Official estimates indicate that indigenous peoples comprise approximately 2.8% of Venezuela’s total population of some 32 million inhabitants. Others, however, believe that the indigenous population is larger, perhaps surpassing 1.5 million. The indigenous population encompasses more than 40 peoples.

Venezuela has included indigenous rights in its Constitution, starting with the right to territory as a fundamental requirement for the fulfilment of distinct rights. The 1999 Constitution recognises the multiethnic, pluricultural and multilingual nature of Venezuelan society. In 2001, the Venezuelan government ratified ILO Convention 169 and, in 2005, it enacted the Organic Law on Indigenous Peoples and Communities, on the basis of this international convention.

The Venezuelan State has also enacted a series of laws that directly develop the rights of constitutionally recognised indigenous peoples. Among them are the Law on Demarcation and Guarantee of the Habitat and Lands of Indigenous Peoples (2001), the Organic Law on Indigenous Peoples and Communities (2005), the Indigenous Languages Act (2007), the Indigenous Peoples and Communities Cultural Heritage Act (2009), and the Indigenous Craftspersons Act (2009). In 2007, Venezuela voted in favour of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and created the Ministry of Popular Power for Indigenous Peoples as part of the executive branch’s cabinet.

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