Colombia Support Network
PO Box 1505, Madison, WI 53701

June 26, 2005

Transmittal Letters to Senators Feingold, Kohl and Representative Baldwin

Dedication and Poem


By act of Congress, renewal of United Sates aid to Colombia ($700 million per year to the Colombian government, mostly in military aid) depends on their meeting conditions on human rights.  This report presents the information we have gathered and the basis for our recommendations, which appear at the end of this report.

Apartado, in northeastern Colombia (map), is the sister community of Dane County, Wisconsin, our home.  Our delegation from the Colombia Support Network (John Gibson, Eunice Gibson, Norman Stockwell, Conrad Weiffenbach, and Cecilia Zarate Laun) visited Colombia from April 16 to 26, 2005.The visit was supported with letters from Wisconsin Senators Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, and Wisconsin Secretary of State Douglas LaFollette, sent in advance to people in the agencies with which we wished to meet.  We met with people in Apartado, in the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado, and in the offices of a large number of government and non-government organizations in Medellin and Bogota

We offer this information to the United States Congress, Department of State, and other concerned groups and individuals wishing for information to guide their discussions on human rights in Colombia.  

This electronic report contains significant parts that are accessed via hyperlinks to the CSN website, where they are hidden files.  The linked documents contain essential information from our investigation, supporting the conclusions and recommendations presented at the end of these pages.

To recap events briefly, On February 21, 2005, Luis Eduardo Guerra-Guerra, one of the founders and leaders of the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado, was murdered in an area near the Mulatos River. Three children and four other adults were also murdered in this  massacre   Paramilitary checkpoints present in prior years on the road between San Jose and Apartado have been removed, but there are now checkpoints of the Colombian Police and Army. A police station (link to photo) was put within the village of San Jose, against the wishes of the peace community, which observes a non-violent resistance to the armed conflict. In response to the placing of the Police station in the village of San Jose, the Peace Community has abandoned their village, moving to a new site a few km away, where they are living in a new settlement, for which construction has begun

The background of events in this region of Colombia is comprehensively summarized in a Background section of this report.  A list (spreadsheet from the community) of 500 violations of human rights, including other massacres that the people of San Jose de Apartado have suffered, is also presented.  San Jose’s website (in Spanish) offers more recent information.  San Jose represents the experience (website with comprehensive listing of human rights violations in Colombia, in Spanish) of many rural communities in Colombia: the aggression toward them is systematic.

The culpability of the armed forces in the most serious of human rights violations has been acknowledged by the Colombian Procuraduria, which in May 2005 issued a decision (document in Spanish) that disciplinary action will be taken against units of the Army and Police that were in command of the region in which San Jose de Apartado is located in the years 2000 to 2002, for their responsibility in the same types of violations of human rights then in San Jose, including massacres.  Please see the Background document and list of violations from the community for details on those violations. 

US aid must not support the Colombian Police and Army in such behavior.

We expect that similar action from the Procuraduria will result in due time following the massacre of February 2005, which they are now investigating.

But whether the sanctions against those responsible in the military will be effective remains to be seen.  Often in the past such sanctions have not been so. 

Information we gathered during our visit:

San Jose de Apartado is a good community that can develop the country

Contrary to views expressed by members of the Apartado Council, police, army, and some government officials, we found in visiting and talking with people in San Jose that the members of the community are properly and exceptionally well motivated.  San Jose de Apartado provides an alternative model for peaceful rural development of the traditional agricultural sector in Colombia

We visited with work teams taking care of children, constructing sidewalks and housing; cutting trees into lumber across the river and up a hill from the camp, carrying the cut lumber from where the trees had been felled, and carrying rocks and gravel from the river for the walkways, all without gasoline powered vehicles. We saw no gasoline-powered vehicles on site, - only a gasoline chain saw, human labor and a very few draft animals.  No bulldozers, shovels or trucks. The road from Apartado goes by outside the barbed wire fence behind which the new camp is located, and no road goes into the new site. 

The fact that their community works as a collective could be seen as an asset to the nation, not a threat.  We believe that San Jose de Apartado is a highly respectable, indeed admirable community, especially because they have maintained their ideology and resisted displacement while 150 members have been murdered and massacred over the past fifteen years. 

Our Conclusions:

 We believe the following conclusions are well based on the information we have gathered:

The Army was responsible for the massacre of members of the Peace Community on February 21, 2005

The Peace Community has developed a highly respectable and principled stance toward the war in Colombia: an active peaceful resistance. We found no credible evidence of willingly participation of the Community in the armed conflict or of Community support for the FARC guerrillas or any other armed actor.

The Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado is an experiment of non-violence which is unique in the world. One of its most remarkable features is the truly democratic form in which decisions are made with the whole Community deciding on every important measure.

The Colombian Government made a mockery of the Inter American Court when it chose not to follow the Court’s recommendation which specifically says to negotiate decisions with the Community. The location of the Police station was agreed to tentatively in the discussion between Luis Eduardo Guerra representing the desires of the Community and Vice President Santos. The Community’s request was to locate the Police on the outskirts of the town, not inside .The Colombian government used the massacre as an excuse to impose the authoritarian decision of locating the Police station inside the town.

We believe the Community’s decision to oppose the placement of a Police station within the Community to be eminently reasonable for the following reasons:

a) it is consistent with the Community’s principled opposition to having arms in their midst; and b) the Community would leave itself open to becoming engaged in the armed conflict, as the guerrillas might carry out an armed attack against the Police station which might injure or kill Peace Community residents and damage their homes, as happened to the indigenous community of Toribio in Cauca province while our CSN delegation was in Colombia.

We found credible evidence of extensive cooperation and coordination between the Army and the paramilitaries in the massacre of February 21, 2005 and other events involving the Peace Community of San Jose. It is clear to us that the Colombian Government has failed to curtail these paramilitaries, whose activities are illegal under Colombian law. Under these circumstances the Peace Community’s rejection of Army presence in the Community appears sensible and reasonable.

We believe on the basis of the evidence we received during our visit to San Jose, Apartado, Medellin and Bogota that the Colombian Government has failed to take measures to protect the Peace Community as ordered by the Inter-American Court and by Colombia’s Constitutional Court.

In one sense the Peace Community of San Jose is a representative of rural communities throughout Colombia which have organized as civil society and in constituent assemblies to oppose the armed conflict, but have experienced aggression by the Colombian state, rather than protection, with their institutions and lands subjected to attack by paramilitary forces acting in concert with the Colombian Armed Forces

We ask that you incorporate the above information regarding human rights in Colombia, including information in linked documents, in your reports and deliberations, in so far as you recognize it to be useful. 

Our Recommendations: 

We recommend, based on our information in this report:

The United States can help to end the continuing, severe violations of rights of peasants like those of San Jose de Apartado, who hold and embody the highest moral position consistent with the conditions forced upon them. 

Millions of Colombians have already become internally displaced. The toleration and (yes) support by US aid of ongoing massacres and harassment of the populations of San Jose and many other rural communities can be halted. 

We hope that the information gathered by our delegation will help lead to a foreign policy towards Colombia based upon the principles upon which our nation was founded.

Note of Gratitude for Assistance to CSN