Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
July 12, 2017
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Once again our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó finds it necessary to report to the country and to the world the most recent actions taken against our way of life and against the rights of the people who live in our area.
Now every day the soldiers are patrolling the towns of San José and they meet frequently with the paramilitary groups; when they can’t get together for those meetings, they they communicate by firing into the air, meaning that they present, so that the soldiers don’t harm them by mistake. The alliance between those paramilitary groups and the Army Brigades is clear. The cynicism of the local governments is so great, insisting that there are no paramilitaries in San José de Apartadó, that you have to ask yourself, well, who are those armed groups that are doing so much damage in the region and now have more than 50 men in every town, what should we call them?
They are going into people’s houses, stealing animals and money and nobody says anything because the people are paralyzed by their threats. We have already made hundreds of reports of all of the barbarity, oppression and death that we have experienced and not one single measure has been taken to put a stop to this paramilitary phenomenon. On the contrary, the armed forces coordinate with the paramilitary bosses to subject the campesinos to their interests and to their criminal schemes. The most recent events are as follows:
- On Saturday, June 24, 2017, a group of paramilitaries arrived at the town of El Porvenir, in the District of San José de Apartadó. When they got there, they stopped several of the residents and told them that they had already negotiated to buy a farm in the upper part of the town. They said they would be setting up a base for paramilitary control, whether the residents liked it or not. After that they left and camped up in the mountains.
- On Friday, June 30, 2017, a man who identified himself as a paramilitary and who was wearing a sidearm and carrying a radio for communication, entered our settlement, the Luis Eduardo Guerra Peace Village in the town of Mulatos in the District of San José de Apartadó. There he was asking “What is this place called?” The members of our Community who were there demanded respect, because he was carrying a weapon onto the property of the Peace Community. They explained to him that we live there and we never at any moment live together with any armed actor. The paramilitary acted annoyed and asked about a man who has some dogs with long ears, as well as for a woman who has two daughters who look like her, and then for the president of the community action board of the town. He said he was looking for them when he met a group of paramilitaries.
- On Sunday, July 2, 2017, at 2:40 p.m., a group of heavily armed paramilitaries arrived at the town of La Resbalosa, in the District of San José de Apartadó. There they gathered the residents together and introduced themselves as “Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia” (AGC in Spanish). One of them introduced himself as the political boss in charge of convincing the people to support his informants. Another one said he was the commander of the troop, better known as “El Rayo” (“Lightning Strike”). Still another claimed to be the chief of informants. Later they introduced a person dressed in civilian clothes and known as “an informant” (an informant) from the sector known as La Rica, between Naín and La Resbalosa in Córdoba.
That meeting was forced, violating all of the rights of the campesinos. They told the campesinos that they were going to place an informant in the town but the people said no, because of all of the problems that that would bring for the civilian population. The paramilitaries’ answer was “whether you like it or not, we are going to place an informant here and if we decide to buy a parcel of land and build a house for our informant, we will do it, but the community action organization will have to locate him just like any other family in the town. Furthermore, it will be no problem if he is captured, because we have everything coordinated with the Army and with the prosecutors so that he would not be in custody for more than 24 hours.”
In the same way they reiterated that, “we came here to stay and we want all of you organized, working for us, and we don’t want any snitches who go around squealing about our presence.” Then they offered good pay for everybody who wanted to work with them and they dictated the contact numbers to be used to let them know of any military or civilian presence that might interfere with their taking over the towns. In the same way they once again assailed our Peace Community system, claiming that “there’s no need to worry about the Peace Community because the plan to exterminate them is already under way, and instead of giving the Peace Community information against us, it would be better to spy on them and give that information to us.”
On Monday, July 3, 2017, there were military landings in the towns of La Esperanza, Mulatos and La Resbalosa, all in the District of San José. There you could see once more the complicity that exists between the paramilitary organization and the Army’s 17th Brigade, because during the landings the paramilitaries fired shots into the air so that the helicopters would know where they were and not do them any harm.
On Thursday, July 6, 2017, during the day, a group of heavily armed paramilitaries arrived at the town of La Cristalina, in the District of San José de Apartaó. There they left messages written on the wall of the school and also attached to the fencing and on the animals and the trees. The messages celebrated the advance of the paramilitaries. The writings bore the initials AGC (Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia) and the added the slogan “we’re here and we came to stay.” The next day the government agencies (Army, Police, and prosecutors) entered the town. Among the were Colonel Antonio José Dangón from the Army’s 17th Brigade and the Colonel of the Police in Urabá, Col. Luis Soler.
Once again the only thing they did was place the civilian population at risk again because they start our doing a census of the families, going into people’s houses without authorization, a practice prohibited by the Constitutional Court, and forcing the people to give their names. Could it be that for the 17th Brigade the civilian population are the paramilitaries? How far will the national and local governments go in order to protect those paramilitary groups? They left their contact numbers so that they could be informed of the presence of armed men, when it is obvious that the campesino is not part of the war and refused to provide any information that would commit him to the armed conflict.
It was evident that the only thing the Armed Forces did was to look over the written messages left by the paramilitaries and stay in the houses belong to the civilians, putting at risk the children and adults who live there. They also camped in the fields of subsistence crops, doing damage to what the campesinos had grown with so much effort. Afterwards, those colonels from the Brigade and the Police told the communications media that everything was calm; there is no danger to anyone in La Cristalina. What a big lie! Because it is obvious that in the towns of the San José District, there is a powerful presence of paramilitary groups threatening, stealing, extorting, and placing their “informants” in order to control the areas.
On Friday, July 7, 2017, during the morning, a phony pardon ceremony was carried out in San José de Apartadó by a well-known paramilitary who had been the commander of the Heroes of Tolová Bloc, for the February 21, 2005 massacre in Mulatos and La Resbalosa, in the District of San José de Apartadó. The ceremony left the victims more confused than ever because the paramilitary did not tell the truth about the events and did not answer the questions by the victims about the connections to the massacre that existed between the 17th Brigade and officials in the President’s Office. His answer was, “I am very limited in what I can say”. He left the impression that the whole thing was coordinated by the 17th Brigade and the Police, but that he could only relate what was convenient for the government agencies.
They also placed a phony remembrance plaque about the massacre and in memory of the victims. It reads “In memory of our relatives whom we have not forgotten: Luis Eduardo Guerra, Beyanira Areiza Guzmán, Deiner Andrés Guerra Tuberquia, Alfonso Bolivar Tuberquia, Sandra Muñoz Posso, Natalia Tuberquia Muñoz, Santiago Tuberquia Muñoz, and Alejandro Pérez Castaño, victims of the massacre of San José de Apartadó by the paramilitary group Heroes of Tolová Bloc that occurred on February 21, 2005, as part of the Colombian armed conflict. Because we are building peace and harmony in San José de Apartadó.”
It only makes reference to the culpability of the paramilitaries and does not refer to any government official. Because of that, we are asking ourselves: “Where is the culpability of the President of the Republic and of the 17th Brigade, who were the ones that ordained the perpetration of this massacre together with the paramilitaries”?
On Monday, July 10, 2017, when Ruby Arteaga, a member of our Community, arrived at her house in the town of Mulatos, in the District of San José de Apartadó, she found that someone had broken into her house and had stolen 50 kilos of rice, 20 liters of cane syrup, 10 hens and a Sony FM-AM radio. She attributes this burglary to the paramilitary groups that are the ones who have been present in the towns, stealing animals, money and goods from unattended houses, whose owners are out doing personal errands. Another reason is that nothing had ever been stolen in Mulatos until the paramilitary groups supported by the Armed Forces started coming around and the campesinos started having their belongings stolen.
On Tuesday, July 11, 2017, the graffiti by the paramilitaries started appearing on the walls of the campesinos’ houses again. This time it was right in the urban part of San José de Apartadó. People woke up to graffiti on 25 houses and nobody had seen anybody. Even though there is a military base and a police station barely 100 meters away from the houses. How is it possible that such a militarized place wakes up with marks of the paramilitaries’ presence? There can be no doubt that the Armed Forces, Army and Police are allied with these groups to subject the population to terror. Even last Thursday July 6 the paramilitaries had already left their graffiti on the walls, on animals, on trees and on people’s front doors in the town of La Cristalina and the Armed Forces told the media that everything was quiet and there was no danger. What happened on July 11 in San José, how are they going to cover that up? Is everything quiet there too?
The cynicism of the government is so great that they want to cover up the paramilitarism in the area. It has happened to all the campesinos, the ones who have suffered the most in the region, and now they have to submit to this projected Para-Government that violates all of their rights. We have really hit rock bottom when a humble farmer who struggles to work his land to produce his family’s food has to see an armed group coordinated with the military to charge him an extortion, to steal everything from his house or to threaten to treat him as a “snitch” and announce their next murder, disappearance, or displacement. What kind of justice is this?
It’s clear that the 17th Brigade and the local governments are never going to do anything to stop this paramilitary advance in San José de Apartadó. On the contrary, they are allowed to threaten, to steal, and to do damage to the livelihoods of the campesinos.
Our Peace Community has survived for more than 20 years in the midst of threats, disappearances, tortures and murders, but we still keep on, thanks to our principles and rules that have fortified us in our resistance and in our communitarian life.
Once again we are thankful for all of the international solidarity that has accompanied us politically and morally from many parts of the world. They have believed in our communitarian system and have conscientiously tried to mediate with the governments in defense of our lives. We will always keep on making a record of all of the attacks and violations of human rights by the government with its paramilitary systems.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
July 12, 2017