File No. 822.5048/5.
The American Minister to the Secretary of State.
Quito, November 13, 1913.
Sir: Adverting to the Department’s instructions No. 3 and 10, addressed to my predecessor and No. 1 addressed to myself, I now have the honor to report with respect to recent developments concerning the alleged traffic in slaves in the upper Napo region lying within the territory of Ecuador.
Mr. Lucien J. Jerome the British Chargé d’Affaires has confidentially placed at the disposal of this Legation the document referred to by the British Ambassador in his communications of July 5th and August 12th, and also the latest report received from Victor Huckin, Esquire, H. B. M’s Consul in Iquitos, who under the date of August 8 has addressed the Foreign Office as follows: “The principal fact which I have ascertained is that bodies of Indians have on several occasions within the past two years been brought down from the Napo to Iquitos and sent on thence to the [Page 525] Madre de Dios as described by Mr. Jerome. I have received from a good source the following list giving in each case the name and nationality of the Patron in charge of and owing the Indians.” (See enclosure “A”.)1
As will be noted by the enclosed list mentioned, the number of Indians who have passed through the Iquitos in the past two years is placed by the Consul at 510. This, according to latest report, does not include “a group of 150 under Samuel Rogeroni, an Italian born in Ecuador, which has been brought down as far as the mouth of the Napo where the men are at present employed in the ivory-nut industries. They are expected to be brought through Iquitos on their way to the Madre de Dios about October next.” It will be noticed that the above report fully confirms (with certain discrepancies in the figures given readily accounted for by the fortunes of the journey between the upper Napo and Iquitos) all the statements made by Mr. Jerome in his despatches forwarded to the Department.
The greatest credit is due to Mr. Jerome for his thorough and painstaking investigation of this subject. He has allowed me to examine his latest report (covering 55 pages) concerning the whole subject of the now notorious outrages on the Putumayo as well as the more recent abuses in the Ecuadorean hinterland. From it I have been able to make the following abstract:
The present charges are based upon: (1) The account of an Indian “deputation” from Archidona a town distant only 160 miles from Quito. (See Mr. Jerome’s communication of May 14th on file at the Department.) (2) The account of a Peruvian citizen now residing in Quite who was formerly engaged in business on the upper Napo. (See, below, an account of Mr. Cresson’s interview with this man.) (3) The accounts of visiting priests and missionaries whom Mr. Jerome has interviewed in Quito and Lima.
The above accounts cover a period from 1910 to the present day, and the present condition of affairs to be deduced from them may be resumed as follows: The once notorious operations of the rubber gatherers in the upper Putumayo basin having been curtailed by the flight of the native population, the failing rubber supply and the scandals involved in the exploitation of this industry, the operations of the “caucheros” had been transferred to other fields from whence the present supply is now largely drawn. These new areas of rubber forest lie (in a general way) to the south of the town of Pebas, to the south of the town of Nauta; and another large district near the Madre de Dios River on the borders of Bolivia. In order to supply these fields with labor, it would appear that the old system of “correrfas” or man-hunts, so familiar in the story of the Putumayo outrages, has been applied once more to the upper waters of the Napo in Ecuadorean territory. This is but the revival of an old state of affairs which only died out because [of] the flight and destruction of the native population following on the suppression of the Ecuadorean missions in 1895.
Mr. Cresson the Secretary of this Legation has been given an opportunity by Mr. Jerome of talking with that gentleman’s informant, [Page 526] the “cauchero” mentioned above. This man, whose testimony seems to be conservative and credible, confirms all the statements contained in Mr. Jerome’s reports and added that “the natives who willingly or unwillingly were taken down the river never returned again to their homes and families in the Napo.”
As the literature on this subject has become widely available, it hardly seems necessary for me to enlarge on the nature of the outrages charged. The rumors and testimony referred to would, however, strongly point to the desirability of a thorough investigation of the conditions charged. In my opinion the Ecuadorean Government could scarcely raise objections to any measures which might be taken to put a stop to the kidnapping of useful and laborious citizens of their Republic—uncivilized and even savage though their state may be—to the mean advantage of a few unscrupulous traders.
In Mr. Jerome’s opinion real results can only be obtained by an impartial investigation in the interest of humanity which might afterwards lead to representations near the Governments involved based, as is essential, on incontrovertible facts.
Mr. Jerome informs me that, in order to secure this end, he has suggested to H. M’s Government the propriety of a personal investigation of the territory concerned, surrounded by as little notoriety as possible. This country is distant only about 160 miles from Quito, which is the nearest center of civilization. It is, however, separated from Quito by the high chain of the Andes and a difficult stretch of country on their eastern slope. The best season to make these investigations would appear to be about the middle of January. Mr. Jerome concurs with me in the opinion that it would be highly advisable, if he is authorized to make this trip, that the Secretary of this Legation, Mr. Cresson, be authorized to accompany him on his expedition. If in the Department’s opinion the United States Government could informally cooperate to this extent in the humanitarian efforts of H. M’s officials, I consider that Mr. Cresson, who by physique and other attainments is fitted for the work, might readily be detached for this service. Mr. Jerome has asked his Government for a credit, not to exceed $750, in order to cover the necessary expenses of the trip, and in my opinion a similar expenditure should be authorized on Mr. Cresson’s behalf.
The above recommendations are made under the apprehension that the Department is inclined to favor the policy of cooperation with respect to these matters suggested by the British Ambassador in his note of July 5th, 1913.
In view of the fact that Mr. Jerome’s representations to his Government were made some two weeks ago and that some time will be necessary in order to make proper preparations for the suggested trip, I would respectfully suggest that the Department communicate with this Legation by cable with respect to the attitude I should assume regarding these matters and the proposed investigations.
I have [etc.]
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