Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
Wednesday, August 29, 2018 at 7:16 pm
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Once more our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó finds it necessary to turn to the country and to the world to make a record of the most recent deeds by which the paramilitaries have victimized us. They are subjecting our region more and more to extermination, destroying all of the security in the lives of the campesinos, and carrying out a succession of attacks on civilians. Thanks to the prevailing impunity and the tolerance and complicity of the other institutions, instead of diminishing, the attacks are restarted constantly.
FILING A COMPLAINT, an elementary recourse that we victims hang onto to protect our lives, our rights, and our dignity, has always been an annoyance for the victimizers. In the first years of our Peace Community’s existence, when we had not yet discovered the extreme rottenness of the government’s agencies of control, we made use of the complaint procedures contemplated in the Constitution and laws. But that always led to reprisals against the complainants, to murder, stigmatization, and trumped-up prosecutions or forced displacement. Because of that we broke with the legal system, but we didn’t stop filing complaints.
We appealed to the international community, to civil society, and to the administrative authorities that had inescapable obligations to protect us, obligations that were never carried out. But as the complaints created pressure from the moral and political world, the victimizers got desperate and radicalized their criminality. Now they won’t even put up with monitoring by government agencies, such as the OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC DEFENDER. When they can’t co-opt it. The staff of the COMMUNITY DEFENSE OFFICE OF SAN JOSÉ DE APARTADÓ had to run for their lives. The paramilitaries also go around checking on which campesinos regularly see them on their patrols. The campesinos complain about them and they are immediately sentenced to death. The list of the condemned grows and grows.
We hereby make a record of the following events:
On Thursday, May 24, 2018, during the day, Marco Fidel Hernández, the Community Public Defender assigned to San José de Apartadó, was intercepted by armed men who threatened to kill him if he didn’t leave the region.
On Friday, May 25, 2018, at 9:30 a.m., the coordinator of the Patriotic Union Party in Apartadó, Esneda López, was threatened with death, and they told her to pass on their repeated threats to kill the Community Public Defender in Apartadó, Marco Fidel Hernández, demanding again that he leave the region.
On Sunday, May 27, 2018, the Community Public Defender in Apartadó, Marco Fidel Hernández, was again intercepted in Apartadó by armed men who once more demanded that he get out of the region or they would kill him. Lacking minimal efforts to protect his life, he had to leave the area, leaving no one to carry out his mission to act as the Public Defender in charge of the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó.
On Friday, August 17, 2018, at 8:30 a.m.. seven paramilitaries, in uniform and carrying long guns, passed through our Luis Eduardo Guerra Peace Village in the town (vereda) of Mulatos Medio. At 3:30 p.m. they came back to the same place, trespassing on our private property as a Peace Community, and violating the fundamental principle of our regulations: that weapons are not allowed on our property and we do not live together with any armed actor.
On Saturday, August 18, 2018, at 4:04 p.m., a committee of the Community Alternative Revolutionary Force (FARC) Party, led by Sr. Joverman Sánchez Arroyave, who called himself “Manteco” (derogatory term for blacks) when he was fighting for the FARC-EP. They tried to trespass on our private property in San Josecito de Apartadó when they walked in with their armed bodyguards without any permission. Our Peace Community rejects this kind of incursion into our community spaces, just as if they were public areas, and we reject it even more when they are trampling our first principle as a Peace Community: we do not allow lethal weapons or any armed individual belonging to any group. Our Peace Community has always made it clear that any person that is part of any armed group or carries weapons, be they legal or illegal, is totally prohibited from entering our community areas.
In recent months our Peace Community has had to have a greater community presence, with international accompaniment, in the Luis Eduardo Guerra Peace Village, in the towns (veredas) of Mulatos Medio and La Esperanza, in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó, because of the paramilitary groups that have their big camps on the farm belonging to Sr. Muñoz, in the town (vereda) of La Esperanza, and also on the farm belonging to Sr. Aníbal in the town (vereda) of Mulatos Medio.
They have made really ferocious threats against several members of our Peace Community, including: Idomar Vargas, Edison Vargas, and the minor child Johan David, who live in our Luis Eduardo Guerra Peace Village. Three paramilitary commanders who call themselves “Aquiles”, “Cementerio”, and “Alias Peña”, who work together with alias “Chiquito Malo”, alias “Pantera”, alias “Movil Nueve”, alias “Majute” and alias “Caballo”, are in control of the area of Mulatos and La Esperanza and they have claimed that they are going to invade our Peace Village and kill Idomar, Edison, and Johan because, according to them, they file complaints every time the paramilitaries cross over the private property of the Peace Community. The paramilitaries also claim that they have been ordered to carry out the executions at any moment. Right now we maintain permanent Peace Community committees there, with international accompaniment, because there is great risk of loss of life for the people that live in our Peace Village. Recently a military troop from the Bejarano Muñoz Batallion of the 17th Brigade, that was patrolling in the Mulatos area, was taking pictures of members of our Peace Community and later they sent the pictures to those same paramilitaries.
The threats against the members of our Peace Community have to be read in the national context of the many massacres and the elimination of social leaders that is multiplying in the length and breadth of our nation. What happened to us in the year 2005, when the government of ex-president Uribe Vélez was carrying out its plan, supported by the paramilitaries who have drowned our country in blood, looks as if it will repeat itself on a new occasion. The new government, recently elected and supported by Uribe’s forces, is clinging once again to the ideology of repression, one that is against the people, and favoring the most exclusionary elites and the most rapacious businesses that are destroying nature, damaging the ozone layer, and arrogantly proclaiming their rejection of the timid peace-making efforts to which the responsible sectors of the country have committed themselves.
In 2005, under attack by Uribe’s paramilitaries, our Peace Community suffered one of the most horrendous massacres that have scarred our history: the one at Mulatos and La Resbalosa on February 21 of that year. But it was all of a piece with the quantity of murders and attacks against our rights and our dignity. Today we are seeing many of those responsible for those horrors again occupying high offices in the government, without embarrassment or shame, and protected by the thick blanket of impunity.
It is logical thus, that our Peace Community is afraid. The people that are threatening to kill us are today supported by agencies more powerful than those of the recent past. Previously, in another of our reports, we referred to the euphoria expressed by the paramilitaries that control our District (corregimiento), when they gathered in the town (vereda) of La Cristalina on June 23 of this year, when they learned of the results of the most recent elections. It proved that the real winner was Álvaro Uribe, the same one who had pushed paramilitarism and had consolidated and protected it all over the country. The paramilitaries had blind confidence in his support of their criminal actions.
With the passage of time, new names have been added to the list of members of our Community that the paramilitaries are exhibiting as “condemned to death”. All of the highest courts of this country and of the international community know that they have in their sights GERMÁN GRACIANO POSSO, our legal representative, GILDARDO TUBERQUIA ÚSUGA, co-ordinator of the Luis Eduardo Guerra Peace Village, JESÚS EMILIO TUBERQUIA ZAPATA, our previous legal representative, ARLEY TUBERQUIA ÚSUGA, a prior member of our Internal Council, ESTEBAN GUISAO HERNÁNDEZ, the previous administrator of La Esperanza, CRISTÓBAL MEZA, who lives in La Esperanza, and campesinos from our group such as REINALDO AREIZA DAVID.
They have even announced that they will attack the members of our international accompaniment. Now they have their sights on IDOMAR VARGAS GONZÁLEZ, EDISON VARGAS, and the youngster JOHAN DAVID, as well as THE CHILDREN OF ERNESTO GUZMÁN, whom they already killed because he didn’t want to sell them his farm, and they have already attempted to kill his son, JUAN from a military garrison.
They have no remorse at all for killing children, as they did in February 2005 when they cut four minor children in pieces, one of them only 18 months old. They have no souls, but they do have power, and the silent and hypocritical support of all of the agencies of the government. The government won’t lift a finger to control them or punish them. Their hands and their criminal minds enjoy complete freedom. The government, through the National Protection Unit, has offered the kinds of protection that don’t protect, but rather they gather information that they hand over to the victimizers putting the victims at even greater risk. That’s why the “protection” has been refused.
Once again we are facing a possible massacre, that would only prolong the genocide that we have experienced for the last 21 years. Because that’s what the paramilitaries are announcing in every one of the towns (veredas) in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó with the arrogance of people who feel proud to be in power. That is why our fear is so great. Nevertheless, that does not and will not lead us to give up our principles. In the center of our main settlement of San Josecito, we have the portraits and names of the hundreds of our comrades whose bloody bodies we have buried in sorrow and pain, but their spirit is more alive than ever. They inspire us every day to stay firm in a fundamentally human ideal that contrasts with the government’s criminality of monstrous proportions.
From that decision not to give up, we are once more committed to profound gratitude for those who, from many corners of our country and of the world, have been our moral support and who share our suffering and our hopes.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
August 29, 2018