Several posts in the blogosphere update last week’s coverage of protests by Indian peoples, including the Piaroa, that the New Tribes Mission (NTM) would be expelled from Venezuela. A blog carried by Salon.com posted a comment by a New Tribes missionary named Matt who was irritated that the blogger did not seem sufficiently informed about the proposed expulsion of the NTM.
Matt indicates he grew up in Venezuela with parents who were missionaries for the NTM, and he also worked for 18 years for the NTM in another Indian society, the Ye’cwana. He claims to be familiar with the Piaroa people and other Indian societies.
In the course of his comments, Matt defends the armed forces—they are intimately familiar with the NTM activities, and they are not aware of any illegal mining activities. He also denies that the NTM use airplanes illegally.
The blogger, whose title for the blog is “The Devil’s Excrement,” points out the obvious—that while Chavez has said he will expel the NTM, he hasn’t done so yet. The missionaries have not, in fact, been ordered to leave, either by the governor of Amazonas state or by the national government. The blogger claims that the President does not have the legal authority to expel them.
A number of posts in the Haloscan comment thread add to the discussion. Sydney Hedderich feels that the “pronouncements from Chávez are simply a distraction,” and, the next day, Mr. Hedderich opined that Chávez “needed to rattle the sabers to suit his political agenda.” Another commenter denounced the role of the Catholic Church in supporting Chávez, while still another was troubled that the evangelicals have supported the president.
None of the comments deal with the most critical issue. Other than the few thousand people who protested in Puerto Ayacucho nearly two weeks ago, how do the rest of the Indians, such as the Piaroa, really feel about the presence of the missionaries in their territories? Do they feel the missionaries are helping them? Do they welcome the social and cultural changes the missionaries represent? News reports and blog comments that focus on the antics of a demagogue president only skirt around the real issues.