( Translated by Eunice Gibson, a CSN volunteer translator)
On April 4, 2011 the Colombia Support Network (CSN) received a very disturbing note from the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado. The Peace Community is the sister community of Dane County, Wisconsin. Ever since its formation back in March of 1997, the Peace Community of San Jose has courageously defended the community’s right to remain on their lands and prohibit arms and armed activities within the community. It has faced continual threats from armed actors, most recently from paramilitary groups supported by the Colombian Army’s 17th Brigade, based in nearby Carepa.
Late last month paramilitaries detained Peace Community member Bernardo Rios at a paramilitary checkpoint on the road from Apartado to San Jose and later murdered him. On March 23 thirty paramilitary troops, wearing camouflage uniforms and bearing arms, entered an area near the hamlet of Resbalosa, a part of the Peace Community, and told community members they had to leave the zone or they would be killed, that they had a plan with the Colombian Armed Forces to “clean up” the zone and exterminate the Peace Community. And when on April 1 the paramilitaries engaged in combat with some guerrillas, with several paramilitary troops being killed, in the vicinity of Arenas Altas, the Peace Community asked the regional Public Defender’s office for assistance for the civilian population, their request was refused. The next day a military helicopter flew over the area while paramilitary forces recovered the bodies of those killed the day before and again threatened the Peace Community, while Army personnel in the area did nothing to stop them.
Meanwhile, the deserter from the FARC guerrillas known as “Samir” continued to attack the community from the 17th Brigade headquarters, where he has been living for months, through threats and attempts to convince campesinos in the region to work as informants with the 17th Brigade.
Last month CSN brought the continual attacks against the Peace Community to the attention of Colombian Vice President Angelino Garzon in a personal meeting with him. He is in charge of human rights within the Santos Administration. He seemed sympathetic to the Peace Community’s position, but the Community has continued essentially under siege from the illegal paramilitaries openly supported by the Army’s 17th Brigade under the command of General Hernan Giraldo Restrepo. Please write to Vice President Garzon and ask him to take action to stop the threats to Peace Community residents. And write or call General Giraldo to tell him that we expect him to protect the Peace Community and its members, not to collaborate with illegal paramilitary forces who attack and threaten the very existence of the Peace Community.
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