7 de febrero de 2005 - Washington, DC

Ambassador Manuel María Cáceres Cardozo, Chair of the Permanent Council,
Mr. Jorge Fredrick, President of the Indigenous Caucus,
Counselor Ana Peña, Vice Chair of the Working Group and Alternate Representative of Peru to the Organization,
Representatives and government experts of the member states,
Permanent observers to the OAS,
Representatives and experts of the indigenous peoples,
Friends who are watching and listening to us on the Internet,
Special guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Today, February 7, 2005, marks the beginning of the Fifth Meeting of Negotiations in the Quest for Points of Consensus for the preparation of the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The sacred calendar of the Mayan people of Guatemala tells us that today is “Oxib’ Kemé,” the day of ancestors, of grandparents, of friends, of the most cherished beings who, from the other part of life—the infinite, death--are with us. In our communities that live by this calendar, it is customary for us to talk about those who honor us, in spirit and in dreams, with their presence and especially to consult them and seek their advice. We are striving to continue to develop their ideals, their objectives, their beliefs, their desires, and above all the commitments made to them on more than one occasion. Today is therefore a very significant day on the Mayan calendar.

I am confident that the strength, the energy, and the wisdom of all those men and women who were physically present will enable us all to find a smooth road ahead and that ideas and thoughts will flow, lead us to convergent views, and help us come to the understanding that all of us present here are a complement to national and international aspirations, that our interests as states and indigenous peoples are not alien, contradictory, or polarized but rather an integral part of a whole, ranging from the smallest to the largest and vice versa, the objective of which is the search for the full realization of millions of human beings who are not part of political, economic, social, cultural, educational, legal, and other forms of development but are excluded from it, of the people who are not at all visible or accepted with their own rights, with their identity, culture, thought process, spirituality, idiosyncrasies, their own systems, forms of life, of those who were once deemed to have ceased to exist: the indigenous peoples.

There are three major topics on the agenda for this fifth meeting of negotiations: the environment, the section on economic, social, and property rights, and Section Six on general provisions. All of these topics deserve our full attention and must be considered in depth and especially in a mature, discerning, and forward-looking manner by all participants.

For example, when we speak of lands, territories, and natural resources of the soil and subsoil, it is clear that they are vital to both the actors and the subjects of the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. They are no more and no less than the real, effective mainstay and the guarantee of life and of the integrity and full realization of the indigenous peoples but, history and the present being what they are, the same may be said for the states today.

How then can we legitimize or find the formula for recognition of the inalienable historical and current rights of the indigenous peoples to their lands and territories? How can we establish parameters for the future to prevent the continued expropriation, usurpation, pillaging, and exploitation of the natural resources in the possession of and owned by those peoples? What must we do to achieve a true open and sincere dialogue and mutual understanding to solve this longstanding, centuries-old problem? How can we guarantee the law of the indigenous peoples and at the same time deal with the concerns expressed by the states?

How can we work in the future to make all interests and rights, including those of the indigenous peoples, an express part of national and international law so that, instead of settling social conflict or responding to calls for the vindication of rights, we may have the opportunity to develop plans and programs leading to the well-being and full realization of the indigenous peoples and the diverse social sectors of our countries?

It is incumbent on us to examine and discuss this other key issue of the Draft Declaration and I am certain that there will be many contributions and proposals geared toward making progress and reaching agreement. I am confident that we will all do our utmost and set our minds to developing the best possible proposal, one that will reflect everyone’s aspirations. The task is not an easy one but is not impossible if we are all intent on achieving the goal we once set for ourselves: a declaration on the rights of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

Thank you very much.