Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
January 4, 2019, 6:43 p.m.
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó once more sees the need to furnish new reports to the country and to the world on the kinds of violence, aggression and violations of fundamental human rights that the Colombian government continues to perpetrate against our Community through its agents, direct and indirect, in alliance with the paramilitary strategy.
The last weeks of 2018 were characterized by the onset of intense assaults by the paramilitaries, all with the active and passive support of government institutions, for the purpose of controlling the campesino population in the area. The result is the campesinos’ subjection to economic asphyxiation. They are being strangled with extortions or illegal taxes on their principal means of production and the work they do to survive: their land, their cattle, their lumber. Their villages are caught up with the paramilitaries’ “puntos”, who serve as spies and who claim to be illegal “authorities” who think they have the right to dictate rules and blackmail all of the residents. There have even been attempts to bribe the very members of our Peace Community. They have been offered attractive sums of money to turn themselves into internal informants without the need for them to resign from the Community. They would be giving information that the paramilitaries think is more and more urgent in order to carry out their death threats against our leaders and our members. These threats have been going on throughout 2018 and they come with a certain character of retaliation for their not having been able to carry out the crimes they had planned for December 29 of 2017.
The events that we want to report are the following:
- The police camped in the urban part of San José have committed real crimes against the people who live there. In the middle of November they stole a pig from the citizen José Policarpo Cataño, the son of the founder of San José. In spite of the fact that the animal was unequivocally recognized by its owner, in the presence of a representative of the Public Defender’s Office on November 15, they never returned the pig to its owner.
- On November 20, 2018, when the Cataño family was working to cut down some wood on the farm that they own, the Commander of the Police Substation, Lieutenant GABRIEL RAMOS MARÍN, came out to the farm and demanded that the woodcutter, Sr. Gabriel López, pay him two million pesos (about USD 667) for permission to cut the wood. Both the woodcutter and the family that owned the farm refused emphatically. They strongly condemned such extreme corruption by a government official. This all shows that the prohibition of cutting the wood was a retaliation against the Cataño family because in the previous week they had complained to the Public Defender’s Office about the theft of their pig by the Police. Other families that have cut wood there have never received that kind of a corrupt demand.
- At the beginning of December, the paramilitary alias “MAJUTE” visited a member of our Peace Community and offered him the sum of 900,000 pesos (about USD 300) to be an informant for the paramilitaries without having to resign from the Community.
- In December 2018, the paramilitaries notified the people who live in the town (vereda) of La Esperanza that they would have to pay them a “vacuna” (an illegal tax) of 10,000 pesos (a little over USD 3) every month for every head of cattle that they own. They would have to pay another 10,000 pesos per month for every hectare of land that they own and another 3,000 pesos (about USD 1) for every cord of wood that they sell.
- On December 24, 2018, in the town (vereda) of La Cristalina the paramilitaries demanded that a campesino give them a cow. They ordered him to distribute the meat to the people in the town. During the Christmas season, the paramilitaries distributed presents to the children in the towns (veredas) of Córdoba Province, especially in the Municipality of Tierralta, as a strategy to gain the confidence of the residents.
- In the urban part of San José, during the Christmas and New Year’s festivities, the paramilitaries prohibited the sale of meat by the butchers and they checked their freezers to make sure that their prohibition was being obeyed. Later they demanded “vacunas” (extortions) for every beef animal that was butchered, while at the same time they demanded even higher sums from the merchants in the urban part of San José.
- In Christmas week and again in New Year’s week, well-known paramilitaries went to the urban part of La Unión. They included alias “RAMIRO” and alias “SAMUEL”. Both of them have acted as “points of information” or spies for the paramilitaries in the town (vereda) of La Unión. Alias “DAVIS” was also seen there, together with other ex-guerrillas who joined the ranks of the paramilitaries, such as ELÍAS HIDALGO, who worked with the 17th Brigade and alias “RENÉ”, who coordinates a group of young people to distribute drugs together with the paramilitaries, in San José as well as in La Cristalina.
- The consumption of alcohol continues to produce tragedies in San José. On New Year’s Eve of 2018 an intoxicated resident attacked his stepson with a machete and almost cut off one of his arms completely.
- During the last weeks of 2018 the paramilitaries circulated a threat to attack the Peace Community’s settlement of San Josecito on December 31. They were trying to keep the members of our Community terrified.
- The passivity or tolerance by the Armed Forces, by the legal system and other government institutions in the face of the advance and progressive control and extortion by the paramilitaries in the whole region arouses indignation. It proves more and more the illegality of the Colombian government. All of this complicity exists in a town with a Police Station and military base and both are deaf and blind to everything that is going on around them. This is something that can be interpreted as unity of action with the paramilitaries. In the face of all of this, the Second Municipal Judge of Common Pleas in Apartadó, MARÍA MARIELA GÓMEZ CARVAJAL, insists on heeding the illegal civil rights action by the 17th Brigade against our Peace Community. They are trying to gag us so that we remain silent about all of the depravity that the government is committing against us and has committed for 22 years, shielding all of the agencies with the most shameless and iniquitous impunity.
Once again we give thanks to so many people, communities and agencies of this country and of the world who have shown their solidarity with our cause out of incorruptible moral principles, resisting all of the attempts by the 17th Brigade and their coopted Municipal Judge to gag us.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
January 4, 2019