File No. 823.5048/109.

The American Consul at Iquitos to the Secretary of State.


Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith a copy and a translation of the letter, with its annexes, addressed to my British colleague and myself by Consul General Rey de Castro at Iquitos, after our return from the Putumayo, and which was referred to in my dispatch No. 33, of October 28, 1912.

The letter and its annexes contain several inaccuracies and a number of statements which in themselves are not altogether clear and might even mislead the Department if not fully explained.

In the first place, Señor Rey de Castro is mistaken in stating that he informed us of the object of his journey immediately after boarding the Liberal. As stated in my dispatch No. 33 (referred to above), he said nothing to indicate that his mission was other than what the acting prefect had informed us until the night before we arrived in La Chorrera, or six days after he boarded the Liberal. This was his first intimation to the effect that he desired or intended to accompany us.

A copy of the letter of the acting prefect to Consul General Rey de Castro (referred to in the second paragraph of the latter’s note to us) accompanied my despatch No. 331 and was discussed therein, as was also my refusal to sign formal acts with our Peruvian colleague dealing with conditions of law and order in the various sections to be visited. The statement I made to Señor Rey de Castro as to the nature of my mission in the region was given in full in the dispatch No. 33 (referred to above), which, it will be noted, does not exactly agree, with the way in which that gentleman puts it in his letter.

As to collaborating with my Peruvian colleague, as suggested by him, without going through the formality of signing acts, I made it plain to him that I could not undertake this course of action—an interference with the internal affairs of Peru—any more than I could the other without definite instructions from my Government, but that there was nothing to prevent the Peruvian Legation at Washington from asking for a copy of my report if they should see fit to do so. Furthermore (though I did not state this to Señor Rey de Castro), I considered that his method of investigation, i. e., by calling in Indians to dances and relying on the company’s employees for all food, accommodation, information, and even for interpretation from the Indian language, was better adapted to cover up any shortcomings than to make possible any throwing of “light on the facts.”

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I did not make any “examination” of the company’s books at La Chorrera nor at El Encanto, as Señor Rey de Castro’s letter would seem to indicate, nor, so far as I know, was any real examination made. I was present at La Chorrera, but not at El Encanto, when the manager showed to Messrs. Rey de Castro and Michell certain entries which he considered substantiation of his statements with regard to the method of remuneration of the white staff. I do not consider that the books of a branch agency which does not pay the men in question are any corroboration of the claims made and in connection with which these entries were exhibited. The first I saw of any dispatches addressed to the managers at La Chorrera and El Encanto was after my return to Iquitos, from the copies which accompanied the letter under discussion.

It is true that Consul Michell and I drew up our own itinerary in the first place, but Señor Rey de Castro neglected to state that, once decided on, we were not permitted the liberty of changing it in the slightest particular; and he also omitted to say that at Atenas he and Señor Arana, for reasons of their own, saw to it that we were forced to abandon our original plan, drawn up “on our own initiative with entire liberty.”

The Department will recall that it was only by a stratagem executed in the middle of the night that we were enabled to travel without our undesirable escort from Ultimo Retiro to Entre Rios or to see anything of the real life of the Indians. The section chief who was responsible for furnishing us the facilities for this is now on board the vessel on which I am writing this dispatch and tells me that he was severely censured for it. In the effort to arrange for traveling overland through the Indian villages from Atenas to La Chorrera, in accordance with the understanding we had at the outset of our trip with Mr. Tizon (who had assured us it was entirely feasible), I went ahead of the main party to the first-named place. There I made all arrangements with the section chief, who told me the road was good and the trip would give us an excellent view of native life, for carriers and facilities to go on with. After the others arrived, however, and interviewed him, this gentleman found, though he had not had an opportunity to look into the matter, that the road was impassable, and that we could not get carriers for the three days’ journey because the Indians had to work their “chacaras,” or plantations. This, however, did not prevent their being called in to dance two days for Señor Rey de Castro and spend a third in carrying the baggage to Puerto Peruano.

As to the picket of gendarmes, we particularly did not want anything of the kind, and said so, seeing no necessity for it and fearing they might intimidate the Indians. Although they were a nuisance and scared away the section chief and all the Indians from the first place where we stopped, the Peruvian consul general insisted in retaining them, stating that they were necessary to support his dignity.

The photographer to whom Señor Rey de Castro refers was a Portuguese in the employ of Señor Arana. Señor Arana told me this himself, and added that the pictures were for the use of the company (presumably for illustrating a new prospectus).

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As the Department is aware, far from proving “the correctness of the particulars transmitted by the prefect of the Department of Loreto with regard to the persistent and active labor of the political, military, and judicial authorities of Peru,” the one thing that could not be concealed from us anywhere on the trip was the very absence of any governmental action worth mentioning.

Mr. Michell informs me that he never ventured to express any opinion of the present condition of the Kongo natives. He has not been in the Kongo for some five years or so.

As to the point made by Señor Rey de Castro relative to the possession of arms by the natives, he forgets that they were thus armed at the time of the atrocities and omits to state that the guns to which he refers are antiquated muzzle-loading shotguns, from which the employes, armed with modern rifles and automatic pistols and revolvers, have little more to fear than from the old native blowpipes, arrows, and spears, and that the company has absolute control of the supply of powder, by exercising which they could at any time they wished render practically useless all these trade muskets.

I do not consider that the evidence we saw justifies the formally stated conclusions in Señor Rey de Castro’s letter. As to the amount of rubber produced per man, I do not know what can be the source of his figure of 800 to 1,000 kilos per annum. Estimates of 250 kilos per man per annum in southern rivers are regarded in Iquitos as high. In the upper Madre de Dios and Inambari regions, where conditions do not differ greatly and where abuses of the Indian labor are freely stated to exist, the average is about 85 kilos a year. The figures given me by the company managers were 50 to 60 kilos for La Chorrera sections and 120 for El Encanto. The tables given in the annexes to the Peruvian consul general’s letter, it will be observed, do not by any means check.

The money value of goods delivered to the Indian, which Señor Rey de Castro derives from the tables furnished him by the company, is no measure of the Indian’s remuneration for his work. At the present time in the La Chorrera sections an Indian must bring in 20 kilos for a machete or an ax, 40 kilos for the cheapest grade of small canvas hammock, and from 60 to 70 kilos for a muzzle-loading trade gun. In other words, the average laborer can get for himself by working the average amount of rubber for a whole year in the La Chorrera sections a hammock and an ax or a gun without any ammunition.

Particular attention is called, in the letter under discussion, to the point referred to in my No. 33, that Señor Rey de Castro, after being introduced on the scene by a subterfuge and after having forced his company on us, considered the espionage practiced by himself and associates to be a part of his official duty.

I have gone thus into detail with regard to the letter addressed to us by the Peruvian consul general for the reason that it constitutes his effort, as a representative of the Peruvian Government, to put words of exoneration into the mouths of my British colleague and myself—an exoneration I do not consider justified by the evidence and the letter will doubtless be published with this end in view. I did not enter into any controversy with Señor Rey de Castro on the [Page 1284] subject for the principal reason that I have not yet received any intimation from the Peruvian Government to the effect that they wished him to be associated with me in the mission intrusted to me by the Department, and I did not think it advisable to address him in any way that might be construed as recognition of any authorized participation by him in my investigations. * * *

I have also learned that while we were in Ultimo Retiro there were employees working there who were under indictment for the old crimes. It seems strange that Consul General Rey de Castro, whose mission was directly connected with matters of this kind and who had shown me a list furnished him of those indicted and still at liberty, took neither notice of nor action in these cases.

I am also informed by the recent section chief at Ultimo Retiro, who was in charge when we were there, that human bones are much in evidence along the old trails and by-roads in that section. It will be recalled that here the working population was reduced from 2,000 to 200 in a few years.

As to public opinion in Iquitos, a large subscription dinner was given to J. C. Arana just before I left by the inner circle of the chamber of commerce. At this Consul General Rey de Castro and others made speeches lauding him and the company. Only one discordant note was heard. One of the speakers made the point that “throwing bouquets “was all very well, but that Peru and the whole civilized world were waiting to hear from Arana some word or proof to exonerate him from the charges under which he rests.

Local merchants in Iquitos state that the agitation abroad has greatly affected Iquitos credit in Europe in all lines, and under the present business conditions constitutes a serious question for them.

I have [etc.]

Stuart J. Fuller.
[Inclosure—Identic letter—Translation.]

The Fiscal Commissioner and Consul General for Peru in the States of Amazonas and Para to the American and the British Consuls at Iquitos.

Gentlemen: On the day following my transshipment to the steamer Liberal, on the 11th of August last, at the mouth of the Putumayo, I fulfilled the pleasant duty of making you acquainted, as you will remember, with the object of my journey to the zone watered by the said river and its affluents, the Igaraparana and the Caraparana, and proposed to you at the same time that, in accordance with instructions from the Lima chancellery, we should sign statements in the places that we should visit, in order to place on record the information and the impressions that we might gather there.

You will also recollect that I put into your hands a copy of the dispatch, dated the 2d of the said month of August, in which the acting prefect of this department, Don E. Castaneda, transmitted to me exact and precise particulars which demonstrate conclusively that the Government of Peru calls into action all the lawful means compatible with its attributions to bring to order the situation in the extensive zone referred to, and in which the Peruvian Amazon Co. (Ltd.), an enterprise registered in London, but which does not yet enjoy definitive titles of possession to the lands which it there exploits, carries on the greater part of its rubber business.

You will not have forgotten, either, that you both excused yourselves from accomplishing the formality of subscribing statements, on the ground that your commission was simply of a consular nature, unconnected with considerations of another kind, with the exception of that relating to the possibility of the establishment in those rivers of missions of Catholic priests for the purpose of teaching religion to the Indians. Mr. Michell was good enough to add that his visit to the Putumayo was in fulfillment of general instructions from his Government, which reached his consulate in March of the present year.

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I do not doubt that you also bear in mind that in consequence of your declining to subscribe I expressed to you the satisfaction I should experience if, profiting by your visit to these rivers and in the exercise of your proved aptitude as sagacious and enlightened consular officers, you would do me the honor of transmitting to me any particulars, reference, or impression which you might consider conducive to the realization of the ends pursued by the Peruvian Government in sending me to the above-mentioned zone. I then said to you that the chancery at Lima and the whole of Peru would regard with legitimate satisfaction that the representatives of two countries so cultured and advanced as England and the United States should take the opportunity of affording us their collaboration in the righteous proposition of demonstrating to the world that if in reality excesses have been committed in the Putumayo the former system has been changed in a substantial manner and the whole of the public powers of Peru are being employed in the work of regeneration. Your word, which must be supposed to be exempt from prejudice, sincere and independent, was called to influence universal opinion, which, believing that that which belongs to an epoch now passed away is still the actual condition, is alarmed at the narratives put into circulation to-day by means of the press in the principal cities of the globe.

Lastly, you can not have forgotten that each time we arrived in one of the different sections worked by the Peruvian Amazon Co. (Ltd.) I repeated to you my request that you would be so good as to honor me with your valuable assistance to get light upon the facts and to adopt the means required by the circumstances, and I took care to explain to you with some insistence that in my capacity of special commissioner of the Government I had at my disposal the elements necessary to correct abuses and to remedy deficiencies.

Before Mr. Michell set out on his journey to the sections Argelia, Union, and Florida, in the Encanto, as Mr. Fuller was not accompanying him in his visits to those posts, I again begged him to grant me the favor of his intelligent and sagacious collaboration.

I can not entertain the least doubt that you have given your attention to my justifiable solicitude; first, because I am dealing with two officials who, by reason of their office and their humanitarian sentiments, can not be supposed to be indifferent to the lot of a considerable number of men, nor to the prestige of the nation in which they discharge their functions, and, secondly, because on various occasions they accompanied me in inquiring into the acts and practices relative to the system established by the Peruvian Amazon Co. (Ltd.) (examination of books, reading dispatches addressed to the managers at La Chorrera, El Encanto, etc.) and they did me the favor of expressing their opinion on the measures which I considered it proper to suggest in order to make definitive the effectiveness of the laws and to guarantee, in a permanent manner, the life, the rights, and the interests of all the inhabitants of the Putumayo.

The itinerary of the different journeys which were performed was that which you drew up, on your own initiative, with entire liberty, and considering only the distances and facilities for the marches as well as the means of river transportation which had to be reckoned with.

Señor Benito Lores, the special commissary of the region made, in concert with myself, the necessary arrangements for your most complete safety, as is proved by the fact that a picket of gendarmes accompanied us all the time.

So as to respect your liberty of action, we secured to you the enjoyment of the greatest independence in your investigations, without forgetting, however, that our most elementary duty as representatives of Peru in a territory under the national domination obliged us to note with careful attention what might be the particulars, the information, and the impressions you were gathering.

For the purpose of fixing up in a graphic form the general proof of your action in the rivers visited, I took with me a photographic artist, and I preserve, reproductions of views, groups, and incidents of the tour, which it will be a pleasure to me to send to you shortly, knowing that they will be useful to you to accentuate the clearness of your reports.

During the time that you were in the zone to which I refer, you have been able to prove the correctness of the particulars transmitted by the prefect of the department of Loreto with regard to the persistent and active labor of the political, military, and judicial authorities of Peru to bring to order the situation of the Putumayo, both as concerns the full exercise of our sovereignty and as concerns the rule of our laws and administrative practices.

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You have had occasion to observe the zeal and diligence displayed by the chief of staff of the fifth region, Lieut. Col. Don Antonio Castro, whom you met in La Chorrera. You have been witnesses of the energy and rapidity with which the special commissary, Señor Benito Lores, who accompanied you in your journey there and back, proceeds, bringing on the latter occasion, under his own direct supervision, five individuals against whom an order for preventive apprehension had been issued. You have had knowledge of the intervention which is the part of ordinary justice in the ventilation of matters within its competence, since I placed in the hands of Mr. Fuller, for him to read, the provisional deed executed before the justice of the peace resident at El Encanto, Señor Oscar Coloma Reborg, by Messrs. Josa and Arana and, finally, you have seen that in every part Peruvian gendarmes served you as guardians, you having on two occasions, at Ultimo Retiro and El Encanto amiably requested the aid of the said gendarmes for the better protection of your persons and your baggage.

I understand that a journey such as you have accomplished, without delaying more than a short time in each place, would not permit you to form a definite conception of some things, but I think, too, that the general impressions which you have received and the information acquired from books and documents of the company (such as the examination of the current accounts of the chiefs of sections and the perusal of the letter written by the Judge Dr. Romulo Paredes to Señor Juan A. Tizon, manager at La Chorrera) are sufficient to convey an approximate idea of the reality, and all the more as I am treating, as I said before, with officials of long experience, who have served in regions which have many, points of contact or similarity with that of the Putumayo.

I remember in this connection that in conversation with Mr. Michell he repeated to me several times that the position of the Peruvian Indian in the Putumayo is much superior to the present position of the workmen of the Kongo, not to that which weighed upon them under the old system.

Further, there were presented to your intelligent and perspicacious observation facts and scenes, of which I preserve photographic testimony, which carry with themselves the resolution of many doubtful points; for example, that referring to the life and alimentation of the Indians. You have looked upon very considerable groups of the latter, even on multitudes amounting to more than 1,200, as in Occidente, and you must have been convinced that all that has been spread about with respect to their emaciation and bad nourishment is to-day a fable of the worst kind. Men of your enlightenment and clear-sightedness can not be presumed to accept, even as a remote hypothesis, that the aborigines of the Putumayo may be divided into two grand classes—one the starving and the lean, the anemic and extenuated; the other the vigorous and healthy. When one has seen the number of Indians—men, women, and children—that you and I have seen there is no right whatever to imagine that these radical and absurd differences exist.

Apart from the cordial and friendly manner in which the Indian addresses his superiors, the chiefs, and employees of sections, there is a particular which will not have escaped your observation and which can not be more significant; almost all the adult Indians are armed with carbines and shotguns, which they use for hunting wild animals and birds for food. What does this prove? That a reign of terror does not exist there at the present time, for it can not be conceived that arms would be given to a man who is dominated by threats and punishments to make him strong and stir him up to vengeance; added to which vengeance would be all the more easy as to-day the staff of white or civilized employees is very much reduced, in some sections not amounting to more than two or three individuals.

The picture presented to us by the Indians in the different aspects of their life, whether engaged in the industrial occupations or enjoying themselves in feasts and dances, the questions addressed to them on their position and their relations to their chiefs, and the state of the houses and fields which belong to them, as well as the examination of the books of the offices at Chorrera and Encanto and the communications which I have received from Señores Juan A. Tizon and Miguel S. Loayza, in charge of these factories, I consider justify me in forming the following conclusions:

The procedure employed to-day by the Peruvian Amazon Co. (Ltd.) complies with the twofold obligation to care for the lives and health of the natives who lend it their services and to stimulate their better expansion and development.
The Indians do not perform crushing labor nor labor which wastes their energies, seeing that the proportion of rubber extracted by each one of them annually does not amount to 150 kilos, the greater number of them extracting only 80 to 100 kilos, a very exiguous amount when it is remembered that any cauchero will extract 800 to 1,000 kilos in the same period of time.
The remuneration which the Indians receive for their work is much superior, according to what Mr. Michell declared, to that which is given to the working people of the Kongo, and exceeds by more than 20 centavos per kilo that which, according to the famous American writer, Mr. H. C. Pearson, the rubber makers of India, Java, etc., earn.
The labor demanded by the porterage of the rubber is lessened by various circumstances:
The limitation of the weight of a load to 30 kilos.
The limitation of a day’s work to four hours.
The good condition of the road’s, above all for the Indian, who is accustomed to travel by almost inaccessible trails.
The transport of the rubber for the more considerable distances by means of launches in the service of the company, the Huitota, Gallao, Veloz, etc.
The Government of Peru takes care, perhaps going beyond the measure that the economic conditions of the country permit, to take to the Putumayo all the elements capable of contributing to the maintenance of the national sovereignty and the force of the laws, practices, and uses that regulate the public and private life of the Peruvian commonwealth.

In addressing you the present communication it was not only my desire to recall facts and circumstances which I conceive to be acceptable to you in your twofold character as consuls of two countries friendly to Peru and as men of noble sentiments, but it was also my intention to carry out my offer to hand to you the documents1 and particulars which I have the honor to annex hereto, viz:

Copy of the dispatch of the acting prefect of this Department to which I refer at the beginning of this communication.

Ditto of the notes which I exchanged with Señores Juan A. Tizon and Miguel S. Loayza, managers at Chorrera and Encanto, respectively, on the organization and plans for reform in the zones which are under their care.

Statistical tables showing the number of Indians at work in the Putumayo and its affluents, the tribes to which they belong, the quantity of rubber they extract, and the remuneration they receive.

Copy of the letter addressed by the judge, Dr. Romulo Paredes, to Señor Tizon, dated July 4, 1911, in which assurance is made by that severe magistrate that the system has changed in a radical manner, with visible good effect for the natives.

I am convinced that you must receive favorably the information and documents above mentioned, and I will not conclude without repeating to you my request that you will be so good as to grant me the valuable assistance of your ideas and your observations so far as you think would contribute to the satisfaction of the aspirations of Peru in the desire to completely normalize the position of the territory which we have just traveled over, and in which it has been such an honor to me to enjoy your interesting and enlightened company.

I avail [etc.]

C. Rey de Castro.
  1. Inclosure 1 in that despatch.
  2. Not printed.