Sent by the Peace Community on Wednesday, August 2, 2017
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Once again our Peace Community finds it necessary to report to the country and to the world the most recent events that continue to attack our way of life and the rights of the campesino population where we live.
Recently our Community has been able to verify the existence of several paramilitary bases located in different towns of San José de Apartadó. For several weeks now the paramilitaries have set up checkpoints in the towns of El Porvenir, La Resbalosa, Rodoxalí, Arenas Bajas, Playa Larga, La Esperanza and Naín. From those bases they are committing all kinds of barbaric acts against the civilian population, such as searching their houses and stealing their animals, their money, and their food supplies.
The Armed Forces are supposedly patrolling the towns in order to combat paramilitarism, but they never go where the paramilitary groups are located. The soldiers are only interested in attacking the civilian population by searching their houses and registering the people, as if the campesinos were the paramilitaries. For years the soldiers treated the campesinos as “guerrillas” so as to accuse, arrest, torture and murder them; now that the guerrillas are demobilized and the government wants fictitious results against the paramilitaries who have always been their allies, they go after the same campesinos and accuse them of being paramilitaries, in order to show those results. But they leave the real paramilitaries alone. The unfairness of that kind of corruption of power makes you want to throw up.
We can’t figure out how it’s possible that the paramilitaries patrol the towns without being bothered by any authority, since at the same time, there are military troops in those areas; in spite of that the paramilitaries go everywhere they want to in big groups that are coordinated from the bases they have located in the towns. These paramilitary structures spend their time barging into the homes of the campesinos, violating their privacy and making them work for them. It’s obvious that both the paramilitaries and the soldiers are united in stigmatizing the civilian population and subjecting them to their plans for terror and death.
The most recent events are the following:
On Saturday, July 15, 2017, in daylight hours, groups of paramilitaries were searching the houses of several campesinos in the towns of La Esperanza and Mulatos, in the District of San José de Apartadó. They took food products, clothing, and any money the campesinos had; they threw out and trampled on the rest of the belonging that they didn’t want. All of this had been planned the day before when there was a simulated battle between the Army (17th Brigade) and the paramilitaries. We know the simulation was put together by the 17th Brigade because in the supposed combat, we didn’t hear about any captures or any seizure of weapons of any kind. On the contrary, they were definitely organized to sack the private property of the campesinos, thus robbing them and violating all of their rights.
On Wednesday, July 19, 2017, during the morning, a group of soldiers arrived at the town of La Unión in the District of San José de Apartadó. They started taking over the residents’ homes so as to register the civilian population illegally. Do the 17th Brigade and other government agencies think that the campesinos are the paramilitaries? It’s obvious that the local governments are covering up the paramilitarism and in order to do that, they are registering the civilian campesino population so as to be able to file criminal complaints against protected persons; meanwhile paramilitarism is free to continue going about committing crimes in the region. Those registrations were explicitly prohibited by the Constitutional Court in its Decision C-1024/02, issued November 26, 2002.
On Sunday, July 23, 2017, at 11:00 a.m. a group of paramilitaries came up to one of the private properties belonging to our Peace Community in the town of Mulatos Medio, in the District of San José de Apartadó. They stayed for several hours next to the home of a member of our Community.
There are now so many actions of subjugation that are being suffered in the towns of San José de Apartadó; the majority of the campesinos say that they are very worried about their farms because they are being robbed of personal belongings and of animals, and their agricultural products are being damaged. Besides, they are being forced to work for the paramilitaries and anybody who refuses to do it is threatened.
We know about the extermination plan that the paramilitaries, coordinated with the Army’s 17th Brigade, have for us. There have been a lot of threats against our system. We know all that because the paramilitaries themselves have told the civilian population about it. They repeat that “we have to do away with that community because it’s in the way and it doesn’t allow the development that we, the paramilitaries are planning”. In the same way they claim: “We are working together with the military so that they allow us to do our work in this area.” It is for that reason that there are several paramilitary bases in the towns and the Army’s 17th Brigade lets them alone; it’s an alliance that has brought the campesino to slavery on his own property.
How long will the national government cover up all of this infamy? After so many years of suffering persecution, how long will the campesinos continue to be victimized? And how long will the civilian population be forced to finance the persecution that we suffer when we pay taxes to the paramilitaries? Why doesn’t somebody do something to stop this horror in a country where there is no longer any doubt that the power is in the hands of the criminals without any pretense?
Our Community will never stop denouncing this barbarity to the whole world, with the hope that such disgrace cannot continue.
We are thankful to all of the people who, from many parts of the world, have accompanied us both day and night with their messages of solidarity and their encouraging voices. They are supporting us emotionally and politically in these very difficult moments for our Peace Community.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
August 2, 2017