Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, June 8, 2018, 11:54 a.m. (click for original in Spanish)
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Once again our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó finds it necessary to turn to the country and the world to make a record of the most recent events of which we have been the victims. More and more, the paramilitaries are subjecting our region to extermination, destroying all of the values of campesino life and subjecting the civilian population to a war that, instead of dying, is continually reviving.
These paramilitary organizations are invading the towns (veredas) of the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó and are dragging everyone they find in their path into submission to their paramilitary ideology and their projects. Today many of the young people have been recruited into those paramilitary organizations and they are being used to control and threaten their very own campesino population.
In the urban part of San José the paramilitaries have told the civilian population that they have established a recruitment zone in the town (vereda) of Arenas Bajas where they are forcing a lot of people to join the paramilitary organization.
The Colombian Army’s 17th Brigade, based in the municipality of Carepa, has never had any interest in countering paramilitarism in Urabá. On the contrary, their powerful complicity with these paramilitaries in the area of San José is evident, as the soldiers and the paramilitaries live and work together, supporting each other mutually, coordinating all of their activities, and watching each other’s backs, with the additional complicity of the legal and administrative systems. The soldiers and the paramilitaries remain there 24 hours a day, both armed, in the midst of the civilian population.
The events we recounting are as follows:
On Tuesday, May 29, 2018, in the town (vereda) of Mulatos Medio in the District (corregimiento) of San José there was a group of five paramilitaries illegally wearing Armed Forces uniforms and carrying long guns. Later they were seen at the place known as El Barro, in the same town (vereda). The people who live in the town (vereda) identified them as paramilitaries.
On Friday, June 1, 2018, at 9:00 a.m. at the place known as El Barro, in the town (vereda) of Mulatos in the District (corregimiento) of San José two paramilitaries were seen wearing uniforms and carrying rifles belonging to the Armed Forces. They were identified as paramilitaries by the residents of the town (vereda).
On Saturday, June 2, 2018, the same paramilitaries who had been patrolling around the town (vereda) of Mulatos Medio, were seen camped illegally at the farm that belongs to Mr. Aníbal, known by the nickname “Demonio” (“The Devil”), and also at the farm belonging to Mr.. Muñoz in the town (vereda) of La Esperanza. They were sending out operations to control the civilian population in the towns (veredas) of Mulatos, La Union (Municipio de Carepa), Resbalosa, and La Hoz, in the District (corregimiento) of San José.
On Sunday, June 3, 2018, during the morning, Mr. JOHNY MANUEL MARTINEZ, age 52, was murdered. He was currently living near the town (vereda) of La Balsa in San José de Apartadó. The murder took place on the road that leads from the urban part of Apartadó to San José, at the spot known as Tierra Amarilla. According to the people that live in the area, he was murdered with machetes. These events are being attributed to the paramilitary organizations that are controlling all the campesinos around San José de Apartadó and its towns (veredas), because cases like this one have happened on other occasions when social leaders have been killed. Later it’s passed off as a tragedy caused by personal problems among the campesinos themselves. It’s clear that the paramilitaries are killing a lot of people in numerous regions of the country with the consent of the Armed Forces. The form of doing it is to use MACHETES so that later it can be covered up and they say it was not done by an armed group but rather by other campesinos because of personal problems in the area. That’s how numerous communications media, at the service of the government and of the paramilitaries in Urabá and in the rest of the country have reported it.
On Thursday, June 7, 2018, during the afternoon, a group of eight paramilitaries wearing uniforms and carrying weapons of the Armed Forces were present on the trail that leads from San José de Apartadó to the town (vereda) of Mulatos in that District (corregimiento). They raised their weapons so as to shoot to kill when some members of our Peace Community were heading for the farm where they are living right now. These paramilitaries have been present in and around the towns (veredas) of San José for quite some time. They extorting and threating to kill without being interfered with by any competent authority.
Today, June 8, 2018, during the morning once again we saw paramilitaries in the town (vereda) of Mulatos in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó. We saw them going around the trails in a big group, just as if they were the Armed Forces of Colombia, and they are actually there right now and no one is interfering with them.
Right now you can’t find any town (vereda) in San José de Apartadó that isn’t controlled by the paramilitaries and, worst of all, the Armed Forces are in those places too and instead of serving as protection for the civilian population, they have served to protect the paramilitaries, so that they are able to control all of the territory.
Here the paramilitaries do whatever they feel like doing with the civilian population that lives on the lands that they received from their ancestors. They make the campesino kowtow and submit to them, whether it’s charging big extortions or illegal taxes, or forcing the campesinos to work for them. They are causing great harm to other residents too, threatening them for refusing to sell their land to the paramilitaries.
We have reported all of the barbarity that we are experiencing in this area because of the joint actions between the paramilitaries and the Armed Forces and nobody does anything to stop it.
It’s obvious that in the town (vereda) of Arenas Bajas there is a recruitment center for youngsters, minors, who are taken there and trained to kill and to extort from the people of the region. There is also a string of paramilitary commanders there: alias NUVE, alias CABALLO, and alias MAJUTE, who command paramilitaries around the towns (veredas) of Arenas Altas, La Unión, El Cuchillo, Buenos Aires, El Guineo, La Antena, Las Nieves, El Porvenir, El Gas, Bella Vista, El Salto, La Balsa, La Victoria, and the urban center of San José de Apartadó.
Another control center has been located for many years in the District (corregimiento) of Nuevo Antioquia, in the Municipality of Turbo, with a string of commanders like alias PANTERA, who are controlling the towns (veredas) of Playa Larga, La Esperanza, Rodoxalí, La Hoz, Resbalosa, Mulatos, Naín, and others.
In the same way, control is exercised from Piedras Blancas, in the District (corregimiento) of Carepa, in Antioquia Province. From there they control the towns (veredas) of Caracolí, Campamento, El Cerro, El Jardín, La Luna, El Llano, Saiza, Belén, Miramar, Cristalina, El Mariano, and La Unión-Carepa.
All of these paramilitary commanders are located in different control points around San José de Apartadó and at the same time they are closely tied to the 17th Brigade of the Colombian Army, based in Carepa. This is the Brigade that has jurisdiction in these municipalities and districts (corregimientos) and towns (veredas).
Our community has had to survive for more than 21 years in the face of this paramilitary phenomenon, created by the governments of Colombia and protected by its Armed Forces, with the active complicity of its other institutions, not just the legal system in order to furnish complete impunity, but also the administrative agencies to camouflage and cover it up with different curtains in the face of national and international opinion. By now there are many petitions and reports that have served as proof that the national government and its various agencies do not want to confront the collapse of its institutions that this paramilitary domination has demonstrated. More and more, a humane and dignified life is not viable.
Our humble effort as a Peace Community that civilly resists the powerful threats that surround us every day will continue to push this project for living that we have built in the midst of the murders, and that is why we are making clear that we want a region without armed groups, a region where our children can grow up without being recruited for the war.
With all our hearts we thank all of those people and organizations that, from many places in Colombia and in the world, have sustained us with their political and moral efforts, and that have believed in this Peace Community system as an alternative to seek a real peace in our territory.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
June 8, 2018