Sent by the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
Thursday, March 15, 2018, 1:57 pm
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Once more our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó finds it necessary to call on the country and on the world to report the events by which they are continuing to put together their strategy of extermination of our Community and to report the barbarous domination of the campesinos who live in our area. This in open violation of all constitutional order and of our universal human rights, without any sign of a reaction by the institutions that are supposed to defend democracy and the rights of the people.
The District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó is more and more subjected, by paramilitarism, to the extermination of its conscience and to the deprivation of its freedom to make choices and to live on the land that we own. We can’t understand why an area that is so dominated by paramilitaries does not receive some action by the government to take down these criminal organizations that, more and more, are forcing the campesino population to submit to their interests and to those of the business interests that they serve. We can’t understand why the government and its Armed Forces are so involved in the protection of forces that are so radically opposed to their mission.
It’s obvious that in the urban part of San José de Apartadó the paramilitaries are living in harmony with the Army and the Police. There is a strong paramilitary presence there and they are committing extortion and forcing their victims to keep quiet about it. They are forbidden to complain about the extortion or about being forced to work for the paramilitaries. Our Peace Community is being threatened with death on the road that leads from San José to the urban part of Apartadó and in the various towns (veredas) in the District (corregimiento). The paramilitaries move around all the time on the road between San José and Apartadó and in the towns (veredas), firing shots with their guns without ever being bothered by any competent authority. We ask ourselves: Who gave them the guns? Who is protecting them? Is it legal for civilians to go around with guns? Why doesn’t anybody seize those guns?
The paramilitaries are conducting meetings in the towns (veredas) and they are forcing the campesinos to take part in the meetings, and if anybody refuses to attend, he is forced to pay a big fine, more than 200,000 pesos (about $67). Our Community has reported this with specific dates and times, but the complicity of the Army’s 17th Brigade with the paramilitaries is so immense that what they do in those cases is go many hours or days later to the place where it happened, when the paramilitaries have concluded their meetings and have left the area. Later they publish reports in which they claim that they went to the place named in the complaint and didn’t find anything and that the Peace Community is making up all of these stories. All of this makes it evident that the Colombian government and its military forces needs the paramilitaries to control the civilian population and make them submit to business interests who want to take over their land. The paramilitary groups do the dirty work of grabbing the land away from the campesinos and besides that, they are completely protected by the Armed Forces who allow them to go all over the territory without being bothered at all. How can this be understood, if it’s a fact that these paramilitaries go around with their guns in the midst of the military and police authorities in San José de Apartadó and nothing happens?
The events that we must report are as follows:
On Friday, March 2, 2018, at 9:00 a.m., the paramilitaries conducted an obligatory meeting in the town (vereda) of La Unión. It had been called last February 28 by a paramilitary named Luis Yair. The civilian population was required to attend, under the threat that if anyone failed to attend he would have to pay a fine of more than 200,000 pesos (about $67). Our Peace Community had already reported on that meeting last February 28, but in spite of the fact that we reported it before the meeting was scheduled to take place, no action was taken to prevent it. Up there the paramilitaries forced the civilian population to attend it and the only thing the Armed Forces did was wait until the paramilitaries completed the work of making the campesinos submit. Their complicity consisted in arriving at the site when everyone had left, to be able to make the report that the whole thing was a lie and everything was in order.
On Monday, March 5, 2018, when a work group from our Peace Community was traveling from the town (vereda) of La Esperanza to the urban part of San José, they met a contingent of paramilitaries commanded by alias Felipe. They were stationed on one of our cooperative farms in the town (vereda) of El Porvenir. They were making phone calls to their superiors and after that they headed for the town (vereda) of La Esperanza.
On Thursday, March 8, 2018, in the morning, the paramilitaries conducted a meeting with the civilian population in the town (vereda) of Rodoxalí. Residents of the towns (veredas) of Mulatos, La Hoz and Rodoxalí, all in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó, were taking part. At the meeting they referred to our Eduardo Guerra Peace Village, which we acquired 13 years ago after the 2005 massacre of eight people, perpetrated by the paramilitaries together with troops from the Army’s 17th Brigade. During the meeting the paramilitaries were inciting the residents of the area to seize the property, promising them that they would later be able to obtain projects to develop the land. We have also filed a complaint about these paramilitaries because, without any permit, they have been building an illegal road from the town (vereda) of Rodoxalí to the town (vereda) of La Hoz.
On that same March 10, 2018, several paramilitaries, carrying small arms, were drinking liquor in full view of the Police and the Army soldiers in the urban part of San José. The authorities didn’t do anything. In the same way they are constantly going around, riding motorcycles and carrying weapons, on the road that leads from San José to the urban center of Apartadó, right in front of the soldiers and police officers. They frequently fire their weapons, but nobody stops them or takes away their guns. It’s no secret that this constitutes a permanent threat of death for the members of our Peace Community, most of all if you add to this the death threats they are constantly throwing at us. Could anyone believe that we live under the “rule of law”?
Today not just the members of our Peace Community but many of the civilian population that live around here know that all of this oppression that we are enduring will not end any time soon, if we keep in mind the profound corruption that is rife in the agencies and political forces that are in charge of this government. You can see that from the elections that we just had. They prove that the government is ruled by political parties that only protect their own elitist interests and are deaf and blind to the tragedy that the unprotected citizens have to experience. They are victimized and subjected to a violence the persistence of which the authorities would like to hide, because it has the camouflaged support, or collaboration to do nothing, and the pretended ignorance by the government and all of its institutions.
Our Peace Community, as long as it continues to exist, will never cease reporting to the country and to the world on all of this barbarity that we are experiencing in our part of the country. We give thanks once again to all of the people and organizations from all over the world that have believed in us and have given us both political and moral support, joining their forces firmly with us, giving us strength to continue demanding our rights to life and to peace.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
March 15, 2018