Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos asked for forgiveness from Amazonian indigenous people living in the country for the killing of their ancestors and destruction of their land a hundred years ago.
Around 80,000 people were killed in Colombia between 1912 and 1929 by rubber company Casa Arana during the rubber boom. The phenomenon swept across Amazon nations, including Brazil, Bolivia, and Colombia, reported Colombia Reports. Indigenous leaders say that around 100,000 were killed, according to the BBC.
“On behalf of the Colombian State, which did not prevent the barbarism unleashed by the greed that generated the rubber bonanza … I ask for pardon for the deaths, for the orphans, for the victims,” Santos said Friday, according to Colombia Reports, citing local media. Santos signed a petition decrying the massacres.
“We can not enjoy economic development if it is achieved at the expense of the life and the physical and cultural integrity of people,” he added.
Rubber companies carried out egregious human rights abuses, which were documented first by British diplomat Roger Casement in 1912. Slavery, torture, mutilation, and forced labor were common practices.
At the time, the government “failed to understand the importance of safeguarding each indigenous person and culture as an essential part of a society we now understand as multiethnic and multicultural,” according to the BBC.
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