As part of the celebration of the Afro-Descendent month in Venezuela , on Wednesday evening the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the United States presented – to a full house – a special discussion with Venezuelan Congressman Modesto Ruiz Espinoza on the progress in the fight for racial justice and social inclusion in Venezuela.
During the event, Ruiz, the president of the Subcommittee on Legislation, Participation, Warranties, Duties and Rights of Afro-descendents in the National Assembly, highlighted the importance of his trip to the United States . The legislator explained that he met with various social groups, think tanks and lawmakers to highlight the country’s progress in advancing the rights of Afro-descendents under the government of President Chávez.
“In the U.S, Venezuela is not linked to Afro-descendents, so we need to create awareness about the fact that Venezuela has many citizens of African heritage and, moreover, there have been very important advances for them under the government of President Chávez,” said Ruiz.
Regarding the progress made during the government of President Chavez on fighting racial discrimination, Ruiz said that the Organic Law of Education, the Organic Law for Youth and the Civil Defense Act, and the Law Against Racial Discrimination (which is to be approved this month), are emblematic legal instruments adopted to guarantee the civil liberties of the historically excluded population.
“The historical exclusion of the indigenous and Afro-descendent communities has been minimized thanks to the policies promoted by President Chávez. After 200 years of Venezuelan history, it is now, under this government, that the issue of the Afro-descendent Venezuelans is being addressed in the country. The issue is not only recognized by our National Assembly, but is also protected under our Constitution,” said Ruiz.
The legislator said that in addition to legal instruments combating discrimination in the country, the government has created other institutions such as the Vice-Ministry for Women of African descent, a presidential commission that operates within the Ministry of People’s Power for Education, an office within the Ministry of People’s Power for Culture, a subcommittee in the National Assembly, and a number of institutions and commissions that deal with the issue comprehensively.
Ruiz also noted the similarities in the issue between the U.S. and Venezuela . “We need to assume our roles as political actors to strengthen relations between countries. Afro-descendents communities are a policy variable that unify and complement; Venezuela and the United States have many things in common: The two countries have presidents and people of African descent,” noted Ruiz.
A Dynamic Agenda
During his week-long visit to the U.S. , Ruiz has had a very active agenda. For example, he participated in an event with the Latin American Friends of Howard County, Maryland, as well as in a dialogue and discussion with progressive individuals of African descent. He also held a public talk with students and professors in the African Cultural Center of the University of Maryland , College Park , as well as an event with the progressive and Afro-descendent community in Baltimore . Ruiz also gave a talk sponsored by the TransAfrica Forum and Maroons at Howard University . In addition, he had numerous private meetings with think tanks, and members of the U.S. Congress, including the president of the Black Caucus, Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-MO).
On Friday morning, Ruiz will visit the University of Massachusetts in Boston to participate in an event sponsored by the Latino Studies department, the Department of African Studies, and Mangu Club (Move Ahead Never Give Up), amongst other activities.
Read our Fact Sheet and see photos of the visit.