14 Oct 2012

Apology issued for abuses by rubber barons

5:32 am on 14 October 2012

President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia has apologised to indigenous leaders in the Amazon region for deaths and destruction caused by the rubber boom around 100 years ago.

Rubber was tapped from 1912 - 1929 near La Chorrera in the south. Up 100,000 people were killed and communities devastated, according to indigenous leaders.

President Santos on Saturday asked for forgiveness "for all the dead and their orphans" and vowed that such abuses would never happen again.

He said that in pursuit of progress, the government of the day "failed to understand the importance of safeguarding each indigenous person and culture as an essential part of a society we now understand as multi-ethnic and multicultural."

The BBC reports rubber barons used forced labour, slavery, torture and mutilation.

The apology was issued on the day that Latin Americans mark the beginning of Spanish colonisation.

The Day of the Race commemorates the arrival of Christopher Columbus on the continent on 12 October 1492.