Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, February 26, 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 actions by which the paramilitaries have victimized us. They act with complete freedom in our region.
In spite of the government’s continual declarations in which they affirm that no paramilitaries exist, and in spite of the implementation of the peace agreements, nevertheless, what the campesinos experience in this region is that the presence of the paramilitaries is more and more asphyxiating. The organization that calls itself “Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia” continues to come and go freely. That implies the absolute tolerance, acquiescence, or complicity of the armed forces with their activities, and at the same time, it shows that the entities created by the peace agreement to suppress paramilitary activities are not functioning at all.
The paramilitaries are suffocating the campesinos in this region more and more with their taxes, their rules and prohibitions, their demands for submission to them, their control of every movement, and their continual recruitment of minor children. On weekends you can see the affluence of the paramilitaries in the urban part of San José de Apartadó where they consume large quantities of liquor and throw out threats against our Peace Community, claiming once again their intention to exterminate us.
The events that we are reporting today are as follows:
On Friday, February 8, 2019, once again ten paramilitaries wearing military uniforms and carrying long guns were seen in the town (vereda) of Mulatos Cabecera in San José de Apartadó.
On that same Friday, February 8, 2019, the paramilitaries called a meeting in the town (vereda) of Arenas Bajas in San José de Apartadó. They forced all of the civilians who live there to take part in the meeting.
On Saturday, February 9, 2019, a group of seven paramilitaries carrying long guns was seen crossing through the town (vereda) of La Unión in San José de Apartadó.
On Sunday, February 10, 2019, during the afternoon, ten paramilitaries dressed in black and carrying long guns were stalking people in our settlement at San Josecito and it appears that they stayed there down by the river until late that night.
On Monday, February 11, 2019, during the night, two armed men wearing hoods, apparently paramilitaries, came to the home of a resident of the area and demanded that he pay them two million pesos (almost USD700). They said it was a “vacuna”, an extortion, and he resisted, refusing to pay the extortion. They immediately threatened to kill him if he didn’t pay the large amount of money they were demanding. Later they went on their way.
On Tuesday, February 12, 2019, in the daytime, a group of paramilitaries dressed in black were seen a few minutes away from the urban part of San José de Apartadó, upwards of the river La Sucia.
On Thursday, February 14, 2019, ten paramilitaries wearing military uniforms and carrying long guns were walking through the town (vereda) of La Resbalosa in San José de Apartadó at the part known as the “YE”. They appeared to be coming from the towns (veredas) of Baltazar and Naín in Córdoba Province.
On Thursday, February 21, 2019, at 12:00 noon, five armed paramilitaries detained two residents of the town (vereda) of La Unión in San José de Apartadó for about fifteen minutes. They told them they were interested in knowing where the Peace Community’s property was located and how far away it was. The two people didn’t give them any information. Later they let them go and the paramilitaries went into a place that is a part of Rigoberto Guzmán village (aldea). That village is part of the Peace Community. When several of the residents saw the paramilitaries they tried to hide but they had already been detected. Later, around 3:00 pm, some Colombian Army troops passed by the same place.
On Sunday, February 24, 2019, at 9 :00 a.m., a group of about five paramilitaries stopped a member of our Peace Community in the town (vereda) of Mulatos and subjected him to interrogation for ten minutes. Then they let him go.
On that same Sunday, February 24, 2019, Army troops who had had a confrontation with some irregular group or other passed through the towns (veredas) between Córdoba and San José de Apartadó, prohibiting all the campesinos from using their cell phones.
During February 19 to 22, our Peace Community carried out our customary pilgrimage to Mulatos Medio, where on February 21, 2005, several leaders of the Community were massacred, along with their families. On all of these journeys, we could see paramilitaries dressed in civilian clothes following us around. They controlled our movements using radios to communicate. It’s a fact that all of the settlements in the area are controlled by what they call “puntos” or spies that are giving information to paramilitary leaders about every movement.
On February 13, the Second Municipal Judge of Common Pleas in Apartadó, considering that the Constitutional Court has selected the decision on the civil rights action filed against our Peace Community by the 17th Brigade for review, ordered a stay of her order of contempt, until the Constitutional Court makes its decision.
From our beloved and oppressed territory, we thank the many voices of encouragement that we have heard from this country and the world. All of your support, both moral and political, has given us so much courage to keep going, in resistance, in this place that is so dominated by the power of weapons in the service of evil.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
February 26, 2019