acting on Chavez's decision, on Friday ordered New Tribe missionaries in the area to leave.

The New Tribes Mission, founded in 1942, specializes in evangelism among indigenous groups and has 3,200 workers worldwide in 17 nations. Its 160 members working in Venezuela include Canadian, British and U.S. citizens, as well as about 30 Venezuelans.



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