Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
Wednesday, December 5, 2018, 10:42 p.m.
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Once again our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó finds it necessary to report to the country and to the world the attacks and serious violations of our rights that have been perpetrated in recent weeks.
Right now you hear a lot of comments around here about the armed struggle for control of our territory. It’s being disputed among well-known paramilitaries of long standing, guerrillas or armed men that have arrived recently. Some wear ELN bracelets, some are alleged to be FARC dissidents, and some are units of the Armed Forces. It’s very worrisome that a region that has been devastated for many years by the violence has to continue to be subjected to a merciless war without any protection by the government.
In recent weeks there has been talk of a confrontation in the area of the Manso River in Sinú (Córdoba Province). It appears that there are disputes between the paramilitaries of the AGC and armed groups that claim to be ELN. They are trying to control the corridor between the Sinú River and Dabeiba (Antioquia Province) and the Paramillo Massíf (Nudo de Paramillo).
The paramilitary control of the towns (veredas) of San José de Apartadó continues to be dominant. The intense presence of paramilitaries at very strategic points is noticeable. In some towns (veredas) where they have their big camps, they go around with weapons all the time and nobody bothers them. The Armed Forces, that ought to be confronting them, taking down their camps, and protecting the civilian population, does nothing to interfere with their presence and their activities, in spite of the fact that they have been there for many years and that there have been very many urgent requests to their commanders in chief to do something. But they haven’t wanted to do anything. This is too worrisome and disgusting and it reveals a government that is not a government. Now there is a series of names that are well known around the towns (veredas) to be their spies or their commanders, such as: alias Caballo, Majute, Pantera, Peña, Darío, Cementerio, Nueve, Chiquito Malo, Pueblito, Alfredo, Alcadio, Elías Giraldo, Pollo, among others.
Our Community has always been able to verify the presence of paramilitaries in the towns (veredas) and even in the urban part of San José. Several days ago we made a pilgrimage around some of the towns (veredas) including Mulatos, La Resbalosa and La Esperanza. Some journalists and internationals came along. In walking around we could see armed men wearing camouflage on the trails and also a strong presence of “puntos” or informants in the service of the paramilitaries. We found them in the homes of the civilians, carrying sidearms and radios for communication.
The paramilitaries were concentrated in two farms. We had already verified that last March 30 (Good Friday) while we were doing the Way of the Cross. Just at that moment we filed complaints at the national and international level. We showed filmed evidence of their criminal presence on social networks, but neither the government nor its Armed Forces, nor the government’s agencies of control did anything whatsoever about it. Eight months later they are concentrated in exactly the same places. Could there be any more evidence of the government’s complicity with those criminal groups? Where are the Constitution, the laws, the international treaties, our human rights and human dignity? They don’t care a bit. They only care about gagging anyone who tries to reveal that truth to society and to the world. That is why they have started a fight with us, filing a civil rights action to silence us, to keep us from revealing what we see and what we suffer, so that they can hide such crimes from the country and from the world.
On Saturday, November 24, 2018 at 10:40 a.m., when our Peace Community was making a pilgrimage to the towns (veredas) of Mulatos, La Resbalosa, and La Esperanza, with international accompaniment and with journalists from radio and television, we could see the presence of a group of paramilitaries camped on the private property of Sr. Anibal (in Mulatos Medio) and Sr. Muñoz (in La Esperanza). They were armed and wearing camouflage uniforms. They were in the same places where we had seen them on March 30 of this year, which demonstrates that they don’t care about our complaints, and if they don’t care about them it’s because they feel protected by the government.
On Monday, November 26, 2018, during the morning, we heard from some of the residents that in the town (vereda) of Mulatos, troops from the Colombian Army’s 17th Brigade had detained a paramilitary who had turned over a cache of weapons. We have still not received confirmed information about this. There is complete silence.
On Wednesday, November 28, 2018, during the day, we could hear a loud explosion in the area known as El Barro, in the town (vereda) of Mulatos Medio. It appears that a land mine was exploded by soldiers from the 17th Brigade.
On Wednesday, November 28, 2018, soldiers from the Colombian Army’s 17th Brigade trespassed on the private property of a member of our Peace Community at the place known as El Barro, in the town (vereda) of Mulatos Medio. The were charging their cell phones without the permission of the homeowners and when the owner requested that they leave his property, they answered that the owner would have to show the deed to his property before they would be able to leave. That forced the member of our Community leave and go to a relative’s house, so as not to be present among soldiers, since they were in his house and that placed him at high risk because of the great presence of armed men from other groups who might arrive suddenly and do damage.
On Friday, November 30, 2018, during the day, you could see major combat in the town (vereda) of La Miranda. Even though up to now we don’t have more precise information, we do know that well-known paramilitaries control the territory in the towns (veredas) of La Miranda, Miramar, and L Cristalina and are moving around there and threatening the residents so they can embed their rule.
On Monday, December 3, 2018, the Second Municipal Judge of Common Pleas in Apartadó, MARIELA GÓMEZ CARVAJAL, ordered the arrest of our Legal Representative GERMÁN GRACIANO POSSO, besides imposing a money penalty for contempt of an order in the civil rights action filed by the Colombian Army’s 17th Brigade against our Peace Community. The order required him to retract and remove from our web page the historic reports that, as a Community, we have posted to the country and to the world, denouncing the aggressions, the attacks, and the violations of our rights and of our human dignity.
If the Community used the medium of HISTORICAL RECORDS, it was because the other means of defending our lives and our dignity were totally useless and counterproductive. The Community had to invoke the Conscientious Objection found in Article 18 of the Constitution of Colombia when, after eight years of seeking what in Colombia they call “justice”, we not only did not obtain any justice but we found ourselves face to face with the most horrendous corruption and impunity.
We also sought to make use of the Right of Petition set forth in the Constitution to demand that Presidents comply with their obligation to guarantee the rights of the citizens (Article 188) and the Presidents also did not care to guarantee our lives, our dignity or our rights. They pretended to be deaf and blind and their Legal Secretaries (like the current “constitutional magistrate” Cristina Pardo) claimed that guaranteeing rights was not within the President’s authority.
We also went to international courts, but there we spent decades and decades in proceedings without resolving anything. The only thing that remained for us as protection was to turn to Historical Records, so that the country and the world would know what we are suffering day after day with violations of our rights and our dignity.
Now the military, which has been behind the majority of the more than a thousand crimes against humanity that we have suffered, wants us to be muzzled, silenced, gagged. They don’t want the world to learn of the horrors and the complicity. They say that “damages their image’, but it isn’t our clamor that damages their image, but rather the deeds that they commit that make us cry out for compassion and solidarity. It’s their actions and conduct that damage their image and not our cries of pain.
The military want to punish us for “contempt” of a gag order that is not only unethical but also criminal and which in good conscience we cannot obey. Obeying the order would make us complicit with the victimizers that harass us, that pursue us, and that trample on our rights. Obeying this order would make us masochists, persons who are willing to let themselves be destroyed and exterminated without any kind of protest. Reasonable people know that that attitude would be absurd on our part. We cannot in conscience accept being gagged, being complicit in covering up the crimes and the silence in the face of those horrors. Nobody with a minimum of sanity and of humanity can respect that ridiculous order.
But besides that, what irony! Those soldiers that today accuse us of contempt of an infamous gag order with which they try to silence our right to demand respect for our lives and our dignity—they themselves are the champions of contempt. For more than ten years they have shown contempt for the orders of the Constitutional Court. (In theory, this is the highest court in the land.) The Constitutional Court has ordered them to turn over names, ranks, serial numbers, and units of all of the officers, non-commissioned officers, soldiers, and police who have been present on the dates, times, and places where hundreds of crimes against humanity against our Peace Community have been perpetrated. They have not obeyed the highest Court (Decision T-1025/07, Order 164/12, and Order 693/17) even when the Court has reiterated its orders and has set deadlines, they have not obeyed. That is persistent, contumacious and defiant contempt. Yet they keep believing that they are “legal”, that they are protected by “legality”. What blindness!
There are excruciating ironies: our Legal Representative GERMÁN GRACIANO POSSO, now ordered arrested for “contempt”, or a similar immorality, has endured the murder of 17 members of his family, including his father, his brothers, uncles, cousins and other family members. Last December 29, paramilitaries tried to kill him, and thanks be to God, members of our Community managed to immobilize and disarm the killers., But the very same judge that today is trying to arrest Germán set the killers free, claiming that their rights had been violated, (It could only have been their right to kill.) and at the same time they opened a case against our Community for “kidnapping” the killers. There can be no doubt then that, for the judge, the killers have to be allowed to kill and the Community has to let them kill our Legal Representative. What other interpretation could fit here?
But Germán has been threatened with death persistently: relatives of the killers from last December have approached residents of San José to insist that Germán has to be killed before the end of this year. Perhaps the judge now wants him arrested at a place where they can kill him more easily.
All of those crimes remain in absolute impunity since the Colombian government has had contempt for all clamors for justice, not just from our Peace Community, but also from international agencies and tribunals, from parliaments and humanitarian institutions throughout the world, from personalities and communities from numerous countries in solidarity. Our government shows contempt for all the demands for justice. It’s enough to see the horror that we are experiencing now: hundreds of social leaders have been murdered and the government ignores that galloping criminality. It doesn’t want to act; the only response to all of this horror is impunity. They are only interested in gagging those what are crying out for some kind of justice and protection. Our most recent pilgrimages have proved to us that the government does not want to act in any way to protect our Community. The paramilitaries are armed and uniformed at the same farms where we found them eight months ago. They are protected by the Armed Forces that call them “cousins” and mingle with them. They only want to destroy those who call attention to the aberration of their social and territorial control.
With this arrest order and the fine, Judge Mariela Gómez Carvajal joins the long list of judicial functionaries that persecute the victims and defend the victimizers, worthy to occupy a space in the shameful gallery included in our petition to the highest courts in the land. (January 19, 2009) In the petition we demonstrate how no guiding principle of criminal procedure is respected, but rather shamefully trampled. What an aching country!
For all of these reasons, we will not be silent about the attacks we have been subjected to on every passing day and all because we want to be a model of life and community where lethal weapons are not tolerated. Nor do we live with anyone who works to destroy human lives, whether our own lives or those of the campesinos in our area.
Once again we thank all of the people who have heard our clamors coming out of our impotence, as the only thing left to us is to make a record of our suffering before the country and the world, in this infinite ocean of impunity and corruption. But they want to take that away too and reduce us to silence with this absurd lawsuit.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
December 5, 2018