Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, May 9, 2019
(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 report the most recent events by which we have been victimized for continuing our civil resistance in the defense of our lives and our land.
The threats against our lives and against the integrity of our Community, and the violation of the fundamental rights of all the campesinos that live around here have continued.
Every day the campesinos are forced to submit, against their will, to the control and to the rules that the paramilitaries want to impose. Now a campesino can’t work on his own property without the paramilitaries charging him a tax; he has to get permission from the paramilitaries to plant a crop and he has to pay them taxes even for planting subsistence food crops.
According to the many reports that people living in the area have forwarded to our Community, in recent days the paramilitaries are coordinating meetings in the towns (veredas). They make the campesinos take part in the meetings and they order them to submit to their regulations, to their projects, and to their plans for the region. And at the same time they talk against our Peace Community; they stigmatize it and keep announcing that they will soon exterminate us. We have always filed reports of the identity of the paramilitary leaders, such as alias “René”, demobilized from the 58th Front of the FARC-EP during the Peace Process. Today he commands the paramilitaries in the towns (veredas) of San José de Apartadó. Also alias “Caballo”, alias “Bruja” and alias Majute”, paramilitary commanders in the town (vereda) of Arenas in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó. They are responsible for getting the campesinos in the other towns (veredas) together and forcing their submission. All of this is their strategy of control and extermination.
The events that we report today are the following:
On Saturday, April 20, 2019, during the day, our Peace Community learned of a supposed plan that the paramilitaries have to keep on committing murder in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó and the towns (veredas) there. It’s because, according to paramilitaries themselves, they have had to suspend the murders since January 16 of this year when they killed the young man Deimer Úsuga, near the urban part of San José. According to them it was because our Peace Community had filed a complaint about the crime and everything was getting complicated. But now, several months later, they are going to retake control and carry out more executions.
From Wednesday April 24 to Saturday, April 27, 2019, our Peace Community traveled, along with staff from the Public Defender’s Office, around the towns (veredas) of Mulatos, Resbalosa and La Esperanza, all in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó. We wanted to show them more concretely the paramilitary control that exists throughout that area and how our region is being oppressed every day.
On Thursday, April 25, 2019, during the day, two paramilitaries known as alias “Santiago” and alias “Arcadio” prohibited a campesino from the town (vereda) of La Cristalina in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó from planting a field of corn and they warned him that if he cleared the land they would charge him five million pesos (roughly USD 1,650). It’s important to remember that alias Arcadio and alias Alfredo are two of the five paramilitaries that took part in the attack on our Peace Community on December 29, 2017 when they tried to kill our legal representative Germán Graciano Posso and other members of our Community. This is how the paramilitaries keep extorting and controlling the campesinos. They are taking advantage of their necessities in order to keep them from planting. They intend to make them submit to their projects, and to steal their money and domestic animals, such as cattle or horses, in exchange for allowing them to clear land and plant their fields of subsistence crops.
On Saturday, May 4, 2019, during the afternoon, people living in the area told our Peace Community about a series of meetings the paramilitaries alias “René”, alias “Caballo”, and alias “Bruja” were conducting in the towns (veredas) of the San José de Apartadó District (corregimiento), forcing the campesinos to attend. According to the reports, the meetings were to take place in the coming two weeks.
On Tuesday, May 7, 2019, during the afternoon, a paramilitary with the name of Domingo Antonio Herrera, known in the area as “Chirri” went up to members of our Peace Community who were planting a field with corn in the town (vereda) of Resbalosa in the San José de Apartadó District (corregimiento). The paramilitary claimed in a threatening tone that: it’s prohibited for campesinos to plant subsistence crops and clear land without permission from the new order. He threatened that in the next two days a paramilitary committee would be coming to the town and would hand out the orders. I’m just following orders. That’s why I’m here, is what he said.
The paramilitary control is stronger and stronger in this area. They are charging big extortions or taxes. They subject the people to forced meetings. They place informants in the homes of the civilians and now they are forbidding campesinos from planting and working the fields that they inherited from their parents and grandparents. All of this is a strategy of extermination and territorial control, where you have to obey and submit to the paramilitaries and if any campesino won’t do it, he’s not allowed to work his field.
On Wednesday, May 8, 2019, at 5:00 p.m. an unidentified armed group arrived at the town (vereda) of La Resbalosa in the San José de Apartadó District. We don’t know any more about this visit, but we are worried because on Tuesday, May 7, the paramilitary alias “Chirri” threatened members of our Peace Community that a paramilitary committee would be coming to the town in the next two days.
In the official statements of the government and its agencies, the paramilitaries “don’t exist”. Nevertheless, the experience of the campesinos in many regions of the country, such as in our area, proves that their presence and their domination is total. It’s not just a phenomenon of today, nor of yesterday, but it’s what we have suffered for more than 22 years. We know who they are and what they do. Nobody can convince us that they are groups “out of the control” of the government. If the Armed Forces did not tolerate them and support them and if the government and its administrative, legal, disciplinary and political agencies did not “turn a blind eye” on them, as it has done for all these decades, they would not be able to function or even exist. For us, their existence continues to be a government policy.
From our beloved territory, we thank the many voices of encouragement that we receive every day from the country and from the world. Counting on all of your political and moral support gives us the courage to keep going, to keep resisting, in this area that is to dominated by the power of arms in the service of that which is worst.
May 9, 2019