Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, January 3, 2018
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Once more our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó has to turn to the country and the world to report the latest events of assault and outrage that fill us with bewilderment and indignation.
Yesterday, Tuesday, January 2, 2018, we could hear asides from a press conference by the Governor of Antioquia, Sr. LUIS PEREZ GUTIERREZ, who referred to the tragic events that our Community experienced in the last few days when five paramilitaries, after an infinity of threats to exterminate our Peace Community, broke into our central settlement of San Josecito last December 29, with the intention of killing our Legal Representative and other leaders of the Community. Two of the paramilitaries were disarmed and tied up by members of our Community and turned over to a representative of the national government.
The Governor of Antioquia insists that the event was analyzed in a Security Council that had received reports from the Police and the Army that “yesterday we already clarified this: they weren’t paramilitaries at all. They were a couple of kids, and one of them was the actual barber for that community. They put on masks so that they could rob a butcher shop or a granary. The community held them for a relatively long time and when the government could intervene, we found that it was just a couple of kids from the same community, that had tried to rob a store.”
The Governor concludes that our Community are liars and he urges that the press not produce inflated reports, warning that “the time could come that it could happen like the story of the lying shepherd boy, who, because he had cried wolf without any reason, when the wolf really came and he really needed help from the Government, by that time, well, there was no way.”
We are left bewildered by this fable, undoubtedly malicious. For everything we went through in this tragic episode, and for being able to watch the paramilitaries for 24 hours and even talk with them while they were tied up; for those who accompanied us and cared for the injuries and saw the weapon that was taken from them and the bullets that were in the holster; for those who have suffered their constant threats for months and years and concluding that it had to do with some promised murders that our immediate and united action was able to stop, the story by the Governor is not only offensive, but extremely vicious.
To say that the paramilitaries were just kids from our Community who put on masks to rob a store in their own settlement, is something that sounds like a joke in bad taste. But it reveals the undercurrents of evil and cynicism that we did not think possible for a leader of that high level. Contrasted with what really happened, even in the presence of nearly ten internationals who accompany us and who were witnesses to different moments of the tragedy, the Governor’s version sounds like a vulgar buffoon who is trying to cover up the profound complicity of the attackers by means of the old trick of trivializing the story, making it grotesque so that the public that consumes his “reports” cannot possibly have sympathy for the victims, and will dismiss them as people who are deceived and create their own killers, in episodes that get laughs in those low places where vulgarity enjoys violence when it is expressed with hocus-pocus and trickery.
And the Governor clinches his grotesque and corrupt version, calling our Community LIARS. He does it by recurring to the universal fable: the one about “the lying shepherd boy” who cried out his false alarms again and again that the wolf was coming to attack his flock and thus he achieved a lot of people’s sympathy, but when the wolf really came, the people no longer believed him. Anybody can see the enormous perversion that is contained in that reference, as a way to stigmatize and degrade our Community in the media.
In reality, the re-victimization that the Governor is doing to us is not surprising. It’s the perfect frame for the policy that the governments have followed with regard to our tragedy for the past 20 years. All of our complaints have been called “lies”. The Minister of Defense, the Presidents, the Ministers and high officials all send back our reports, invariably responding that “the events did not occur”; “there were no troops in the area”; and “paramilitary groups do not exist.”
Ever since our first year of existence, ex-General Rito Alejo del Río used to answer the international delegations that experienced the paramilitary checkpoints on the road from Apartadó to San José that paramilitaries did not exist, even though the internationals told him that they had seen them and talked with them and taken pictures of them. That denial strategy has been kept up invariably for 20 years. For the national government, the “truth” is the false response that the Community had made up the killers. The “truth” is never the painful testimony of the victims.
Various international courts and all of the groups in solidarity with us in this country and in the world are all too familiar with this strategy, a strategy that is rooted in the darkest tunnels of power.
With terrible sorrow for our country,
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
January 3, 2018