In Ecuador or Bolivia, strong indigenous movements regularly shake up politics. Not in Venezuela where, according to the sociologist and anthropologist Daniel Castro: "The political space was opened up by the Creoles, not by pressure from the indigenous population. Nevertheless the attempt by Chávez to rebuild the country has rekindled old expectations about recovering land and defending a way of life." Chávez invited the indigenous peoples to take part in drawing up the constitution and in July 1999 the 600 delegates of the National Council of Venezuelan Indians (Conive) elected three representatives to the National Assembly. Along with 128 Creole delegates, they presented proposals drawn up by their rank and file. Then they had to get them passed.
There was bound to be resistance, amplified by the media, from companies exploiting natural resources: the opposition. On the Chávez side, the Security and Defence Commission (former army officers) denounced a possible infringement of national sovereignty and a blow to national integrity. The argument lasted until 3 November 1999 when the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples were passed. These were the basis for chapter 8 of the constitution, ratified by 71% of Venezuelans (with a 60% participation rate) in a referendum. It is the most progressive constitution for indigenous rights on the American continent. What used to be, at best, a paternalistic attitude has been replaced by a policy of recognition and participation (see `New rights').