Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos has issued an official apology to indigenous communities in the Amazon for deaths and destruction caused by the rubber boom beginning a century ago. From 1912 to 1929 the Peruvian firm Casa Arana, led by rubber baron Julio César Arana with British backing, exploited rubber near La Chorrera in what is now Colombia's Amazonas department. Up to 100,000 people were killed and communities devastated in the operations, with indigenous rainforest dwellers forced into slave labor and slain or displaced if they resisted. The situation was brought to the world's attention following an investigation by Roger Casement, an Irishman, who had previously documented similar atrocities in the Belgian Congo. A few months ago, this blog reported on the wonderful book by Mario Vargas Llosa about Casement’s remarkable life.
In his official statement, President Santos said: ‘Today, in the name of the Colombian State, I ask forgiveness from the communities of the Uitoto, Bora, Okaina, Muinane, Andoque, Nonuya, Miraña, Yukuna and Matapí peoples for your deaths, for your orphans, for your victims’. He said he hoped his statement would 'contribute to healing the wounds that this has left in your lives and in the memory of our nation'.