Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, January 18, 2019, 1:16 pm
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Once again our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó sees the need to appeal to the country and to the world and make a record of the recent events by which we have been victimized by the paramilitaries who act with complete liberty in our region.
The paramilitary control that our Peace Community has constantly denounced publicly continues to advance with tremendous power. They are taking over all the whole territory, but the authorities don’t do anything to confront them and root out this criminal phenomenon that is destroying the rights and liberties of the population. On the contrary, their passivity, their tolerance, and their conniving with the paramilitaries reveals that the paramilitaries make up part of the government’s official policies and strategies.
Our Peace Community has always furnished evidence of the paramilitaries’ advances in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó and its towns (veredas); before when they used other names and for a long time now when they use the name “Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC in Spanish). But the routine response by the authorities is that our Peace Community is making up or exaggerating the events. Ever since Rito Alejo del Río (in the mid-‘90’s) and up to the present, DENY EVERYTHING has been the attitude of the government institutions, starting with the most directly responsible, the Armed Forces. They have used that to an extreme to discredit us, as it has been confirmed more and more often that their truths are lies and that their principal desire is to cover up and camouflage the true reality and try to sell a false reality to the country and to the world.
The threats to our Peace Community and to the residents of this area are not stopping. The paramilitary groups that are patrolling the towns (veredas) are forcing the campesinos to work for them, to pay protection money (vacuna) and to serve them as informants. The civilian population has no choice but to submit to them. If they don’t, they will have to move away or they will be on one of their black lists from which they chose those that they will murder. These crimes are convincing the people that the paramilitaries are “not fooling” and besides, that they enjoy immunity because they have protection from the justice system. The routine murder of social leaders in this country, as a general policy, is demonstrating that those who order the crimes are immune from any legal proceeding. By now the government and the heads of agencies have their speech all ready to “lament what happened and promise that things won’t stay this way, that the full weight of the law will fall on the victimizers,” but the national routine has shown us ad nauseum that it’s just a speech to shut people up and has no relation to reality.
Throughout 2018 we have reported all of the attacks and threats and the subjection of the civilian population to the paramilitaries. Their lust for control of everyone and everything has been like an avalanche that has been drowning all of the towns (veredas), while their “cousins” and other local and regional authorities look on passively and complacently. The sign in front of our Community keeps being defaced with threats that our Community should disappear, with other threats and with continuous threats of death to several of our leaders and members. There have been audacious attacks, such as taking over land and armed incursions whose purpose is to terrify us.
The events that we are reporting today are as follows:
- The residents of the area have told us that during the New Years celebration there was a huge concentration of paramilitaries in the urban part of San José. They had chosen that place for their party. They came driving luxurious SUV’s and on a multitude of motorcycles that nobody recognized, but they were with a lot of their paramilitary pals. We wondered why they had the party there, since the location is so militarized; there is a military base there and a police bunker. The location of both of these establishments contradicts the orders and the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court. Many of the civilian population who came to visit relatives that night were amazed at the great concentration of paramilitaries.
- On Tuesday, January 10, 2019, 20 paramilitaries, dressed in camouflage and carrying long guns, commanded by alias “Majute”, arrived at the town (vereda) of Mulatos Medio, where they stayed for several hours next to one of the private areas belonging to our Peace Community.
- On Saturday, January 12, 2019, five armed paramilitaries riding mules arrived at the place known as Chontalito in San José de Apartadó. They stayed there for several hours.
- Wednesday, January 16, 2019, during the afternoon the young man DEIMER ÚSUGA HOLGUÍN was murdered just 300 meters from the military base in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó. It happened on the road that leads up to the El Mariano River and leads to the towns (veredas) of El Mariano, La Linda, Cristalina, Miramar, Buenos Aires, Buena Vista, Alto Bonito, Mulatos, Resbaloza, and others. It took place exactly at the point where on November 16, 2017, they tried to kill the young man JUAN DE LA CRUZ GUZMAN. This was attributed to the paramilitaries because their craving for control of the population leads them to carry out selective murders to produce an impact on everybody that does not submit to their interests. Obviously, the context is the complete tolerance and acquiescence of the Armed Forces that the paramilitaries have counted on in this area for several decades now. During all that time they have been able to consolidate their activities and their strategy, and it’s evident that responsibility for that falls on the military and on the police. Our Peace Community has made hundreds of complaints, continually demanding that this ridiculous situation be ended, but the government’s only response is to fight to make us stop complaining, to make us close our eyes and our mouths and let them go their length to support the paramilitaries. That is the basis of the civil rights action filed by the 17th Brigade against our Community, but that cannot be respected because it violates our constitutional, universal, and untouchable rights and because to respect it here would really leave them free to keep on obliterating all of the people’s rights and all of the foundations of human dignity.
- On Thursday, January 17, 2019, our Peace Community learned that the paramilitaries have a list of eight people that they plan to kill. It includes the young man who was murdered the day before, Deimer Úsuga Holguín. Some of the other seven names that are on the list are members of our Peace Community and the rest are residents of this area. We hold the government and its military institutions responsible for what could happen to the members of our Peace Community and to the other people who live in this area. We are now hearing the names of people they want to kill and the government knows this very well. The situation that we are experiencing in our territory is dramatic and the government has not wanted to do anything to deal with it. In the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó itself there are rumors of a series of pamphlets that the same paramilitaries are circulating from the Municipality of San José de Uré in Córdoba Province. They threaten death and the subjection of the civilian population if people don’t go along with their vicious ideas.
The Judge of the Second Municipal Court of Common Pleas of Apartadó, pressured by the military, has proposed gagging our public reports, but we were right many years ago when we discovered that the legal system was drowning in corruption, and that it only produced impunity on one hand and arbitrariness on the other hand. It was so opposed to the most minimal ethical values that ought to inspire the exercise of justice that we decided not to have any more relationship with that system, in order to be able so preserve our moral conscience. Meanwhile we have continued to demand that the highest courts correct such evil ways and clean up the files of so much rottenness, but that have not wanted to pay any attention.
It is a fully proven fact that our territory is dominated by the paramilitaries and that the Armed Forces that are present are permitting it. We wonder, why is such a militarized District (corregimiento) controlled by the paramilitaries? And the worst of it is: they kill a campesino a few meters from those military bases. How long will the government permit the campesinos to keep on being oppressed by the paramilitaries? How is it possible that in a District (corregimiento) where there is a big military base and a police station with a lot of police officers, the paramilitaries are in control, live right next to them, gather with them for their big parties, and nobody puts a stop to it? And how can they even charge illegal taxes, impose regulations, murder, threaten, circulate lists of people condemned to be killed and go ahead and kill them and the government continues to play deaf and blind?
From our beloved and oppressed country we thank the many voices of encouragement that we receive from this country and from the world. Because all of your political and moral support gives us the courage to go forward in resistance in this place so dominated by the power of weapons that are serving the very worst.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
January 18, 2019