Bombing and assassination bring civil war to Amazon nomads

March 12, 2008

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One of the Amazon’s last nomadic tribes, the Nukak, has become tragically caught up in the aftermath of the recent hostage deal negotiated in Colombia between the government and left-wing FARC guerrillas.  

The Nukak have been bombed by the Colombian army in its attempt to fight the guerrillas who have violently taken control of much of the Nukak land. Many Nukak have fled their territory to a local town in recent days, and many more are expected to follow suit.
The bombings come after the recent assassination of a Nukak man called Monikaro by Battalion 44 of the FARC. Monikaro had fled Nukak land in 2004 after conflict between the army, guerrillas and paramilitaries fighting for control of the lucrative coca crop, the raw material for cocaine. The Nukak’s land is also being eyed up as a potential site for palm oil plantations for biofuel, and for its known petroleum reserves.

The Nukak had their first sustained contact with the outside world in 1988. Since then more than 50% of them have died. Their territory has become increasingly overrun by conflict, and since 2003 there have been several waves of Nukak fleeing their land. Tensions between the various Nukak clans are now likely to be exacerbated as they are forced to share scarce land and resources.

The latest violence comes just months after many Nukak had started the long journey home, hoping that the fighting which has wracked their remote rainforest had died down.

Survival’s director, Stephen Corry, said today, ‘It’s appalling that the Nukak, one of the few surviving nomadic tribes in the Amazon, are being engulfed by fighting which is nothing to do with them. Literally hundreds of them have died in the last twenty years – partly from disease, and partly from being caught in the violent warfare which now surrounds them. Both sides in this conflict seem prepared to sacrifice the Nukak for their own ends.’

For more information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]