Amazonian Tribe Finds Temporary Sanctuary

Your August 30 article, “Amazonian Tribe Finds Temporary Sanctuary”, draws only upon the experience of the Nukak Indian tribe of Colombia. Readers should recognize that this tribe is but one of a number of indigenous groups and targeted communities forced to leave their homelands in Colombia to escape the intra-state warfare and violence responsible for the displacement of approximately 3 million people in the country. Colombia is ranked second on the list of International Displaced Populations (IDP) by the UNHCR and its massive problem with domestic migration has received significant attention from the international community, including the U.S.

William Wood, who has become known for his infectious anti-Hugo Chávez meddling as the U.S. ambassador to Colombia, is now evening matters out by calling for further demobilization and prosecution of rightwing Colombian paramilitaries accused of committing illegal activities. This announcement, however, is not enough. The Bush administration urgently needs to widen its focus to include the protection of all human rights workers in the country.

While the Colombian government has successfully relocated the Nukaks, other indigenous and afro-Colombian communities lack even minimal food, shelter and healthcare resources. Due to Bogotá’s preoccupation with the fight against drug traffickers and leftist guerrillas, the government needs greater international assistance in building its institutional capacity to punish human rights offenders, and also to compensate and protect displaced victims. This year, 42 members of the Wounnan tribe fled to Panama, and two of its leaders were assassinated in Western Colombia allegedly by leftist rebels. Hopefully, international aid in relocating the Nukak tribe will also reach out to other displaced communities who are desperately seeking sanctuary.