OHSWEKEN – The newly appointed Venezuelan ambassador to Canada, Wilmer Barrientos will be visiting Six Nations on Wednesday evening. He will arriving as part of a delegation seeking to learn more about Indigenous issues and to build solidarity between Indigenous peoples in North America and the “Bolivarian” social movements in Latin America.
Due to diplomatic wrangling between Canada and Venezuela, it has been four years since the countries have accepted each other’s ambassadors. According to Santiago Escobar, one of the organizers who is helping to plan the Venezuelan delegation’s visit, “Ambassador Barrientos is making it a priority to get to know social movements, labour movements, and indigenous movements in Canada.”
The evening’s events are being framed as an informal “friendship gathering” and will begin with a dinner at 7pm at the Mohawk Longhouse at 3098 5th line. After the dinner, Ambassador Barrientos will say a few words, and there will be an opportunity for some discussion and dialogue between the Latin American representatives and Onkwehonwe people. A short film will also be screened. The evening will conclude with a traditional social dance beginning at 9pm.
Escobar says that the purpose of the visit is so that people can “get to know and learn from each other in a two way conversation.” Escobar adds “Ambassador Barrientos wants to talk about the economic warfare and sanctions being placed against Venezuela by the United States and to ask for solidarity. But he also wants to understand the nature of indigenous issues and struggles in Canada.” Approximately 25 people are expected to come as part of the Venezuelan delegation which will include members of other Latino and indigenous communities in Latin America.
Donna Powless is one of the local Six Nations organizers of the event. Last year, she and Escobar were involved in co-ordinating a delegation from Venezuela which visited Six Nations to talk about the ALBA trade initiative in South America and which sought to connect the indigenous struggles taking place in both areas.
“I’m nervous, excited and looking forward to this visit” said Powless. “I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to help co-ordinate and set things up.” Powless says she is reaching out to invite Clan Mothers, Confederacy Chiefs and Faithkeepers to the event, despite having less than 48 hours notice of the planned visit.
Ambassador Barrientos has had a long and successful career with the Bolivarian Army, achieving the rank of major general after 30 years of service. He was a close associate of former President Hugo Chavez, and supported Chavez in an attempted military uprising in 1992. When Chavez was elected to office in 1999, Barrientos played an important role in his government and when he retired from the military in 2013, he was the operational strategic commander of the Venezuelan armed forces.
The event is open to Six Nations community members. All are encouraged to bring some food and beverages to contribute to the potluck dinner.
For more information about the event contact Donna Powless at 519-445-1745.