On October 12, 2004, hundreds of people gathered in Plaza Venezuela in the center of Caracas around the widely-despised statue of Christopher Columbus (erected in 1904) to celebrate a “Day of Indigenous Resistance.” In a “Popular Trial,” those present found Christopher Columbus—symbolized by the bronze monument—guilty of genocide. A long, heavy rope was tied around the neck of the statue. It was then pulled to the ground by the effort of a majority of those present. The statue was then dragged through the streets, hung upside down from a tree for a brief period of time, and finally defaced and broken in half. At this time the Caracas Police, under the authority of Mayor Freddy Bernal of the Bolivarian government, attacked the crowd by firing tear gas and blanks. During the confrontation, the statue was seized and five people were arrested. Two were later released, but three remain in jail. Although their arrests were arbitrary, among a great number of us who participated, all blame is being placed upon them. They each face between 2-4 years in jail.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias himself, only one year ago, declared Christopher Columbus guilty of genocide, a criminal “worse than Hitler,” and officially renamed October 12 (previously “Columbus Day”) a “Day of Indigenous Resistance.” Despite this fact, a section of the Bolivarian government, under the authority of Mayor Bernal, has denounced our acts and pledged not only to prosecute the prisoners to the full extent of the law, but also to devote public funds toward the restoration of the statue.
It is true that the Bolivarian government has done a great deal to oppose the neoliberal agenda in Venezuela, and to improve the conditions of the poor. However we consider its recent statements against our actions, as well as its plans to restore the statue, to be hypocritical and counter-revolutionary.
We agree with Chavez's statements against Christopher Columbus, and find his accusations of genocide to be indisputable. Even the most apologetic historians cannot refute the evidence that supports our case: that in 1493, a year after Columbus's first landing, he returned with an invasion force of seventeen ships to the island currently known as Haiti/Dominican Republic; that he immediately declared himself “governor and viceroy” of the Caribbean islands; that he instituted the encomiendo system of slavery and a “tribute” system in which tens of thousands were slaughtered for their failure to deliver Columbus his arbitrary quota of gold every two months; that he instituted a systematic program of extermination that reduced the Taino population of the island he called “Hispaniola” from 8 million to 100,000 in seven years time; that the policies he instituted continued to be carried out on the island until the Taino population was entirely decimated; and that furthermore, this very model of slavery, tribute and extermination set the tone for future conquests that spread across the continent known to the indigenous as Abya Yala, culminating in the deaths of over 70 million inhabitants, and over 30 million people of African descent who were brought here as slaves; and finally, that the very same policies of domination and oppression continue to this day, in the neocolonialist practices of the global empire of Capital.
We want to make it clear that our action was carried out entirely autonomously, with no support from any government or political party. We considered it our moral duty as awakened historical subjects, with respect to our indigenous brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers, to take direct action on behalf of our own conscience. Had a statue of Adolph Hitler been erected in the center of Caracas, we would have torn it down with the same conviction and respect for history with which we acted on October 12, 2004.
Now is the moment for the Bolivarian government to show its true face, to demonstrate where it stands with regards not only to symbols of oppression such as this statue of Christopher Columbus, but equally importantly, with regards to the autonomous actions of the people that have, in the recent past, defended this very same government in the streets with their own lives. We want to remind the Bolivarian government that it is the people, not states, that make revolutions. The people make and destroy governments with their will and struggle. For the Bolivarian government to oppose the people is to oppose the revolution and, consequently, to oppose its own existence.
We, the nationals and internationals who were present in Caracas as participants in this action, we who hail from all parts of Venezuela, Spain, Italy, and the United States, we who on this same day were supported with solidarity actions in London, Athens, Barcelona, Puerto Rico, Zimbabwe and elsewhere, hereby call upon the international community to place pressure upon the Bolivarian government of Venezuela, to fulfill its intended role as a revolutionary force in this country, this continent, and this world, by signing the petition below:
WE DEMAND THE IMMEDIATE RELEASE OF ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS ARRESTED FOR THE ACTIONS WHICH TOOK PLACE ON OCTOBER 12, 2004 IN CARACAS, VENEZUELA.
WE FURTHERMORE DEMAND THAT THE BOLIVARIAN GOVERNMENT CEASE ALL PROCEEDINGS AND INVESTIGATIONS INTO THE ORGANIZERS AND/OR PARTICIPANTS OF THE ACTIONS WHICH TOOK PLACE ON THIS DAY.
FINALLY, WE DEMAND THAT THE STATUE OF CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS NEVER BE RESTORED TO PLAZA VENEZUELA, CONSIDERING ITS REMOVAL A JUST AND LEGITIMATE ACTION OF THE PEOPLE.
Sign Here: www.petitiononline.com/ro12pp/petition.html
[Also, to directly contact the Office of Mayor Freddy Bernal, Mayor of Alcadia Libertador, responsible for arrests of prisoners and the restoration of the statue:
address: Palacio Municipal, Esquina la Manjas, Frent a la Plaza Bolivar, Caracas / Distrito Capital
"we are responsible" declaration from Venezuela: http://pr.indymedia.org/news/2004/10/5142.php
thorough report: http://austin.indymedia.org/newswire/display/17833/index.php
previous thread: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2004/10/298972.html