Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
July 20, 20 17
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Once again, as the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, we turn to the caring and concerned people in our country and in the world, to make a record of the most recent events that continue to attack our way of life and the rights of the campesinos that are our neighbors.
The Colombian government is constantly insisting that it will combat the paramilitarism in the regions of the country, but all of that has been a big lie. It’s evident that the Brigades of the Army aren’t doing anything to stop this phenomenon and, on the contrary, they are carrying out fake battles to pretend that they are indeed chasing them down. And then they end up meeting with the paramilitary commanders up in the hills.
There are already many terror strategies that weigh on the region of San José de Apartadó. It is more and more difficult to be free to work in our fields, as nowadays the people are more limited in deciding how they can live in this area, because they are being forced to submit to this Para-Government and to endure their commands to submit, and to go along with their purpose to control the area.
These paramilitary gangs spend their time barging into the houses belonging to the campesinos, violating their privacy. They force the campesinos to work for them, furnishing services like “puntos de información”, that is, turning them into informants and spies at their service and, in the same way, forcing them to cook their food and to let them store weapons in their houses. If anybody resists this collaboration, they are threatened with death, and much of the time they threaten to kill their families as well.
The most recent events are as follows:
On Monday, July 10, 2017, during the morning, a big group of paramilitaries turned up within the limits of the towns of El Porvenir and La Esperanza, in the District of San José de Apartadó. This time they went to a house and started making threats against our Community, asking whether there had been any members around from that sonofabitching Peace Community that had kicked them out of La Esperanza a few days ago. They added: “that’s going to change because that peace community doesn’t know what’s in store for them. We’ll see who is going to be in charge here in this region, them or us.”
In the same way they were claiming: “We aren’t going to let it pass that that community is the reason why they have captured some members of our group and they are going to pay dearly for that. We have orders to kill anybody that is part of that community. They can’t be going around with those gringos all of the time. The moment will come when we will find them alone and then we will finish them off right away, because of all the aggravation they’ve given us.”
On Wednesday, July 12, 2017, a group of paramilitaries, at least 30 men, dressed in military uniform and carrying long guns, arrived in the town of El Porvenir, in the District of San José de Apartadó. They grabbled a man who lived there; they threatened to harm him if he refused to work for them and they warned: “don’t join up with the peace community if you don’t want to have us do to you what we have planned for that sonofabitching peace community.”
On Thursday, July 13, 2017, at 3:00 p.m., an Army troop from the 17th Brigade arrived in the town of El Porvenir, in the District of San José de Apartadó. They took a campesino prisoner and mistreated him, making him take off his clothes and treating him like a “paramilitary”. They accused him of going around informing about the presence of the Armed Forces. How is it possible that a campesino has to pay for what the paramilitaries do when they are the ones that are always assaulting him? But, more than that, how could they accuse him in such a contradictory way of informing the paramilitaries of the presence of the Army when everybody in the world knows that the Army and the paramilitaries are tightly coordinated? Nobody understands how the Army can accuse the campesinos of paramilitarism, when we know—at least that’s what they said—that the soldiers are not pursuing the paramilitaries. You can see there the confusion of the troops that have always accused the campesinos of being guerrillas, but now that there aren’t any guerrillas they don’t know what to accuse him of and so they accuse him of paramilitarism in order to pretend that they are pursuing the paramilitaries. How far will the cynicism of government agencies go? After threats and blackmail, they let him go.
On Friday, July 14, 2017, at 12:00 noon, when a work group from our Peace Community was getting ready to head out from the town of Mulatos Medio, in the District of San José de Apartadó, toward San Josecito, they were intercepted in the Mulatos River by an armed group. They looked like the Army but they had no insignia that would have identified them. Our group was subjected illegally to a checkpoint where the men searched all of their personal belongings, like bags with clothing, bags with food products and the sacks of corn that were being carried by a mule. Then the men looked at their identification documents and did a kind of a census, writing down their names and photographing their documents.
On that same Friday, July 14, 2017, at 4:00 p.m. there was combat for about 15 minutes between the Army and the paramilitaries in the town of Las Nieves, in the District of San José de Apartadó. Once again you could see the pretense carried out by the 17th Brigade, because in the alleged combat nobody was captured and no weapons cache was seized. It was all put together so that the civilian population would believe that they really were going to fight the paramilitaries that are taking over the region. We know very well, because the paramilitaries themselves have admitted it, that they are not the enemies of the Army and that, on the contrary, they are working together to force the population to do whatever happens to strike their fancy. Later these same paramilitaries were seen in the towns of Buenos Aires, La Unión, Mulatos Cabecera and Mulatos Medio, carrying all their issued supplies and without a scratch on them.
On Sunday, July 16, 2017, during the morning, a well-known paramilitary, wearing a military uniform and carrying a long-range rifle, entered our settlement, the LUIS EDUARDO GUERRA Peace Village in the town of Mulatos Medio in the District of San José de Apartadó. Our Community asked him to show respect, as our settlements are private property and are neutral areas for any armed group. After a few minutes, the paramilitary left.
On Wednesday, July 19, 2017, at 6:50 p.m., when four members of our Peace Community and a team of international accompaniment was traveling in a public bus (“chivero”) on the road that leads from the urban part of Apartadó to the village of San José, they were intercepted by two paramilitaries who were on motorcycles and carrying pistols and revolvers. They stopped the bus just 500 meters from a military checkpoint and forced the passengers to turn over their suitcases. The members of our community and the internationals who were accompanying the group tried to stop the robbery, but it was impossible. They were threatened with death if they didn’t turn over their belongings. Unfortunately, they stole the money with which we planned to pay the producers who sell us their cacao. We hold the government and its military agencies and their Paramilitary branch responsible for the uninterrupted presence of paramilitaries in this area. They have been here for 20 years and no authority has listened to our complaints. How is it possible that the robbers pass a military checkpoint while carrying weapons? And with even greater irony, that they rob people under the noses of the military? What’s the point of so many armed forces if in the end they are in cahoots with the bandits that commit thefts in the towns, in the houses, on the trails and on the roads that pass through our towns and settlements?
How long will our region have to put up with the terror of a government that allows paramilitarism to have a complete guarantee in our territory, where they even threaten to exterminate the campesino organizations that don’t agree with their deadly projects? The national government is responsible for the fact that we find such deplorable conditions in our area, because their complicity with the paramilitary groups is more and more evident to the eyes of the people who are suffering to defend their land.
Many of the communications media today are urging the mayors and governors to deny the existence of the paramilitaries in San José de Apartadó. It’s now plain that the Antioquia Governor’s Office is refusing to admit that paramilitarism has gotten out of hand while they try to keep it quiet. We remind Mr. Mayor ELIECER ARTEAGA, Colonels ANTONIO JOSE DANGON and JAVIER SOLER, and Governor of Antioquia LUIS PEREZ: the paramilitaries are in San José de Apartadó, stealing, making threats, and forcing the people to work for them and they are not just gangs of common criminals, BACRIM as you call them in your strategies of evasion. They are very large groups that walk around the towns as if they were soldiers; they wear uniforms and carry weapons that are supposed to be used only by the Army and they brag about their friends and collaborators and they insist that every campesino has to work for them. Meanwhile they impose illegal taxes, they rob the campesinos of their belongings; they impose regulations that are contrary to our principles; they threaten us with death and announce continually that our Peace Community has to be exterminated. You will have to answer for all of this.
Our Peace Community will continue to make a record of these and other events, without caring for the consequences.
We are thankful to all of the people who, from many places in the world, have accompanied us with their messages of solidarity and their voices of encouragement, not caring whether it is day or night, and lending us moral and political support in these very difficult moments for our Peace Community.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
July 20, 2017