Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, June 10,2019 (Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Once more our Community sees the need to turn to the country and to the world to report the most recent actions that have victimized us for continuing our civil resistance in defense of our land and of our lives.

For 22 years our Peace Community has never stopped reporting the different methods the armed groups or institutions are using to subjugate the civilian population. It’s more and more clear that the people carrying weapons are serving the interests of businesses that have always been looking ways to obtain the land belonging to the campesinos, the ones that refuse to submit to their extractivist plans for the destruction of the natural environment in the Serranía de Abibe. The paramilitaries have just been a strategy by the government in the service of those corrupt interests. The paramilitaries are the most effective instrument to expropriate and take possession of the land.

The control exercised by the paramilitaries in the area of San José de Apartadó is so extensive that now the Community Action Committees have been giving in to their power. “Puntos” or informants that are part of the paramilitary system take part in community meetings, and often it’s the paramilitary commanders themselves who attend the meetings and give orders to the civilian population so that the work is done in accordance with their interests. According to many people who live in the area, the paramilitaries don’t miss those meetings and the civilian population has to accept them, like it or not, because they are sent by the paramilitary chiefs to put pressure on the Committees and control them.

The events that we report today are the following:

On Saturday, May 11, 2019 at 1:00 p.m., a group of eight paramilitaries in military uniform, wearing AGC bracelets and carrying long guns, arrived at the place known as La Espabiladora, in the town (vereda) of La Resbalosa in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó. A work group of our Peace Community was there planting corn. When they got there, the paramilitaries identified themselves as Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia—Eastern bloc. The well-known paramilitary, alias CHIRRY, had already announced on Tuesday May 7 that a paramilitary committee would be coming to the town (vereda) to issue orders to the people that are living there.

On Wednesday, May 15, during the morning, a group of people, members of the Community Action Committee in the town (vereda) of Mulatos Medio in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó, together with some teachers from other towns (veredas), paid by the government, arrived at our Luis Eduardo Guerra Peace Village. They snapped pictures and indicated their interest in taking over our community space and putting their offices there, commandeering our property. Our Community has defended this space for 15 years as the site of an historic memory, because that’s where the Army and the paramilitaries carried out the massacre of our historic leader Luis Eduardo Guerra and his family on February 21, 2005. Since then we have placed several families that are members of our Peace Community there, exercising our right of peaceful possession of legal property, and we have built community installations there in order to maintain the families in peace. We have rejected all presence of weapons and we have defended the land from those who intend to destroy the environment.

We don’t understand why teachers who are employed to teach boys and girls in the schools located in neighboring towns (veredas) would join in activities as corrupt as those Community Action Committees, trying to seize property that is legally occupied by our Peace Community. We ask ourselves if it was the Education Secretariat in Apartadó that sent them here to join those Committees in their work of usurpation. We have made a lot of reports already about the Community Action Committee in Mulatos Medio. It is not legally constituted; it has counted on the support of other such Committees and even on the support of the Mayor’s Office in Apartadó. It counts on the paramilitaries’ presence and control; it has tried to invade our community space in the Luis Eduardo Guerra Peace Village, with the pretext of building installations and recreation areas there, supposedly financed by the government, but aimed at making our memorials and this sacred space disappear; the space where our brothers and sisters were massacred by the Army and the paramilitaries.

On Thursday, May 23, 2019, the people who live in the area told our Peace Community that the paramilitaries announce their meetings and programs, and threaten campesinos if they don’t attend. They have been holding all the scheduled meetings and the paramilitaries themselves coordinate the meetings. According to the complaints our Community has received, the campesinos are forced to obey a series of rules established by the paramilitaries and if they don’t, they have to submit to punishments that the paramilitaries impose.

The Colombian government continues to be deaf and blind in the face of the paramilitary phenomenon, although we have complained about it publicly as a Peace Community for more than 22 years. The military forces that have jurisdiction in the Urabá region have allowed and continue to allow the paramilitaries to control the territory and to patrol all of the towns (veredas) as if they were government authorities. Just a few weeks ago we reported the presence of AGC paramilitary groups who arrived at the town (vereda) of La Resbalosa intending to keep on controlling the population, and the response of the military authorities was to go up there much later, when the paramilitaries had already bought groceries in civilian stores and had patrolled the area, subjecting the campesinos to their presence and their threats.

As we have said many times, our Peace Community found itself obliged to break with the Colombian legal system, by means of conscientious objection, after experiencing so many years when it only produced impunity and extreme corruption. That explains why our Community has not acted as a party in the spurious legal proceedings that were filed formally with respect to the horrifying crimes that we have suffered from the government. Nevertheless, since all of those crimes hurt and offend Humanity as Humanity, because they are Crimes Against Humanity, legislation supports the concept of an ACTOR FOR THE PEOPLE, who IN THE NAME OF HUMANITY, claims an injury and acts as a CIVILIAN PARTY in the proceedings.

That is what happened in the case of the horrible massacre of February 21, 2005 that murdered eight members of our Community, including our historic leader Luis Eduardo Guerra. As usual, the decisions of the initial and second level court proceedings condoned the Army criminals through shameful artifice that brings profound discredit on the Colombian legal system in the view of the international community.

Nevertheless, the ACTOR FOR THE PEOPLE lawyers (not members of our Community) did not give up in the face of so much infamy and APPEALED the case to the Supreme Court of Justice. To our surprise on March 27 of this year, in Decision SP 1039-2019, the Supreme Court of Justice found Colonel ORLANDO ESPINOSA BELTRÁN, Major JOSÉ FERNANDO CASTAÑO LÓPEZ, Sergeant ÁNGEL MARÍA PADILLA, Corporal SABARAÍN CRUZ REINA, Sergeant HENRY AGUDELO GUASMAYÁN, and Corporal RICARDO BASTIDAS CANDÍA guilty as parties to the crime of murder of a person protected by the law, guilty of a series of similar and concomitant crimes, and guilty of aggravated conspiracy to commit crimes. Each was sentenced to 34 years in prison.

The Court could not avoid the overwhelming weight of the evidence in the file from the very beginning, provided with intelligence by the lawyers, and had to give in—FOURTEEN YEARS AFTER THE EVENTS— in the face of all the evidence. This decision confirms, using the very rules of the game of this crooked, corrupt, and criminal government, what our Community has complained of for 22 years without being heard. The truth is unavoidable: the criminality of an Army that acts together with the paramilitaries to exterminate, as cruelly as possible, our Peace Community.

There are still high officials, lower officials, and soldiers who participated illegally in the same crime and who have not yet been touched by the justice system, including Generals MONTOYA, FANDIÑO Y ZAPATA, Colonel NÉSTOR IVÁN DUQUE, and many of their subordinates.

Again we thank the many voices of encouragement that we hear every day, from the country and the world. For more than 22 years you have believed in our civil resistance. Counting on your political and moral support every day gives us the strength to continue as a Peace Community in this territory so highly controlled by business interests that use the paramilitaries to take over our land and to crush our resistance.

Peace Community of San José de Apartadó

June 10, 2019

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