Chavez: Champion of the Poorest

(The picture is of Hugo Chavez watching a traditional tribal dance performance in his honor, in Alaska)

I often post news about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias. Why? For me, he represents a powerful image and reality of Original peoples' unity and solidarity in these days and times. While others harken back to the days of ol', often suffocated by their own nostalgia, Chavez and his political agenda provide a contemporary example of 'resistancia' and the 'oneness' of people of color. He dares to go where no one wants to go and does what no one has the gull to do, in the face of U.S. imperialism, the devil's civilization. I admire him greatly and he stands as one of the most inspiring individuals in my life, aside from Allah, the founder of the Nation of Gods and Earths. As well, many of Chavez' politics and endeavors parallel my own understanding of Allah's mathematics and our political goals on an international level. For years I' heard pessimists chant me down with 'socialism is dead', 'it won't work', blase blase. Well, to them I say, it is puto. The proof is in the puddin'. On this day of 'wisdom wisdom', 'today's mathematics' or the principles we focus on today within our cultural paradigm, we can truly see VICTORY (the 22nd letter of the alphabet-For the Five Percent, the letter 'V' represents 'victory' and is a principle that we meditate and build on today) is his ways, words and actions. We can bear witness to the discernment and consideration he has taking with his actions and the reprecussion from them.

Below is a recent article concerning Chavez' contribution to the state of our people here in the wilderness of North America, as well as some excerpts from other articles that highlight this mission and accomplishment. Palante Siempre.

Venezuelan Fuel Oil Program Praised For Aiding Many Poor Tribes
By: David Melmer - Indian Country Today

HELENA, Mont. - CITGO Petroleum Corp. came to the rescue of thousands of American Indian families in the Great Plains this past winter with a donation that assisted with the cost of heating homes during a sometimes brutal winter season.

Help for the American Indians was specially requested by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The Rocky Boy's Reservation in Montana, which received $141,000 from the Venezuelan corporation, sent an open letter praising Chavez for helping more than 500 families survive the cold.

Many reservation homes in the Great Plains were without power, propane or heating fuel at a time when the temperatures plummeted to below zero and winds drove the cold to more dangerous levels.

Poverty prevents many people from keeping their fuel tanks filled, and power companies cut off electricity to homes when bills are not paid. The reservations that received the donation are all listed as having high poverty rates due to a lack of employment potential.

On the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota, one of the recipients of CITGO's donation, 1,300 families normally receive funds from the Low Income Heating Assistance Program. The LIHEAP, normally backed by federal funds, came up empty because of two continuing resolutions, one passed by the new Congress. Some reservations' LIHEAP funds were exhausted prior to the CITGO donation.

CITGO provided $2 million in relief for 10 tribes in South Dakota and Montana. This is the second year of the program, which started in the northeastern United States and then moved to the Midwest and Great Plains. Some 150 tribes in Alaska also benefited.

CITGO answered the call from six members of Congress after Hurricane Katrina damaged much of the oil industry infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico, which led to higher prices for those in the most need.

''The senators called upon the major energy companies to ask what we could do to assist the consumer; we thought we could offer discounted heating oil,'' said CITGO spokesman David McCollum.

While the contracts were signed by tribal leaders and CITGO, families were asking for assistance from the tribal LIHEAP offices. Now that spring is imminent in the Great Plains, with recent record-breaking high temperatures that reached slightly above 80 degrees, the threat of serious physical complications from the cold has abated; but the CITGO donation managed to get many tribal members through the harsh winter.

The spring-like temperatures don't mean winter is over in the northern Plains.

Judi Houle, director of elder programs and administrator of the LIHEAP for Rocky Boy's, said she hoped the people would have learned to conserve energy for the remainder of the season so they would not run out of fuel. After the CITGO-donated funds run out, there is little financial relief until late summer, when new leverage grants will be awarded, Houle said.

The donations to the 10 Great Plains tribes occurred in mid-February, and the program runs through mid-March. More than 160 American Indian tribes have benefited from the CITGO program.

On the February morning in which the contracts were signed and checks given to the tribal leaders while in Montana, the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation LIHEAP accepted applications from nine families. Applications were to be taken through the next week with an estimated 900 families that could benefit from the $376,000 offered by CITGO.

''It is hard to express the depth of our gratitude. Our LIHEAP program has been out of funds since October. People have been without heat, which resulted in sick infants and frozen pipes,'' said Joseph Brings Plenty, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

''This gift means a lot to our people.''On Rocky Boy's, some 500 families could have benefited from the program.

''This program was a Godsend,'' Houle said.

''People were out of fuel with no chance of funding.

''Houle said that 80 percent of the people on Rocky Boy's were out of energy funds. The normal allocation is $240 per household, which ''doesn't stretch far.

''In Montana, with high winds and cold temperatures, some families can use up that allocation in two weeks.

The CITGO donation awarded $259 per family for each reservation.

Rocky Boy's, Cheyenne River and others received two donations, one for private homes and the other for facilities. Houle said the Boys and Girls Club, the elder's program, Veterans Administration program and a new wellness center also received financial relief.

McCollum said that up to 7,000 households on reservations in the two states of Montana and South Dakota would benefit. Montana received the lion's share of the funding, which would amount to an estimated 500,000 gallons of fuel oil; and for South Dakota, the amount was estimated at 209,000 gallons.

''This donation is greater than our entire 2006 LIHEAP budget. There is no greater gift that the people of Venezuela could have given to us. Thank you,'' said Bob Waters, Cheyenne River Sioux councilman.

On the Lower Brule Reservation, in mid-February, no families were out of fuel or without electricity, according to LIHEAP Director Karen Drapeau. Lower Brule owns a propane company that distributes fuel to Lower Brule and across the river to the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation. Drapeau said the funding would help families on both reservations.

The political climate between Venezuela and the United States is controversial, and some members of Congress argued against accepting the donations. Chavez is a major critic of the United States and President Bush.''We are in the business of running a business and we leave the politics to others,'' McCullum said.

''It is a privilege to do business here and we are here for good citizenship,'' he said.

Donations were given to the Rocky Boy's, Fort Belknap, Flathead, Northern Cheyenne, Fort Peck, Blackfeet, and Little Shell reservations in Montana; and the Cheyenne River Sioux, Lower Brule and Crow Creek reservations in South Dakota. "

- And to think that there were actually tribes in Alaska, and probably elsewhere, that refused the aid from Chavez and Venezuela, because of what he said about Bush back in September. It is a shame to see the effect of hegemony and colonialism and our people. That we could have been dealty with so wrongly that we can't even trust the ones' who are really here to help us, in favor of our patriarchical enemy whom some 'house injuns' and Uncle Tonto's have established an alliance with. Why do you love the devil when he has given you nothing? Your pride is admirable and foolish at the same time. To know that you are content with your life as the U.S. has defined and structured it to be.

and here's more....

"Citgo said the oil will be available to people in 17 states, including Indian tribes in Alaska, some of whom were flown to New York for the ceremony and attended in traditional dress. They performed a dance and offered Chavez a walrus figurine carved out of whale bone as a gift.

"This will go a long way for a lot of families," said Ian Erlich, a leader of the Alaska Intertribal Council who said many people struggle to afford heating oil where he lives in Kotzebue, Alaska, north of the Artic Circle.

Chavez started the heating oil program last winter, accusing Bush of neglecting the poor. Citgo says up to 1.2 million people will benefit this winter."

- http://www.canada.com/topics/news/world/story.html?id=d7785063-3c00-454f-a59d-d3f2a23d7668&k=38778

Chavez: A New Beginning for Zulia Indians?
In the mid-1990s, Indians in the Sierra of Perija continued to face daunting challenges. For example, Wayuu and Yupka peoples lost their lands to large, state-controlled coal mines and oil drilling.

In 1998, the election of Hugo Chavez to the presidency stood to dramatically change the plight of indigenous people. In contrast to earlier regimes, Chavez took a more anti-missionary stance on indigenous policy. For example, he expelled the New Tribes Mission, an American missionary group working with Venezuelan indigenous communities. Chavez accused New Tribes of collaborating with the CIA.

Chavez's 1999 Constitution represented a big step forward for Indians. Under article 9, Spanish was declared the official language of Venezuela, but "Indigenous languages are also for official use for indigenous peoples and must be respected throughout the Republic's territory for being part of the nation's and humanity's patrimonial culture." In chapter eight of the constitution, the state recognized the social, political, and economic organization within indigenous communities, in addition to their cultures, languages, rights, and lands.

What is more, in a critical provision the government recognized land rights as collective, inalienable, and non-transferable. Later articles declared the government's pledge not to engage in extraction of natural resources without prior consultation with indigenous groups.
Chavez himself has distributed millions of acres of land to indigenous communities. The move forms part of the so called Mission Guaicaipuro which shall provide land titles to all of Venezuela's 28 indigenous peoples.

- http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1955

Chávez and Indigenous Peoples
In 1998 while campaigning for president, Chávez made a commitment to champion the rights of Venezuela's half-million indigenous peoples. After he was elected, Chávez put the issue of indigenous rights front and center by addressing it on his weekly call-in program, Aló Presidente. But actions speak greater than words, and Chávez made good on his promises by working to codify the rights of indigenous people in the new 1999 constitution. Article 9 proclaims that while Spanish is the official language of Venezuela, "Indigenous languages are also for official use for Indigenous peoples and must be respected throughout the Republic's territory for being part of the nation's and humanity's patrimonial culture." In chapter eight of the constitution, the state recognizes the social, political, and economic organization within indigenous communities, in addition to their cultures, languages, rights, and lands. What is more, in a critical provision the government recognizes land rights as collective, inalienable, and non-transferable. Later articles declare the government's pledge not to engage in extraction of natural resources without prior consultation with indigenous groups. Three long time indigenous activists have been elected to the Venezuelan National Assembly, and prominent leaders hold positions in government. In a novel move, Chávez has even had the constitution translated into all of Venezuela's languages.

Chávez has lived up to the constitution by awarding communal land titles to six Kariña indigenous communities. The land titles will be handed out to 4,000 people and encompass 317,000 acres in the Venezuelan states of Monagas and Anzoategui. The land transfers form part of Mission Guaicaipuro, a plan to provide land titles to all of Venezuela's 28 indigenous peoples. Chávez awarded the communal titles to the Kariña in August during the 16th World Festival of Students and Youth. The conference, which was attended by 40,000 people, was held in Caracas. During the opening procession of nations Chávez gave a "thumbs up" to a banner which displayed the words "Leonard Peltier." An indigenous woman speaker at the conference, one of three indigenous representatives in the Venezuela Assembly, praised recent advances for indigenous people. One conference participant reported, "Chávez hugged all the indigenous leaders in front of the world and gave deeds of territory to the tribes." By the end of 2006, Chávez' Mission Guaicaipuro plans to award land titles to 15 more indigenous groups. Participants at the conference were also pleased by Chávez's moves to halt the celebration of Columbus Day, which he has replaced with "Indigenous Resistance Day."

- http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1577

Indigenous critics of Chavez' take shots at his indigenous policies and some of the actions and lack thereof that have been taken to enforce the Bolivarian constitution. Let me say that all things require time and must be taken through a process to achieve the desired change. Keep in mind the catepillar who transforms into the illustrious butterfly. Chavez has done, from my prespective, what can given within the pre-established frame work of oligarchy within Venezuela. Remember that a revolution is made by the people and not an individual. To take people off of reservations and overnight change there condition can not be down because one has to take into consideration the years of governmental policies that fortified there current state of existance. In time...


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