(Translated by Peter Lenny, CSN Volunteer Translator)
By Colombia Informa, September 12, 2016
12 Sept. CI. – Last Thursday, 8 September, the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó reported publicly that around fifty armed paramilitaries from the Gaitanistas Self-Defense Forces de Colombia (Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia, AGC) are making their presence felt by incursions into the territory, especially in the villages Arenas Altas, Resbalosa, La Esperanza, Buenos Aires, and El Porvenir. Since this illegal armed group arrived in the area, it has intimidated the local population and threatened to fill the vacuum left by the FARC. “Yes, this time we’re here to stay”, is one of the messages left on the walls of several homes.
The paramilitary presence in the area has been worsening since October 2015, when some 200 people from the village of Esperanza started to move towards the urban area of the municipality of Urabá out of fear of the paramilitaries’ armed actions.
“From early October to date, a paramilitary operation has been deployed with large-scale demonstrations of an armed presence in several villages in the district of San José de Apartadó. There is a permanent Colombian National Army presence in those same villages”, declared the San José de Apartadó Human Rights Committee in its complaint.
Also in April 2016, the Community has warned of the AGC presence and the constant persecution of social leaders in the area. That is to say, the paramilitary presence has been steadily growing in the area.
In view of these grave facts, the Campesino Association of San José de Apartadó has sent a joint communique to President Juan Manuel Santos, Vice President Germán Vargas Lleras, and the Army’s 17th Brigade, demanding guarantees for “the life and safety of the people of San José de Apartadó”.
The communique also urges the international community and several human rights organisations to draw attention to the situation and “immediately set in motion verification and protection mechanisms and protocols to safeguard the fundamental human rights of the people, community leaders, and human rights advocates of the rural community of San José de Apartadó”.
To date there has been no response from the Colombian government and the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó continues fearful and anxious at the threats of the paramilitaries.
*Editor’s note: CSN is publishing this article roughly nine months after its initial release to remind its members and the international community that the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, with which CSN has a sustained sister city relationship, remains threatened amid the Colombian peace process. In addition, please note that Urabá is a region but we left it as a municipality as referenced within the original article.