Message from the Peace Community, Sunday, December 31, 2017 at 10:30 p.m.

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Just 24 hours after an important government functionary formally turned over to the Attorney General’s Technical Investigation Group the two paramilitaries that tried to kill our leaders, and just after they were received formally from the custody of the leaders of our Peace Community, we have received multiple statements by people who claim to have seen the two attackers completely at liberty and walking the streets of Apartadó.

The number of statements, and the fact that they are independent and not connected, fills us with concern, and it confirms one more time the intimate relations existing between the Armed Forces, the paramilitaries, and the Colombian legal system. One of the paramilitaries, now allegedly freed, stated while he was in our custody that he would get revenge on us for interfering with his mission. He said that he had been ordered to kill the members of the Internal Council and, according to him, the fact that they had lived when he had orders to kill them calls for extreme retaliation.

New events have presented themselves in the last few hours, and we want to report them to the country and to the world:

On Saturday, December 30, 2017, the paramilitary commander in this area, alias “FELIPE”, who took part in the murderous attack on the leaders of our Community on Friday, December 29, along with four other paramilitaries, headed straight for the town (vereda) of Arenas Altas where he has been hurling threats of revenge against our Peace Community for interfering with his carrying out the crime. He is furious and he is once again claiming that the Peace Community is going to be destroyed. When the Community reacted and he was forced to run away from the crime scene, he ran to the urban part of San José where he gathered together a big group of paramilitaries who are active there. Later on he went all around the village, completely under the control of the Armed Forces, and then he headed for the town (vereda) of Arenas Altas, and neither the military nor the police laid a finger on him.

On Saturday, December 30, 2017, on the Teleantioquia TV news, a politician who belongs to the cacao farmers organization in Urabá, CESAR JARAMILLO, stated that the two paramilitaries that were detained are not paramilitaries, but rather they are innocent cacao farmers that he advises. It looks as he doesn’t care that the people he advises also work on the side by hiring out to kill social leaders and trying to destroy a Peace Community. Does he think, perhaps, that their seasonal work as cacao farmers requires society to ignore their criminal activities? Or maybe he thinks that the people who suffered the attack by these paramilitaries, such as the Community and its members and internationals who accompany us and were present for the whole episode—that they don’t deserve to be believed and that the only ones to be believed are those who have seen these criminals in their part-time jobs of growing cacao? We would rather not think that his advice to these part-time cacao workers includes instruction in the use of firearms, in stigmatizing communities, and in strategies to coordinate with the Armed Forces in activities that are highly criminal in nature.

On Saturday, December 30, 2017, paramilitaries that are widely known in the District (corregimiento) of Saiza, in the Municipality of Tierralta, Córdoba Province, told the people there who were feeling very bad about what had happened in the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, that their paramilitary comrades had been “humiliated” by the Community. The Community had been able to prevent the murder of their leaders and capture and disarm two of their paramilitary comrades. They promised that they would soon carry out a massacre in the Peace Community and repeated their decision to exterminate our Community.

All of these events reflect the tragedy that Colombia is living through: some agencies cover up, with silence, with inaction, with furtive complicity, and with systematic denial of reality, the most cruel sufferings of the people that don’t have any power. The justice system is corrupt all the time; the Armed Forces are in solidarity with the criminals and are practically turned into their bodyguards. The communications media lie, distort, misconstrue, silence and cover up. There is a degenerate political class, engulfed in its savage self-seeking exploitation and avid for exclusive privileges. In the midst of that panorama, paramilitaries are the dominant force, supported by the complicity and the systematic denial of paramilitary activity by all of those in authority. To sustain moral principles in this context is to run the risk of extermination.

Our Peace Community has already sacrificed hundreds of lives in defense of our principles and we have never been silenced regarding the crimes that have tried to destroy us. In that heroic struggle, we have been accompanied by those national and international minorities that still have moral principles. We are profoundly grateful to all of those communities, groups and organizations, and our commitment is that we will not give in.

Peace Community of San José de Apartadó

December 31, 2017

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