Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos formally apologized to the indigenous people of the Amazon on Friday for massacres that occurred in the early 1900’s during the rubber boom.
On Latin America’s “Dia de la Raza,“ or Day of the Race, Santos acknowledged the atrocities that occurred during the rubber boom between 1912 and 1929 in the southern municipality of La Chorrera, reported El Tiempo. Allegedly more than 80,000 indigenous people were killed during this period at the hands of the rubber company that was founded in 1912, Casa Arana.
According to newspaper El Espectador, in admission of the massacres, Santos signed a petition saying that “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.”
“We can not enjoy economic development if it is achieved at the expense of the life and the physical and cultural integrity of people,” said Santos, referring to the indigenous populations that were subjected to exploitation and massacre by Casa Arana, mentioning various tribes of the Amazon such as the Bora, Okaina, Muinane, Andoque, Nonuya, Mirana, Yukuna and Matapi tribes.
Colombia’s indigenous population has continued to endure ongoing persecution, suffering, deaths and human rights violations caused by the ongoing armed conflict. Santos has previously promised improvement and asked for forgiveness from indigenous groups. His speech Friday on the Day of the Race commemorates the arrival of Christopher Columbus on the continent on October 12, 1492.
There are currently 102 different indigenous peoples, constituting a little over 1.3 million people, reported El Espectador. Up to one-third of Colombia’s indigenous population allegedly face extinction because of the armed conflict and forced displacement, according to the BBC.