( Translated by Eunice Gibson, a CSN volunteer translator)
Narni, October 11, 208
Dr. Francisco Santos
Vice President of Colombia
From October 1 to October 6 of this year, the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó undertook a pilgrimage for life, with the participation of numerous delegations of both Colombian and international social organizations. They included our Italian Solidarity Network and the Covenant of Sisterhood between the city governments of Alburquerque (Spain), Westelo (Belgium), Burgos (Spain) and Narni (Italy), all of them sister communities with the Peace Community.
The first activity that was planned was the carrying out on October 1 of silent prayer in front of the installations of the XVII Brigade of the Colombian Army, because of the repeated and unpunished violations of human rights in which members of this military garrison have been involved. Unfortunately, in spite of the absence of any legal basis, the commander of the Brigade refused to allow the caravan to arrive at its destination. As a result, the peaceful action of prayer and reflection had to be carried out in the middle of the highway.
From October 2 to October 6, the national and international pilgrims travelled around the humanitarian zones and the settlements of the Peace Community, in Mulatos, La Esperanza and La Unión. The visitors were worried to hear the testimony of peasant farmer families about the strong presence of paramilitary groups. They maintain their base undisturbed in the district of Nueva Antioquia, as we have complained to the Vice President on several occasions.
In the early days of our stay in the Peace Community, we heard reports of the presence of paramilitary groups very near the settlement of La Unión, which, as you know, was the site of atrocious massacres carried out by these armed organizations. Later, on October 4, paramilitaries halted and interrogated three members of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó in the town of La Esperanza. We happened to be there carrying out one stage of the pilgrimage for life. After they were interrogated and threatened, in order to avoid having one of them, a member of the Internal Council of the Peace Community, be captured and taken away by the paramilitaries, the three farmers were able to reach the area where the pilgrimage members were concentrated. The situations we have described, and the numerous testimonies of the people who live in the area, have led us to conclude that there is an intensifying paramilitary presence and that there are serious threats against the members of the Peace Community and the other inhabitants of the area.
In addition, Mr. Vice President, we would like to express our concern about the dangerous plans that are trying to disparage and criminalize the people who defend human rights, including the Inter-Ecclesiastical Committee for Peace and Justice and Father Javier Giraldo. They are recognized nationally and internationally for their unconditional support for groups of people who have been particularly affected by the political violence in Colombia. The recent telephone conversation between retired General Rito Alejo del Rio and former Minister Fernando Londoño, published by a television station, shows the two of them designing a macabre strategy that seems, at least, to have the complicity of some communications media.
Once again, we urge you, Mr. Vice President, to intervene so that the Colombian Government will neutralize the paramilitary base that has been established in Nueva Antioquia for years. We also ask you respectfully to defeat the plans of disparagement and criminalization against Father Javier Giraldo and against the Inter-Ecclesiastical Committee for Peace and Justice that General Rito Alejo del Rio, from his place of imprisonment, is scheming along with his circle of friends.
We thank you for your attention.
Dr. Andrea Proietti
President, Italian Solidarity NetworkColombia Vive!
Dr. Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, Minister of Defense
Dr. Carlos Franco Echevarria, Director, President’s Program for Human Rights
Dr. Mario Iguarán, Prosecutor General
Dr. Edgardo Josè Maya Villazòn, Attorney General
Dr. Volmar Antonio Pèrez Ortiz, National Public Defender
Commandant, XVII Brigade, Carepa – Apartadò
Dr. Sabas Pretelt de la Vega, Colombian Ambassador to Italy
Dr. Antonio Tarelli, Italian Ambassador to Italy
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621