President Michael D Higgins has said he hopes the memory of Roger Casement will inspire new relations between Peru and Ireland.

Mr Higgins was speaking in Peru as part of an official trip to South America that will also take in Colombia and Cuba.

Casement received a knighthood for exposing the abuse of indigenous people in Peru, five years before he was executed in the 1916 Rising.

President Higgins started the day by visiting the tomb of Irishman Ambrosio O'Higgins who was one of the last Viceroys of Peru when it was part of the Spanish empire.

O'Higgins' son, Bernardo, went on to become a hero of both the Chilean and Peruvian struggles for independence.

The President's main focus was the work of Casement, who exposed the torture and murder of indigenous people in Putumayo region by members of a British-registered rubber plantation company.

Mr Higgins said it is estimated that 90% of the native people in the region were wiped out between 1900 and 1930.

Casement, who was then working with the British Foreign Office, received his knighthood in 1911 for his reporting on human rights abuses there.

In his keynote address, the President said that the questions raised by Casement are still challenging 100 years later.

He said these are questions about power and human rights, the rights of indigenous communities, and the rules guiding foreign policy, development strategies and international trade.

"If Roger Casement's voice continues to call out to us, it is probably in part because the times he lived through were ones that have profound resonance with our own. Often referred to as the “first globalisation”, it was an era when an insatiable capital moved freely across the globe, when vast territorial expanses were opened up to industrial exploitation, with devastating impact on what had been complex civilisations, and when the flow of goods circulating within and between Europe's huge colonial empires increased dramatically".

In a speech made in the Peru's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he said similar human rights abuses have continued.

"Can it be that, nowadays, no one cares about the immunity sought once again by morally irresponsible, but powerful, commercial interests in sectors such as mining, oil drilling and logging?

"Can it be that no one knows the names of those environmentalists and indigenous activists who are murdered year after year in the name of greed and a new rush to the forest, this time for gold, and oil, and gas, and exotic timber?" he said.

The President is expected to receive Peru's highest honour - the Gran Collar of the Order of the Sun - tomorrow after he meets with the Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in what is the first visit of an Irish head of State to the South American country.

The Peruvian government has announced its intention to open an embassy in Dublin.