NAACP Sends Delegation to Observe Venezuelan Elections

Nov. 28, 2006

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is joining other public interest entities from the United States to act as an independent observer in Venezuela's presidential elections, scheduled for Dec. 3. The mission is part of the NAACP's Human Rights Program and its effort to connect African Americans with people of African descent around the world for the mutual attainment and protection of human rights.

An 8-member delegation comprised of the NAACP's Deputy Counsel Angela Ciccolo, National Policy Director John Jackson, National Civic Engagement Policy Manager Carolina Espinal, National Civic Engagement Coordinator Cherese Williams, National Research Director Shelly Anderson, delegation leader Crispian Kirk and NAACP International Committee members Peter Cohn and Roy Levy Williams are in Caracas and will also travel to Barlovento, Venezuela in coming days.

The United Nations conferred Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) status on the NAACP in 2003. The NGO designation with special consultative status allows the NAACP to serve as an advisor and mentor to foreign governments and the Secretariat of the United Nations on human relations matters.

The NAACP has been reviewing the status of Afro-Latinos and has found that like in the United States, people of African descent in Latin America are disproportionately marginalized and disenfranchised the most. They face great disparities in health care, education, shelter and face extreme poverty.

In Brazil, Bolivia, and Guatemala, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees has stated that Afro-Latinos and indigenous communities are facing extinction, poverty and discrimination. The largest number of internally displaced persons (outside of Sudan) is in Columbia, where most of the nation's 3.5 million internally displaced persons are Afro-Columbian.

In Venezuela, Afro-Venezuelan communities are just starting to be recognized. President Hugo Chavez has pledged to encourage the inclusion of the Afro-Venezuelans in every aspect of Venezuelan society. At the heart of those Afro-Venezuelan communities' needs is the ability to fully participate in the electoral process.

"The NAACP has one main purpose on this trip," said Crispian Kirk, the NAACP's director of International Affairs, "to ascertain the effect the Venezuelan electoral system has on the ability of Afro-Venezuelans to fully participate and cast a vote. The NAACP is well placed to provide an independent analysis of the Venezuelan electoral process."

It is estimated that during the 18th and 19th centuries, 62,000 Africans were forced into servitude and brought to Venezuela as slaves. Most of them were sent to the central coastal states and other centers of the slave trade. In 1854, slavery was abolished and slave owners were paid by the government to set over 13 million slaves free. However, the ending of slavery did not result in equal status. The struggle still continues for the Afro-Venezuelans, particularly to have them officially recognized in the nation's constitution.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

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