Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
July 31, 2018 (read 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 to the world and make a report of the most recent events by which we have been victimized by the paramilitaries. More and more they 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 being ended, keeps reigniting.
The complicity of government agencies, such as the Colombian Army’s 17th Brigade, the Urabá Police, the Apartadó Mayor’s Office and the businesses that are promoting the paramilitaries, is what has led the region of San José de Apartadó to be subjected totally by the paramilitaries, who live by forcing the campesinos to conform to their interests.
In the last few days our Community has learned that in the towns (veredas) of Mulatos and La Esperanza they are seeing a high level of complicity between the soldiers from the 17th Brigade’s Bejarano Muñoz Battalion and the paramilitary groups that control the towns (veredas). Up there the soldiers are taking photographs of members of our Peace Community who live on their farms and later they give the photographs to the paramilitaries. The paramilitaries themselves, who are in the people’s houses in the towns (veredas) of La Esperanza and Mulatos, have reported this.
It’s the fault of the government, with its military and administrative agencies that, instead of taking the paramilitary organizations apart, are strengthening them. Because, how is it possible that the Colombian Army’s 17th Brigade has its battalions at the service of the paramilitaries in the 32 towns (veredas) of San José de Apartadó? How is it possible that in the last few weeks the soldiers from the Voltígeros, Vélez, and Bejarano Muñoz Battalions are taking photographs of the campesinos and are turning them over to the paramilitaries? It’s obvious that the government has no real interest in putting an end to this deadly phenomenon.
And some officials who have public positions are putting out infamous slanders against our Peace Community. That’s the case of Apartadó Council member Carlos Betancur, who states that “the Peace Community is opposed to investment and to the development of the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó; the campesinos are decent people and noble people, but they only defame and question our institutions, but the truth is very different.”
The Council member wrongly insists that “my personal opinion is that the Peace Community maintains itself by the ostracism of the people who live there and by their disinformation and questioning of all government agencies. Their only purpose is to get hold of resources and help from some foreign countries”. We remind you, Mr. Councilman, that our Peace Community has never been opposed to development; rather we have questioned the source of the development plans. Are you able to justify the illegal roads that the paramilitaries have been opening, from Nuevo Antioquia to the town (vereda) of La Esperanza and up to Rodoxalí and La Hoz? And the cattle ranching projects, the improvement of housing in Rodoxalí, fixing the trails in the towns (veredas), the recruitment of children, the subjugation of the Community Action Boards, mining exploitation, among other projects designed and carried out by the paramilitaries?
According to you, the campesino in the area just has to accept those projects and submit without any reaction at all to the interests that those projects are hiding? Don’t you know, Councilman Betancur, that in the last 21 years in San José de Apartadó the “development” has been designed and managed by paramilitary organizations and that many businesses seeking profit and seeking the ruin and extinction or subjection of the campesinos, and also many agents of the government itself are hiding behind the term “development”? It’s evident that the 17th Brigade of the Colombian Army and the Urabá Police have done the job of covering up the unpunished arrangements of this phony “development” by paramilitary organizations, and that they are trying to hide it under the celebrations, festivals, and false promises that they make to the campesinos in the urban part of San José de Apartadó. To our way of thinking, people who are that compromised in favor of paramilitary projects ought not to hold public office.
The events that we are reporting are the following:
On Sunday, July 14, 2018, twelve paramilitaries, uniformed and carrying long guns, were staying for several hours with the rodeos going on at a nearby farm that borders the Peace Community in the town (vereda) of La Esperanza. After that they went up very close to the house belonging to one of the residents. There they stole 15 cases of beer and when they left, they forced the campesino to turn over a rifle and 1,500,000 pesos (about $500). The officer in charge of this troop was called “Aquiles”. At 2:00 a.m. they went to a farm that belongs to Sr. Muñoz. That farm is where they had been camped for many months without being bothered by any government authority.
On Monday, July 16, 2018, a group of paramilitaries arrived at the home of the mother of a member of our Peace Community in the town (vereda) of Mulatos. They asked her where her son was, saying that they knew that he lived there. They also claimed that “there are three snitches in this town, including a child, and one of those snitches interfered with the passage of the soldiers in the 17th Brigade’s Bejarano Muñoz Battalion through this town. We know all that because the soldiers themselves took pictures and sent them to us, the paramilitaries”. They also said: We are tired of all the complaints that the Peace Community is making against us and if you keep on filing complaints we are going to harm you more and not less.” They were trying to say that all of the threats and all of the attempts to kill us were done by their authority.
On that same Monday, July 16, 2018, in another part of the town (vereda) of Mulatos Medio, a paramilitary commander whom they call “Cementerio” made fierce threats against members of our Peace Community who live in the Luis Eduardo Guerra Peace Village. He claimed: “every time we pass through here, this town is always filing complaints about us, but on any one of these days we are going to come here and we are going to find out who is who, because we now have the order to kill the snitches that are filing complaints in this “sonofabitching” Peace Community”. We reported threats like this in 2004 and reported the presence of paramilitaries together with military troops in Mulatos, and then, on February 21, 2005, was the massacre of eight people, including three children, perpetrated by soldiers and paramilitaries. According to our analysis, this is the same strategy, because the Armed Forces today are protecting these groups of paramilitaries who are controlling everything and using the civilian population in any way they want. As a Peace Community, we are confronting new threats every day. They don’t stop doing us harm, but we are continuing our civil resistance in spite of that.
On Thursday, July 19, 2018, eight paramilitaries, dressed in camouflage and carrying long guns, passed through our Luis Eduardo Guerra Peace Village and they do that every day, walking through the area marked as the private property of our Peace Community.
On Friday, July 20, 2018, our Community learned of an alleged plan by the paramilitaries that control the urban part of Apartadó. According to the plan, they are going to send a social cleansing group into the towns (veredas) of La Balsa and La Victoria. We have to go through there to get to our settlements by the road that leads from Apartadó to San José. They are planning to finish off our Peace Community. In previous years, both military and paramilitary checkpoints were set up in this area, where a number of people were murdered. They also coordinated hunger blockades, destroying and stealing all the food or drink that the bus drivers were carrying, threatening, torturing, “disappearing”, and attacking the campesinos in a thousand ways, protected by absolute impunity.
On Saturday, July 21, 2018, 40 armed paramilitaries arrived at the Resguardo Uradá Jiguamiandó, in Chocó Province. They blockaded the residents illegally for several hours. We have reported things like this week after week and the government has always denied that there are any paramilitary activities that are protected by the soldiers from the Brigades.
On Sunday, July 22, 2018, we learned from people living in the San José de Apartadó region that the paramilitaries had carried out a series of meetings with the civilian population in the town (vereda) of Arenas Bajas and at the place known as Caraballo in the same town. The meeting was coordinated by the paramilitary alias “Chiquito Malo” (“Bad Kid”).
On Friday, July 27, 2018, at 8:40 a.m., six paramilitaries, wearing military uniforms and carrying long guns, came through our Luis Eduardo Guerra Peace Village in the town (vereda) of Mulatos Medio. A delegation from our Peace Community with international accompaniment was there and witnessed the paramilitary presence. These groups of paramilitaries are still continuing to walk around on the private property belonging to the campesinos and they look as if they want to be seen as military troops, because they make it clear that they have the power to control and to make the campesinos submit.
In recent weeks it has been evident that the paramilitaries that are operating in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó have been gathering all of their members together, those that have been in the groups for a while and also the new recruits from the District (corregimiento) and the towns (veredas), for the purpose of training them and for planning objectives and strategies. The training centers are in different towns (veredas) such as Arenas Bajas, Playa Larga, Naín and Saiza (This last town is in Córdoba Province).
Around the towns (veredas) the paramilitaries go in big groups, wearing military uniforms and carrying long guns. The Armed Forces know about it and what they have done is to locate military troops at specific points for a long while, in places where they don’t interfere with what the paramilitaries are developing and where they can provide information and photographs to the paramilitaries.
As a Peace Community that has survived these 21 years in the midst of threats, disappearances, tortures, attacks of every kind, stigmatization, slander, dispossession and massacres, we still continue with our longing for the day when we can see real peace. During these years, we have devoted our lives to the defense of our lives and our land and, for that reason, we will never stop reporting the barbarism that we are experiencing, because the lives of campesinos have been of no importance, either to this government or to the previous government. They only defend their own economic and political interests.
From our hearts, we are profoundly thankful to all of those friends, sister organizations in the country and in the world, who know of our pain and are ready to resist along with us. We are thankful for their physical and spiritual accompaniment. It makes us get up every day with more willingness to live and fortify our way of communitarian life. We continue to invite you not to stop confronting this government, which every day gives less importance to the decent life lived by the people we love, who live in peace in our territory.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
July 31, 2018