Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, Monday April 15, 2019
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Once again 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 events by which we have been victimized for continuing our civil resistance in defense of our lives and our property.
As this year of 2019 advances, the situation continues being very difficult because the paramilitaries are at the height of illegality, and we can’t figure out why there is so much barbarism and the government continues to allow it. The military troops go into the towns (veredas), supposedly going after the paramilitaries to oppose them, but that’s not what happens. These paramilitary groups have not been pursued by anybody; it’s clear that they stay close to the homes of the civilian population, or in the places most frequented by the campesinos and that’s where they place their informants (spies). It’s common knowledge that alias “René”, an old fighter from the FARC-EP 58th Front, has taken over as the paramilitary commander in the area and that he coordinates the control of the civilian population in various ways, such as taxes, restrictions, community council activities, etc.
In the last few weeks there have been alleged confrontations between soldiers from the 17th Brigade and groups of paramilitaries in the town (vereda) of Mulatos in the District of San José de Apartadó. Communications media have mentioned them, reporting fatalities and seizure of weapons and ammunition. But behind these supposed combats are the threats that the civilian populations keeps on getting from the paramilitaries, claiming that the people have betrayed the presence of paramilitaries to the national and international community.
We are reporting the following events:
On Thursday, February 21, 2019, during our commemoration of the fourteen years that have passed since the massacre on February 21, 2005, perpetrated by the paramilitaries and the Armed Forces, the paramilitaries were prowling around our Peace Community the whole time. They actually showed themselves to some of the residents right in the town, claiming: “we know everything you talk about in your community meetings and all of the things a person has to do if they want to be part of your community.” They also advised the campesinos not to become part of our Community “because that Community isn’t going to last much longer”
On Friday, March 14, 2019, during the day, our Peace Community found out about a supposed plan that some collaborators with the paramilitaries had hatched. One of them is alias “Pollo” (“Chicken”) who last September and October of 2018 made a cell phone threat to kill our legal representative Germán Graciano. This time he did it from the town (vereda) of Arenas Altas. He claimed he would attack our Community if we kept on going up there with our work groups, which we have been doing every eight days to do some work on one of our private properties up there.
On Wednesday, March 20, 2019, during the afternoon, our Community learned of a new threat by the paramilitaries against our legal representative Germán Graciano.
On Thursday, April 4, 2019, when members of the Peace Community arrived at Arenas Altas to plant a corn field, they found that a group of seven residents of the area, among whom were the well-known paramilitary alias “Pollo” (“Chicken”) had taken over the farm and were also planting corn without any permission, although the Community owns that property. A delegation of Community members approached them to complain, but they answered that they were just there to “earn a day’s wages”, meaning that they were working for some entity that had decided to invade property they did not own. One of the residents, whom the people there call “El Viejo” (“The Old Guy”) , told the members of the Community that they would have to take down from the internet all of the reports that are damaging his image. The Community responded that they had never mentioned him in their reports. However, the fellow who made that claim was one of the promoters of the invasion.
On March 23, our Peace Community commemorated its 22 years of existence. Various friends of the Community came out from Bogotá. In the morning there was a march to the urban part of San José where the Community was born; there they once more read the Declaration of Creation of the Community. We made a visit to the ruins of the Training Center that was built by the Community and destroyed by those that the Armed Forces invited in to take over the abandoned space. In the afternoon there were different cultural activities of an internal character and we reminisced about all of our history.
From our beloved and oppressed territory, we are thankful for the many words of encouragement that we received from the country and from the world. All of your moral and political support gives us the courage to keep on, in resistance, in this territory that is so dominated by the power of arms that are at the service of the most unspeakable wickedness.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
April 15, 2019