Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, July 12, 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 report on the most recent events of which we have been victims, because we follow our civil resistance in defense of our lives and of our land.

Slow death continues to be the greatest result of the terror the people are subjected to, because every corner of this area is covered by paramilitaries who control their comings and goings. The case of the District (Corregimiento) of San José is worrisome because that’s where the paramilitaries control all of the towns (veredas) and they do it right in front of the police station and an Army base which are permanent in the town. Right there where the paramilitary commanders are coordinating their troops and organizing their celebrations without being bothered by anybody.

The events that we are reporting today are as follows:

In the month of May in 2019, in the town (vereda) of La Unión, in the District  (Corregimiento) of San José, the well-known paramilitary alias “Ramiro”, who arrived here several months ago to control and subject the civilian population to the paramilitaries, threatened to kill the stepfather of Sr. Emilio, who had to leave and flee to other places for his safety.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019, in the daytime, our Peace Community learned of a possible murder at the place known as Caño Seco, near the town of La Unión-Carepa. According to the report, nobody dared to complain about the murder, much less to come to our Peace Community to let us know about it. That same day, the program Familias en su Tierra (Home and Family) got together the Community Action Committees of the towns (veredas) of Mulatos, Resbalosa, La Esperanza, La Hoz, and others in the town (vereda) of Mulatos-Cabecera in an event that covered up the murder, so that’s all we know about it.

Saturday, June 29, 2019, we got news that in the urban part of San José de Apartadó, the well-known paramilitary commander, alias René, who has been in charge of controlling and subjecting the civilian population to his murderous projects, had a party where there were a lot of paramilitaries. At the party he made serious death threats against people who live in the area, some of whom were right there. The Police and the Army who have a permanent presence in that urban center know very well what the paramilitaries are doing and they are totally permissive in the face of this phenomenon. Which proves the complicity between the Armed Forces and the paramilitaries, undeniable for several decades. On that same June 29, 2019, according to some of the people, the paramilitaries had planned to kill a family in this region, causing the family to be displaced to another area.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019, during the morning, Sr. Elkin Ortiz and his son Wilson Ortiz, known as “Morochito”, who is a member of the paramilitaries and who has lived in the urban center of San José for almost two years, damaged one of the certified cacao plantations and some subsistence crops that our Peace Community has grown with our work groups at the farm known as La Roncona. They cut down and damaged the fences, which is what they have been doing for more than six months. Our Community went there and collected evidence, while the young paramilitary Wilson Ortiz pushed back and tried to stop us. The La Roncona farm is the property of our Peace Community. We have occupied it in legal possession for more than 22 years and it is where we have our certified cacao plantations and our subsistence crops. On September 11, 2018 we suffered an invasion of more than 100 people there at La Roncona. Sr. Elkin Ortiz and his sons the paramilitaries were among them and they did a lot of damage to the cacao plantations and to the food crops. Now Sr. Elkin Ortiz, has tried to take over part of La Roncona, supposedly at the orders of the old owners. He also uses his paramilitary sons to threaten our Peace Community. The Community reported this case to the Public Defender’s Office six months ago, but they haven’t come up with any solution to make Elkin Ortiz stop harming our Peace Community.

Saturday, July 6, 2019, during the afternoon, the paramilitary Wilson Ortiz, together with his father Elkin Ortiz, intercepted Sirly Cerpa, a member of the Internal Council of our Peace Community and a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church as he was leaving San José. They told Sirly to threaten our Community, claiming: “I don’t like it one little bit that you were taking photos and videos down there at La Roncona and I’m not about to let that happen again, because the next time I’m going to smash those cameras.”

Sunday, July 7, 2019, in the afternoon, a young man, YEMINSON BORJA JARAMILLO, was murdered by several gunshots in the town (vereda) of La Balsa, in the District (Corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó. The murder was attributed to the paramilitaries who control the area because the road that leads from the District (Corregimiento) of San José to the urban part of Apartadó is totally controlled by paramilitaries who are travelling around there on motorcycles all the time. The reasons or justifications that they give for their killings is that “they are thieves or marijuana dealers”. The real reason for these killings is the forced submission of the people to the paramilitaries. Whoever doesn’t submit is simply murdered and that is how they use terror as an instrument for subjection. We have already filed many public complaints about the increasing recruitment of young people. The paramilitaries train them to kill; to deal drugs; and to steal from the campesinos and make them pay extortion. The failure of the government and its agencies to respond makes it responsible when the paramilitaries kill innocent people, because the real thieves are the members of that whole paramilitary system that recruits and steals the dreams of our young people and subjects them to the dominion of drugs and other things that are degrading to life. We are in solidarity with Yeminson’s family and we ask God to keep him in the full joy of the new life.

Monday, July 8, 2019, our Community went up to the town (vereda) of La Unión for a ceremony commemorating the massacre of six leaders of our Peace Community, 19 years ago. They were killed by paramilitaries and soldiers on July 8, 2000. On our way back from there, during the afternoon, when we were passing through the urban part of San José, the paramilitary Wilson Ortiz, alias “Morochito”, threatened to kill two members  of our Community. He declared: “There come those sons of bitches—I’d like to fill their heads full of lead; I’d love to catch them alone.” The place where this paramilitary made those threats was from the balcony of a house owned by Sr. Darío Tuberquia, at the entrance of the urban part of San José. It’s more than a year now that well-known paramilitaries have gathered there in that house, in the full view of the Armed Forces—Army and Police. They patrol day and night in that tiny collection of houses, where members of our Peace Community have been threatened over and over.

The national government keeps on denying the existence of paramilitaries, while their territorial coverage continues to increase shockingly throughout the country. Nobody is unaware that the current President’s political party has historic and close connections with the most brazen forms of paramilitarism. That includes the “Convivir”,[1] which have been intensely used and defended by former President Uribe. He is the brains, the idol, and the guide of that party and of government policy. The relationship between the government and the “para-government” has been remodeled and today the combination between the anonymous progress of the gangsters and the passive tolerance of the agencies is a successful formula that is allowing the country to pose as a “democracy” to the international community while the murder of social leaders and of demobilized former combatants surpasses world standards for political crime.

Senator Petro just uncovered the connection between the “Black Eagles”, identified for many years by the establishment as “criminal gangs”, and military intelligence. At the same time, President Duque, in regulating access to guns by Decree 2362 on December 24, 2018 legalized the loophole that has always allowed government-owned weapons to be passed on to private criminals (Article 1, Paragraph). At the same time he approved the principal crux of paramilitarism: the involvement of civilians in the war, when he announced at Tolemaida on February 6, 2019 that there were a million civilians prepared to take on military duties. All of this is camouflaged as a “policy of national security” and is implemented by the strategies of “eyes shut” and “hands off” by the Armed Forces and other government agencies. Thanks to those policies, our towns (veredas) are so totally dominated by the paramilitaries that nobody is able to defend the victims and the people dare not even admit to the paramilitary invasion.

Once again, our Community is thankful to the multitude of people in this country and in the world who are in solidarity with our resistance and who with fulsome ethical and moral conviction condemn the criminality of the Colombian government. Our sincere gratitude to all of them.

[1] “Convivirs”, literally (“living together”), were organizations that developed into paramilitary groups.

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