(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN volunteer translator)
“ . . . Colonel Germán Rojas Díaz, by means of communications media . . . once again revealed his hatred against our Community, hatred that he has trouble hiding, as well as hatred of the civilian population in our social and geographical vicinity . . .”
Our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó continues to live in the midst of threats and distress. The Army continues assaulting the people who live here. The Colonel who commands the Brigade announces long lists of arrests that he is preparing. The arrests already carried out reveal once again very clearly how the executive power has usurped the judicial power and they show the results of the clumsy frame-ups based on vengeful hatred, intended to silence complaints and protests. Paramilitaries continue taking control of territories and are bringing back their lists of campesinos they plan to kill and displace. All of this shows that the “post-conflict” is going to be terribly violent. We hereby inform the country and the world of the latest actions that are tormenting us:
• In the last week of November 2015, the neighbors who live in the place known as Caraballo reported blasts and machine-gun fire. Apparently the Armed Forces had attacked paramilitary troops, requiring the paramilitaries to head for the town of El Porvenir. The neighbors said there were no victims and that the attack only meant that the paramilitaries would occupy one more town and intimidate the civilian population.
• On Saturday, November 28, 2015, at 11:00 p.m. and for more than 30 minutes, there was a combat between paramilitary troops and FARC guerrillas in the settlement of Rodoxalí, in the town of the same name, part of the San José district.
According to the campesinos in the town, several paramilitaries were injured. Once again we see proof of the presence of paramilitaries in that town. It is an area where they have moved with so much freedom that they built a road and a housing development.
• On Thursday, December 17, 2015, at 5:00 p.m. a young man, LUIS YAIR USUGA, a member of the Peace Community, was arrested by officers of the National Police when he was traveling in a public bus between Apartadó and San José. He was immediately taken to the Municipal Police station, where they accused him of being a guerrilla. Later they accused him of being a paramilitary, because of his surname Usuga, claiming that he belonged to the “Usuga Clan”. After several hours of being arbitrarily and illegally deprived of his liberty, he was released.
• On Saturday, December 19, 2015, military troops entered the place known as the head of the town of Las Nieves, in the district of San José. They proceeded to demand that various campesinos pay them bribes so that their crops of coca that they had there would not be eradicated. And in effect, that is what happened. The ones who could not pay the bribes that they demanded, their crops were eradicated. The legitimacy of Army authorities has sunk to this level. They steal pigs and chickens by blackmail, in exchange for not destroying the campesinos’ crops.
* On Tuesday, December 22, 2015, at a mobile and improvised checkpoint, set up on the road that leads from Apartadó to San José, combined units of Army and Police, with a well-timed and precise objective of trapping their victim, arrested the well-known community leader of the urban part of San José de Apartadó, ARLEY CARTAGENA. In spite of the fact that there had been a warrant for his arrest, the warrant had not been registered in court records, and only the 17th Brigade and the police assigned to capture him were aware of it. It turned out that the Brigade Commander, Colonel Germán Rojas Díaz, was present at the site of the arrest. He was expressing his sentiments of delight and arrogance; he made fun of his victim, personally capturing him as a much desired and long-craved prisoner.
That same day, during the evening and while Doña LAURA CATANO was entering the jail at El Reposo to bring him some food and clothing, she was also arrested. Doña Laura is a community leader in San José. She is the President of the Community Action Committee and is the daughter of the founder of San José, Bartolomé Cataño. Both of the prisoners were later taken to maximum security prisons in Medellín and accused of the most absurd crimes, such as “criminal conspiracy, terrorism, rebellion and more”, based on a series of perjured witnesses who are supposedly demobilized guerrillas but were not present to support the accusations. Because of that, the evidence up to now is just concocted, without any testimony, “evidence” that the criminal law regards as invalid.
This episode is reminiscent of the horrendous times of the repression against the campesinos in the area, when the Brigade cooked up false testimonies by the bushel through ex-guerrillas subjected to blackmail and the prosecutors and judges did whatever the military told them to do, in an evident usurpation of judicial power by the executive, trampling one of the ruling principles of the Constitution, the separation and independence of powers.
This all demonstrates that Colonel Rojas is driving this perverse simulation of “justice” that he is trying to establish in our area, thanks to the malfeasance of prosecutors, judges, disciplinary officers and public defenders. Neither is there any doubt that such clumsy and arbitrary repression is the vengeful response by Colonel Rojas to those who have filed complaints regarding his arbitrary actions against the people of San José and have opposed his perverted plans, such as maintaining a military base right next to the school attended by the children of this area, something absolutely contrary to human rights and in violation of Constitutional Court decisions. Even though Cartagena and Cataño are not members of our Community, the whole population is the victim of judicial false positives.
* In the last week of December 2015 Colonel Germán Rojas Díaz, by means of the regional communications media, announced the arrests and claimed that there would be more charges against various campesinos in San José, including members our Peace Community. In these announcements, he again revealed all of the hatred that he has trouble concealing, against our Community and against all of the civilian population of this geographic and social neighborhood.
* On Sunday, January 3 and Monday, January 4, 2016, troops from the 17th Brigade were pressing a civilian to work with them and cooperate with them. Then some hooded and masked men proceeded to threaten him, in the urban part of San José.
* On Sunday, January 10 and on Saturday, January 16, two campesinos from the region came to our Peace Community to tell us that the 17th Brigade was offering them money to carry out activities in collaboration with the Armed Forces, so that the population would slowly but surely submit to their regulations and to the social, economic, political and military control of the Brigade.
* On Saturday, January 23, 2016, three more community leaders from the area, JUAN BAUTISTA CELADA, President of the Community Action Board in the town of Arenas Altas, and SILVIA SEPULVEDA AND OSCAR MUNOZ, a campesino family that lives between the towns of Las Nieves and La Esperanza were arrested. Everything looks as if the unscrupulous announcements by Colonel Rojas are being carried out, because these campesinos are victims of arbitrary proceedings supported by baseless accusations manipulated by the 17th Brigade and it looks as if at the same time, these same reports, targeting and threats have come from their paramilitary forces in recent months.
* On Sunday, January 24, 2016, at 6:00 p.m. in the urban part of San José, the campesino Ramon Isidro Guerra, a resident of the town of Mulatos, part of the district of San José, was followed around by National Police troops and soldiers from the military base in San José.
* On that same Sunday, January 24, 2016, at 9:00 p.m. in the urban part of San José, soldiers from the San José military base, accompanied by unidentified civilians, tried to enter the residence of the campesino Pedro Pablo Rivera Usuga. They told him that he had to go with them to the edge of the urban center, but he refused. Later, civilian residents of the urban center came to Pedro’s house to accompany him and to keep them from taking him away. We are perplexed by these events, by the arrogance of those government agents, trying to drag out civilians for who knows what iniquitous purpose. At this time, we do not know the whereabouts of the two civilians, Ramon Guerra and Pedro Rivera.
* For several months, our Peace Community has been aware that some of the people who live in the town of Mulatos, one of them who belongs to the Community Action Board, are preparing to invade and forcefully take over the property of our Peace Community in the settlement known as Luis Eduardo Guerra Peace Village, in the town of Mulatos Medio. They have several times demanded that our Community abandon the property, sometimes bringing armed actors with them to flaunt their strength. On other occasions they demand that we give them the land so that they can carry out activities that are contrary to our principles. Sometimes they claim that they have to locate their mechanical equipment there and carry out projects set up by the national government and at still other times they threaten to kill us.
We don’t understand completely what is behind all of this pressure, but we can tell that these are dark forces that are a problem for our Peace Community. For eleven years now, after the murder of our historic leader Luis Eduardo Guerra, carried out by the Army near the ruins of the old health center in Mulatos Medio, our Community has visited the site repeatedly. It has acquired a sacred character for us, because it has been watered by the blood of Luis Eduardo, Bellanira and Deiner Andrés. We built our first chapel there and we have met there since then for many ceremonies of remembrance. The site was overgrown and the previous inhabitants had fled long ago because of the violence. A few days after the holocaust, we decided to mow the area and prepare the property for a PEACE VILLAGE with the name of LUIS EDUARDO GUERRA.
Later we did some construction and a number of property registrations and a procedure for peaceful communal possession, without any opposition for the next ten years. There is a large assembly building, a group of dwellings, a school that serves children from the area, a library donated by international friends, and a chapel that was finally constructed of stones and which took long and hard work by many community work groups. There are crops and ecological experiments, all to perfect a peaceful and holy occupation by our Community. Because of that, we cannot understand the opposition of those who want to expel us by force from a place that is now intensely bound to our most deeply-felt emotions and to our most painful memory.
In the midst of the uncertainties that bring new torments and sufferings, harassed by a criminal government that is contemptuous of all the Constitutional Court decisions that have tried to protect us, we send greetings to all of our friends in solidarity with us, in Colombia and in the world and we reiterate our commitment to resistance, supported by the moral force that you have always furnished to us.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
January 25, 2015
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó