Message from the Peace Community, Wednesday, June 21, 2017
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Once again our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó sees the necessity of looking to the country and to the world to report on the most recent events threatening our way of life and the rights of the people who live here.
In recent days our Community has been able to establish that high-ranking officers of the 17th and 11th Colombian Army Brigades are meeting with paramilitary groups in the following towns: Mulatos, in the District of San José de Apartadó, and Murmullo, in the District of Batata in the Municipality of Tierralta, in Córdoba Province. All of this is to advance their plan for total coordination of their model of control over the people and to stigmatize our Peace Community. It is clear that the government continues the cover-up of paramilitarism, because the paramilitaries have total freedom to carry out their activities in the region, without any interference by the military. These paramilitary structures are more and more turning the people into their slaves. There are already a lot of obligatory payoffs required of the campesinos—they have to pay for the privilege of working their own fields.
It is evident that the paramilitary structures have armed control posts in the towns of Arenas Bajas, Nuevo Antioquia, Playa Larga, Rodoxalí, and La Hoz in the Municipalities of Apartadó and Turbo in Antioquia Province, and in La Resbalosa, Machosolo, Resbalosita, Naín, Murmullo, Alto Joaquín and Baltazar in the Municipality of Tierralta in Córdoba Province. In the other towns these armed groups go on patrol just as if they were the official Colombian Army. They threaten and do damage to whomever and whatever they find on their way, and there is no control to stop this project of Government/Paramilitary that is bleeding the region more and more.
- On Saturday, May 27, 2017, a group of heavily armed paramilitaries arrived in the town of Arenas Altas, in the District of San José de Apartadó. There they took one of the residents prisoner and threatened to kill him if he joined the Peace Community. They also claimed that they intended to exterminate the Community, whatever it might cost, because it was interfering with the development of their projects in the region.
- On Tuesday, June 13, 2017, a group of at least 20 paramilitaries, wearing military uniforms and carrying rifles, arrived in the town of El Porvenir, District of San José de Apartadó, where they stayed for several hours, patrolling the town and creating panic among the campesino families that live there. Later they left, heading for the town of La Unión, also part of San José.
- On Wednesday, June 14, 2017, at 7:00 a.m., these same groups of paramilitaries that had arrived at El Porvenir on the previous day went to the town of La Unión in the District of San José de Apartadó. There they took over the houses belonging to the campesinos, claiming that they had come to stay whether they liked it or not and besides that they had come to control everything that was produced in the area, such as coca, cattle and farm products. They also made threats against our Peace Community, giving the residents to understand that if they were connected to the Community they would also be killed. In the afternoon they left and headed for La Esperanza.
- On that same Wednesday, June 14, 2017, at 7:00 p.m., this paramilitary group that was coming from La Unión camped at our settlement in the town of La Esperanza. There they surrounded the house where a member of our Community lives with his family. They took over the house where only his wife, his mother-in-law and a brother-in-law were staying and they just moved in. At that moment a group of farm workers from our community was arriving at the house from San Josecito. There they found the house surrounded by paramilitaries ready to open fire. The members of our Community were bold enough to rebuke them for their abuses, demanding respect for their rights to liberty, to life, and to the privacy of their homes. We also have signs in the town that announce our principles and regulations. They answered back that they were there to stay and besides that they had seen the signs but paid no attention, saying, “Who is the Community to make us leave?”. Once again, we asked them to leave, since our Community does not live with or share space with any armed group. The paramilitaries stayed there for several hours and later they moved a few meters away. All of this indicated to us that they were there for something or were waiting for someone. By the way they took over the place it was clear that they were intending to kill somebody.
- On Saturday, June 17, 2017, at 11:00 a.m., a group of paramilitaries, heavily armed with long-range rifles came and in three minutes they took over our LUIS EDUARDO GUERRA GUERRA Peace Village in the town of Mulatos Medio in the District of San José de Apartadó. They camped there and stayed until the next morning.
- On Sunday, June 18, 2017, in the morning, this same troop of paramilitaries located next to our Peace Village divided into two groups and set up a checkpoint blocking the trail that leads from Mulatos to San José de Apartadó. They planned to intercept any residents who were leaving. They asked about GILDARDO TUBERQUIA, a member of our Peace Community, interrogating the campesinos as to whether he had left or was at home, because they had to find him, whatever it might take. They stayed there two days waiting for GILDARDO to come by. Fortunately he had left several days before, with international accompaniment.
- On Monday June 19, 2017, that same troop of paramilitaries that had set up the checkpoint next to our Peace Village on June 17 and 18, moved onto the farm belonging to one of the members of our Peace Community. It’s at a place called El Barro, right in the town of Mulatos Medio. From there they started to patrol around the homes of the campesinos, claiming that they were looking for GILDARDO, asking whether anybody had seen him. They also warned that “we have come to stay and we don’t want any snitches that would report our presence in the area.”
We hold the Colombian government and its agencies responsible for anything that happens to GILDARDO TUBERQUIA or any other resident of the region.
The lives of the campesinos in our region are more and more constrained and repressed, enslaved and forced to end up leaving the area or accepting submission to that paramilitary plan. Clearly the plan is being legitimized by the Colombian Army, especially the 17th and 11th Brigades in Antioquia and Córdoba Provinces. Faced with that, our Community continues with its way of life. We are supported by all the international solidarity that has accompanied us morally and politically for more than 20 years, and we know that tomorrow we might be murdered, for wanting to live in a region that is at peace and not at war.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
June 19, 2017