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Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

AIM in Caracas: Supporting Venezuela as US imposes economic sanctions

AIM in Caracas to support Venezuela, following US economic sanctions

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Photo by Tony Gonzales
Photo published with permission at Censored News.
UPDATED: May 31, 2001, 5 pm

CARACAS, Venezuela -- American Indian Movement representatives Tony Gonzales and Richard La Fortune were in Venezuela this weekend to support the country in its struggles and expose the United States' political machinations aimed at hurting Indigenous Peoples.

Anishinabe Roseau River First Nation Chief Terrance Nelson released a statement exposing the United States' agenda which targets Venezuela President Hugo Chavez.

Gonzales spoke at a rally on Sunday, May 29, in Caracas, following the Obama administration's new economic sanctions against Venezuela. Venezuela's CITGO has been providing energy assistance to American Indians and other poor Americans.

Gonzales said, “The people were fired up waiting to hear what we Indios/AIM from North America had to say about the USA terminating energy contracts. It was a source Indian peoples in South Dakota, Montana, Alaska and New York had relied on. Their warm generosity during harsh winter, and was cut off! Venezuela se respeta!"

"It was awesome! Such strong spirited peoples," Gonzales said of the rally. Gonzales and Richard La Fortune conveyed the sentiments of north America's recipients of Venezuela's warm generosity.

"For the US to single out sanctions against Venezuela energy companies could have serious consequences all around, and should require further investigation and congressional debate, including testimony from the general public! Legislators and representatives should be contacted. Cities can write resolutions and forward them to their representatives," Gonzales said.

Gonzales said people should be aware of the implications of US sanctions against Venezuela, particularly as it affects Indian peoples in north America. "What are the 250,000 needy recipients in South Dakota, Montana, Alaska, New York and other places to do now during this energy crisis and the new cut-off? It is down-right disgusting; the cruelty and mean spirited Obama administration and for using the poor to leverage their point!" Gonzales said.

Chief Nelson questioned if the US is now focused on portraying President Chavez as the next "bogeyman."

"With Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden dead, who is the next bogeyman?"

"So, is President Hugo Chavez one of the next bogeymen for the U.S. military? Are we to be afraid of Chavez and why is that?"

According to news reports, the Obama administration imposed economic sanctions in May against CITGO's parent company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, and six other companies who helped Iran import gasoline. Obama placed the companies on a financial blacklist which affects contract bidding and prevents access to the global banking system.

Chief Nelson said, "The United States isn’t putting a stop to the import of Venezuelan oil but wants Chavez to quit dealing with Iran. The American Indian Movement has two people in Venezuela meeting with government officials. For us the reality is that Venezuela has helped indigenous people in the United States directly."

"The poorest reservations in the United States have received foreign aid from the Venezuelans. In the dead of winter, home heating oil from Citgo, the Venezuelan Gas Station giant in the U.S.A., has given a lot to the poorest people in America, the indigenous people. It is not millions of dollars but more like billions of dollars that Hugo Chavez has given to other nations. Perhaps it doesn’t mean a lot to the average American but Chavez is not Castro, Venezuela has a choice. Oil gives Chavez the ability to chose who he sells to." (See Chief Nelson's full statement below.)

Economic Sanctions, a double edged sword!

By Chief Terrance Nelson, Roseau River First Nation Anishinabe
May 30, 2011

Americans paying four dollars a gallon for gasoline and U.S. trade deficits with other nations in the hundreds of billions dollars every year for the last few decades is cause for real debate for every American that is affected by the economy. When it comes to oil, the action taken by the Obama administration declaring economic sanctions against Venezuela is a dangerous game. A full 25% of the world’s oil is used by the 5% of the world population in the United States. United States has a fourteen trillion dollar federal debt and an unrelenting addiction to foreign oil.

Twenty years ago when the U.S. federal debt was 3 trillion dollars, economic sanctions against other nations wasn’t dangerous for the U.S. America today is in uncharted grounds, it is no longer an invincible economic fortress. The world’s largest economy is in danger of an economic Waterloo. For their own good, average Americans must demand the right to be involved in the debate not be left on the sidelines of government policies that will affect every American.

For decades, America and its allies have used economic sanctions on other nations who do not comply with the wishes of the United Nations or World Trade policies. Canada has joined the United States in declaring economic sanctions against other nations numerous times. As indigenous peoples in North America, our experience with the colonial governments has been continuous undeclared economic sanctions enacted against our people.

Deliberate policies and laws by immigrant governments have destroyed our ability to have economic self-sufficiency. What has changed for First Nations in Canada is our leverage over the 2.5 million barrels of oil flowing daily to the United States. Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation has the Enbridge depot in Gretna Manitoba sitting on our ancestral lands, a depot that sends one million barrels of oil a day stateside. The Enbridge depot in Gretna Manitoba sends as much oil to the United States as all of Venezuela. What is important to understand is that Canada did not comply with the Treaty One conditions that gave Enbridge rights in our ancestral lands.

In Canada indigenous people are at the seventy-second level of the United Nations Living Index while Canada overall is at the second highest level just below Australia’s number one world ranking. We live under undeclared economic sanctions and have done so for decades. Canada is the largest supplier of foreign oil to the United States but the real owners, the indigenous peoples in Canada get no payment for any of the sixty different metals and minerals mined in Canada. While there are no property rights for indigenous peoples under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the United States does enjoy security of energy exports/imports under the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada.

Since 9/11, the right of Americans to question Government has become un-American. The only aspect of the United States budget that never gets slashed is military spending. Saddam is dead, but the need for a bogey man to scare Americans into never questioning the need for military spending continues. Despite the unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which will cost the United States $1.3 trillion to the end of 2011, the need for the United States military to try to control world events and American opinion continues. The world saw President Obama sitting watching as Navy Seals killed Osama Bin Laden and Americans cheered, celebrating in great enthusiasm. The reality for America however is that Osama Bin Laden’s death does not change the economic situation faced by the United States ten years after 9/11.

In April 1998 I accepted an invitation from the Saddam Hussein government to go to Iraq and see first-hand the effects of economic sanctions upon the people of Iraq. Seven indigenous people from Canada with broadcast quality cameras went into Iraq for eleven days and video-taped 25 hours of life under United Nations economic sanctions. The effects of sanctions were already well known. In December of 1995, the United Nations released a study that found that 567,000 Iraqi children had died in the first five years of economic sanctions. Prior to the 1990 war, the Iraqi dinar was worth three and a half American dollars, by the time we got there in 1998, it took fourteen hundred Iraqi dinars to buy one American dollar.

Prior to economic sanctions, Iraq’s largest trading partners were Russia, China and France. Under United Nations economic sanctions, Iraq’s trade situation was governed by the Food for Oil program. In the 1998 America, no one cared about Iraq because for the average American, life was good, gasoline was 90 cents a gallon, 9/11 hadn’t happened yet and besides wasn’t it all Saddam’s fault? Saddam was good bogey man, a sadistic paranoid who got Iraq into a bloody eight year war with Iran. Remember what we were told, weapons of mass destruction. No one can defend Saddam after he quit being a U.S. ally and he tried to seize the neighbouring Kuwait oil fields. The reality of U.S. need for oil never dawned on Saddam.

With Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden dead, who is the next bogey man? Do you not find it strange that 15 of the 19 terrorists who hit United States in September of 2001 came from Saudi Arabia but never once have we ever heard anyone in the United States government talking of the need for regime change in Saudi Arabia. We do however hear the need for regime change in Iran. Iran is building a nuclear weapon we are told and economic sanctions are necessary. Anyone dealing with Iran is a threat, so we must put economic sanctions on Venezuela, we are told because Venezuela is continuing to defy the United States by trading with Iran. So, is President Hugo Chavez one of the next bogey men for the U.S. military? Are we to be afraid of Chavez and why is that?

Don’t get me wrong, with the Middle East in crisis and Chavez in trouble, we don’t mind the extra leverage we now have over the United States by sitting on the pipelines from Canada that fuel the American economy, it is just that we can’t sell Americans anything if the U.S. dollar goes the way of the Iraqi dinar. Eighty-seven percent of all Canadian exports are purchased by United States. Putting sanctions on Venezuela does not make sense. As dangerous as nuclear proliferation is, pissing off the owners of millions of barrels of foreign oil purchased by the United States every day is also dangerous. Changing to the Euro from the American dollar in payment for oil would devastate the American dollar.

Six years ago, in May 2005, I wrote, “…United States can financially implode and cause a worldwide recession perhaps even a depression. …Americans in a deep recession unable to live in their accustomed lifestyle could become a military superpower with an unstable government.” Only nine countries in the world are nuclear capable with over twenty thousand nuclear warheads existing in the world, enough to kill all life in the world many times over. No one disputes the need to stop nuclear proliferation, the question however still remains, is it a good strategy to use economic sanctions on other nations when it can become a double edged sword, one that could now be used against the United States.

The United States isn’t putting a stop to the import of Venezuelan oil but wants Chavez to quit dealing with Iran. The American Indian Movement has two people in Venezuela meeting with government officials. For us the reality is that Venezuela has helped indigenous people in the United States directly. The poorest reservations in the United States have received foreign aid from the Venezuelans. In the dead of winter, home heating oil from Citgo the Venezuelan Gas Station giant in the U.S.A. has given a lot to the poorest people in America, the indigenous people. It is not millions of dollars but more like billions of dollars that Hugo Chavez has given to other nations. Perhaps it doesn’t mean a lot to the average American but Chavez is not Castro, Venezuela has a choice. Oil gives Chavez the ability to chose who he sells to.

If the Gulf of Mexico spill is any indication, allowing the multi-national corporations like BP and American oil companies free rein over oil is not a good idea. If Americans are getting tired of paying four dollars for a gallon of gas, if they are worried about where their dollars are going and asking if their money at the gas pump is financing the next nuclear weapons, maybe it is time to ask questions. Being in Iraq in 1998 was not a popular thing to do and the two AIM members being in Venezuela today maybe seen as un-American by some in the U.S. government but it is a right non the less. More than a right it is responsibility to ask questions of your government. To hold accountable the Government of the United States is not un-American, it is a patriotic duty, it is American in every sense of the word.

Chief Terrance Nelson

Lil'wat at UN: The forced removal of children and genocide

Lil'wat at the UN Permanent Forum: Colonialism, sovereignty and human rights

May 30, 2011
Lil’wat, St’at’imc Press Statement

A Lil’wat delegation to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues addressed the lack of implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
From a statement by Pau Tuc la Cimc, James Louie, in 12th Meeting of the UN PFII, May 25:
James Louie introduced himself as Pau Tuc la Cimc, a Lil’watmc of the St’át’imc Nation. Addressing the issue of human rights and implementation of the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, he drew attention to Article 5, the right to self-determination, and Article 7 – the right not be subjected to any act of genocide, including forcible removal of children. Canada declared support for the Declaration last year.
Contrary to these provisions of the Declaration and to several of its own laws, which Louie contends made it unlawful for colonial Governments and their successors to interfere with the internal affairs of Indigenous Nations, the Canadian Government has imposed upon the St’át’imc Nation its own vision and structures for indigenous self-government (which is not the same as self-determination) by means of a Canadian-legislated Indian Act. Since at least 1925, Canada has insisted that one Chief be elected for each community – a total corruption of St’at’imc governance.
Canada has no treaty with the Lil’wat or St’át’imc that consensually recognizes and embraces the Indian Act as a duly and legitimately constituted governance structure. Therefore Pau Tuc la Cimc does not recognize any Band Councils formed under the Indian Act within Lil’wat, or the larger St’át’imc nation to which Lil’wat belongs.
Specifically, he contested at the Permanent Forum the right of the elected St’át’imc Chiefs to enter into a Settlement Agreement with British Columbia and the hydroelectric utility BC Hydro Power Corporation earlier this month. The elected Chiefs concluded a Royalty-free payout for land usage in perpetuity; gave a guarantee for the utility’s water licenses (which dominate three watersheds in the territory), and released the province, the utility and “anyone else” from any future claims for any damages deriving from the existing facilities on those lands. They purported to do this on behalf of all St’at’imc people, present and future.
In his view, as imposed governance mechanisms, they don’t have the right, according to Article 1 of both Covenants of the International Bill of Human Rights, to speak on his and his family’s behalf, or to enter into negotiations with the Canadian government on issues which impact the resources, rights and well-being of the St’át’imc nation. Elected Indian Band Chiefs are mandated by Canada to deliver Indian Act programs and funding.
“No one but the Lil’watmc can speak for Lil’wat,” Louie declared to the 500 or so PFII participants. “To quote from our Declaration of the Lillooet Tribe of 1911, "…we are the rightful owners of our tribal territory and everything pertaining thereto."” Canada continues to deny this, and the human rights that would flow therefrom.
To contest the Canadian government’s persistent violation if Lil’wat’s right to self-determination, in 2007 Louie and twelve other signatories from Lil’wat brought a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (OAS). Louie is the principal initiator on behalf of Loni Edmonds, a young Lil’wat mother whose children have been seized and removed by the Canadian Ministry of Children and Families. Loni Edmonds’ children are the fourth in successive generations of her family to be seized and removed from Lil’wat by the Canadian state.
The OAS case challenges Canada’s legal right to jurisdiction over Lil’wat children. There is no treaty giving this right to Canada, and it is inconceivable that the Lil’wat would give Canada such a right.
To date, the petition to the IACHR has not been reviewed. Recourse and actions are needed – as provided for in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Articles 40 and 42.
Having now delivered their recommendations to the appropriate international human rights mechanism, the Petitioners will continue to raise awareness and seek aid and support. If they are unsuccessful in having the Inter-American Court review their Petition, they will pursue it through other fora of the United Nations system.
The main function of the Permanent Forum is to receive recommendations that will help it inform the UN General Assembly on Implementation of the Declaration. Pau Tuc la Cimc strongly urged the Forum to engage with UN member states, procedures and mechanisms to make the Declaration a “binding and enforceable” international convention, augmenting the Geneva Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
James Louie attended the Forum in New York, May 16 – 27, as a representative of the International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (IHRAAM), an international NGO in Consultative Status with ECOSOC, and with critical support from the Canadians for Reconciliation Society.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, September 13, 2007:
Article 5
Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.
Article 7
Indigenous peoples have the collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples and shall not be subjected to any act of genocide or any other act of violence, including forcibly removing children of the group to another group.

United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Common Article 1:
All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

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