• Pueblos indígenas en Venezuela

    Pueblos indígenas en Venezuela

    El 2.8% de los habitantes de Venezuela se identifican como indígenas. Venezuela ha adoptado la Declaración de Naciones Unidas sobre Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas y ha ratificado el Convenio 169 de la OIT.


Indigenous Peoples in Venezuela

The Constitution recognises Venezuela as a multiethnic and multicultural society, and its basic provisions (Art. 9) establish that Indigenous languages are also official in the country. Indigenous Peoples in Venezuela account for 2.8% of the national population that accounts for around 32 million people. Nonetheless, other organisations believe that the indigenous population numbers over 1,5 million people. 

There was a remarkable resurgence of peoples considered extinct and from other countries in the region in the 2011 Census. 

 Venezuela has adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ratified ILO Convention 169. However, Indigenous Peoples in the country keep struggling with a lack of demarcation of indigenous habitat and lands, illegal mining activities, and environmental degradation.

In 1999, the Constitution of Venezuela recognised the multiethnic, pluricultural, and multilingual character of Venezuelan society. The country has also enacted a set of laws set to  develop the specific rights of Indigenous Peoples, such as the Law on Demarcation and Guarantee of the Habitat and Lands of Indigenous Peoples (2001), the Organic Law on Indigenous Peoples and Communities (2005), and the Indigenous Languages Act (2007), as well as several favorable provisions found in a number of Venezuelan legal norms.

Venezuela has also created institutions devoted to overseeing public policy formulation in indigenous affairs, such as the Ministry of Popular Power for Indigenous Peoples.

Main challenges for Venezuela’s Indigenous Peoples

The demarcation of indigenous territories continues to be the principal right pending of resolution for Venezuela’s Indigenous Peoples and communities. The Constitution’s interim provisions obligated the state to demarcate indigenous territories within not more than two years. However, according to several reports from Indigenous Peoples and communities themselves, the number of lands provided did not surpass 13% of the total.

During 2017, the Government of Venezuela implemented the Orinoco Mining Belt megaproject, which encountered serious confrontation from indigenous communities, as it overlaps with indigenous auto-demarcated territories. 

Illegal mining continues to be a major challenge for Venezuela’s Indigenous Peoples. In the recent years, areas such as the Yapacana National Park, the Orinoco, Atabapo, Guainía, Sipapo - Guayapo, Parú, Asita, Siapa and other rivers have suffered serious environmental destruction. Such activity has polluted the waters due to the presence of mercury and has altered the river ecosystems in general, taking the lives of numerous fish that are a source of food for indigenous communities.

Health problems within indigenous communities is another alarming issue. Among the Yanomami the infantile mortality rate is measured at 10 times higher than the national average and infantile mortality among the Pum. ethnicity ranges between 30% and 50% of live births. According to research, 2017 has seen a dramatic spread of HIV/AIDS in the Warao group: 10 out of every 100 indigenous Warao suffer from this condition. The Warao also a have a high incidence of tuberculosis.

Potential progress for Venezuela’s Indigenous Peoples 

In matters of land, Indigenous Peoples have experienced certain progress during 2017. They have seen the return to complete legal status of the Bari lands in the State of Zulia and the creation of the Caura National Park, which supposes the legal grant of environmental protection and entails a recognition for the lands of some indigenous communities.

The 15th National Population and Housing Census (2021) is currently being prepared, which includes Indigenous self-recognition, the use of languages, the criteria for communities in traditional contexts and the registration of centres of population of non-traditional Indigenous use.

The Indigenous World 2024: Venezuela

Of Venezuela’s total population of 27,227,930, some 724,592 are Indigenous (2.8%), belonging to 51 different peoples and mostly concentrated (85%) in Zulia state and the Amazon region.

In 1999, the constitutional process ensured that the fundamental rights of Indigenous Peoples and communities were guaranteed in the Constitution and that a set of legal and regulatory provisions were established to broadly protect them. These included the Law approving ILO Convention 169, the Organic Law on Indigenous Peoples and Communities, the Law on the Cultural Heritage of Indigenous Peoples and Communities, and the Law on Indigenous Languages.

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Illegal mining in Venezuela: a map of the issue


The country’s economic crisis and the lack of expectations for most of its inhabitants have made Venezuela a breeding ground for despair that forces thousands of people to migrate to the Amazon. For many, illegal gold mining seems the way to beat the odds. The circumstances force equally young people without training, professionals, and criminals and professionals are forced to enter a mine to undergo this unhealthy activity. Indigenous communities are not immune to this illusory solution nor to its driving forces: they know that the mafias will go after them if they do not become miners or turn a blind eye. And as if this violence was not enough, the ecocide threat of deforestation and mercury contamination of rivers hangs over their communities.

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The Indigenous World 2022: Venezuela

For more than two decades now, Venezuela’s Constitution has recognised the country as multi-ethnic and pluricultural. It has also established that Indigenous languages can be officially used in the country. Indigenous Peoples make up approximately 2.8% of the country’s 32 million population. According to the 2011 Indigenous Census, some 51 different Indigenous Peoples live in Zulia, Amazonas, Bolivar, Delta Amacuro, Anzoátegui, Sucre, Apure, Nueva Esparta, Lara, Falcón and Mérida states. This same census highlights a resurgence in peoples once considered extinct and in others coming from different countries in the region.

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White-collar miners: who is devastating the Amazon?


While miners are blamed for the destruction of the forests, this gold fever would not exist without the lavish consumption of sheikhs, influencers, rappers, footballers, brokers, Hollywood actors and famous singers. Following the rise in the price of gold during Covid-19, Central Banks and speculators have further boosted this demand. In Brazil and Venezuela, the land area affected by mining is increasing rapidly and the presence of gold miners threatens the indigenous communities living near the deposits.

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The Indigenous World 2023: Venezuela

Of a total population of 27,227,930, 724,592 are Indigenous (2.8%) and belong to 51 different peoples, mostly concentrated (85%) in the state of Zulia and the Amazon region.

In 1999, the constitutional process ensured that the fundamental rights of Indigenous Peoples and communities were guaranteed in the Constitution and that a set of legal and regulatory provisions were established to broadly protect them.

Continue Reading

Colombia–Venezuela: the Wayúu face poverty and violence


Marked by trade since colonial times, the Indigenous people of La Guajira live along the Colombia–Venezuela border. Between a lack of drinking water, the extractive industry, wind farms and the humanitarian crisis, the Wayúu survive despite dispossession and food insecurity. In recent times, violence caused by the militarisation of the region and the territorial disputes between paramilitary groups, smugglers, drug traffickers and the illegal trade in fuel has only added to the problem. The closure of borders is leaving family and community dynamics at crisis point.

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IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting and defending Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Read more.

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Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for Indigenous Peoples worldwide. Read The Indigenous World.

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