(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Given the intensity of the assault against our Peace Community by agencies of the Colombian government, we feel obligated to denounce, to the country and to the world, the flagrant and now daily systematic assaults. The following incidents occurred in the last few days:
On Wednesday, October 12, 2016, the Community found out that a group of paramilitaries that were coming from the town of Arenas Bajas arrived at the town of La Unión intending to kill Reinaldo Areiza, but he was not at home when they arrived. Several days later, paramilitaries living in the village of Nuevo Antioquia confirmed that they had been looking for Reinaldo in La Unión to kill him, but that they had not been able to find him.
On Friday, October 14, 2016, the Community learned from campesinos living in the region who actually saw what happened, that there had been several meetings between Colombian Army soldiers and paramilitaries at the place known as La Maquina, between the towns of Arenas Bajas and Arenas Altas. They were sharing information and mutual instructions.
On Tuesday, October 18, 2016, at 7:00 a.m. and for a space of ten hours, an Army contingent of approximately 100 men was present in our Peace Community’s private properties, particularly in the school, where they were cooking without any permission whatsoever. When they left the area, they left behind a military vest, a cell phone and other military supplies, four holsters with their respective weapons and three sacks with a lot of ammunition for long range weapons, and a uniform shirt. The Peace Community has recorded all of this in photos and videos.
On that same day several members of the Community observed a group that appeared to be soldiers, but with characteristics and appearance similar to paramilitaries. They were descending by the trail from Arenas Altas and they were headed for the urban part of San José, where there is a very strong military and police presence. Later they were seen returning to the same place. This all demonstrates that they had been close to and coordinating with the Army.
On that same Tuesday, October 18, 2016, at 7:00 a.m., several people from the town of Arenas Altas heard rifle shots coming from a military camp in that town. Later campesinos who live there were confronted by two subjects wearing military pants and boots. The two asked the campesinos how to get to the town of Los Mandarinos in the La Maquina sector. This is a place where there is a permanent contingent of paramilitaries.
On Wednesday, October 19, 2016, at 10:30 a.m., members of our Peace Community were picking up and burying the military materials that the Army left in the school in Arenas Altas last Tuesday, October 18, 2016, because the children in the school were picking up and handling the materials that the soldiers had left there. We have notified both national and international agencies about this event.
On that same Wednesday, October 19, 2016, at 3:00 p.m. a group of soldiers returned to our Peace Community settlement in the town of Arenas Altas. They stayed there for two hours and later they left the site when they were asked to leave by the members of the Community that were there.
On Thursday, October 20, 2016, at 7:20 a.m., a humanitarian commission made up of members of our Peace Community arrived at the town of Arenas Altas, to see at first hand the situation of public order that had taken place there in the last few days. When the commission arrived, it was immediately confronted by the Army troops camped in the Community’s settlement. The soldiers flung furious threats at the Peace Community members that were present. They claimed, among other things, that they were carrying rifles and weapons that were designed for nothing other than killing and that they would use them at any moment. All of these threats were filmed and recorded by the Community.
On that same Thursday, October 20, 2016, at 4:00 p.m., another humanitarian commission made up of members of our Peace Community and the Public Defender’s Office went to the town of Arenas Altas, for the purpose of showing the Public Defender’s staff the weapons arsenal that the soldiers had left and that was found by the children of the settlement. Our Peace Community is waiting to turn over that weapons arsenal left by the soldiers, but only to an international organization that can guarantee the these weapons of human destruction have been disabled.
Once again our Peace Community appeals to the solidarity of the communities and individuals in different parts of the world who have supported us. We hope they will demand that the Colombian government explain the incessant and merciless persecution that is delegitimizing the institutions that say they respect the law and that they are building a lasting peace.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
October 20, 2016