This morning, December 29, 2017, four paramilitary persons entered the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado in San Josecito for the purpose of murdering the Peace Community’s legal representative, German Graciano Posso. The paramilitaries had threatened to assassinate German for several weeks. Their attack was thwarted, although German suffered a wound in his hand and another Peace Community member was injured in his leg. The Peace Community members who responded with 20 or more Community members to protect German, captured two of the four paramilitary men, including the one who fired against German. They plan to deliver the two men, whose identity they obtained, to an official of the Inspector General’s office or the Defensor del Pueblo’s office tomorrow.
A Colombia Support Network delegation to Colombia last month met with the Commander of the Seventeenth Brigade of the Colombian Army, Colonel Antonio Dragond, at the Brigade’s headquarters in Carepa. To our astonishment, Colonel Dragond denied there was paramilitary activity in the vicinity of the Peace Community and said the Peace Community residents were liars, that if we wanted to learn the truth of what is happening in the vicinity of the Peace Community we should talk to the Mayor of Apartado. We have seen Army personnel in substantial numbers in San Jose de Apartado, only a few hundred yards from the Peace Community in San Josecito. We also have witnessed a police presence, with a communications center near San Jose de Apartado. What is clear, therefore, is that there is Colombian military and police collaboration with the paramilitaries. Many new persons have settled in San Jose de Apartado and along the road from the city of Apartado to San Jose de Apartado. We have been reliably informed that numbers of the new residents in San Jose de Apartado are paramilitary members, and that their settlement in the area has been supported by elements of the Colombian government and military who wish to force the Peace Community to abandon the town they have built, San Josecito, and the rural areas where they grow their crops and where many Community members live.
We ask that you join us in protesting the collaboration of Colombian military and police forces with paramilitaries and urge the Colombian governmental authorities to end this collaboration and to recognize the Peace Community’s right to exist in peace where they are.
We ask that you write to President Juan Manuel Santos and Minister of Defense Luis Carlos Villegas to urge them to recognize openly the paramilitary threat and take steps to dismantle the illegal paramilitary organizations to whom they have essentially given an open invitation to do what they wish in the vicinity of the Peace Community and elsewhere in the Uraba district. Also please let Colonel Dragond know that you are watching his actions and are disturbed by his calling truthful Peace Community leaders “liars”.
The Peace Agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas has given promise that peace may be achieved after 70 years of conflict in the Colombian countryside. But the government must follow through on its commitments to the victims of violence and to those millions of persons who have been forced out of their homes by the armed conflict. And it must stop pretending that paramilitary forces do not exist (these are not “bacrim”— small criminal bands) and are not threatening local community leaders and human rights workers, and instead dismantle and disarm the paramilitaries.
We are urging our members of Congress—U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin and Congressman Mark Pocan—both of whom visited the town of San Jose de Apartado several years ago on a CSN delegation, to urge government officials—among them Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—to communicate to the Colombian government their concern for the evident collaboration of elements of the Colombian government with illegal paramilitary forces. We ask that you contact your Senators and Congressmen to urge them to express these concerns to Colombian government officials.
Addresses for Colombian Government Officials:
1. President Juan Manuel Santos
Presidencia de la Republica de Colombia
Casa de Narino
Carrera 8a, No. 7-28
2. Minister of National Defense Luis Carlos Villegas
Carrera 54, No. 26-25
3. Colonel Antonio Drgond
Comandante, Brigada 17
Colombia Support Network
December 29, 2017