Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, August 16, 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 where we have been made victims for continuing our civil resistance in defense of our lives and our land.
In recent weeks we continue to see an intense presence of paramilitaries dressed in camouflage and carrying long guns. They have entered the town (vereda) of Playa Larga on their way from Nuevo Antioquia in the District (corregimiento) of Turbo, and also the town (vereda) of La Resbalosa, coming from Córdoba Province. They going into the towns (veredas) to intimidate the campesinos, announcing that they are going to take away their cell phones so they won’t be able to report paramilitary presence to our Peace Community. They insist that it’s prohibited to tell anyone about their presence, especially not to the Peace Community.
The events that we report today are the following:
On Tuesday, July 30, 2019, during the day, our Peace Community learned that they were fiercely threatening the members of our Community who live in the town (vereda) of La Resbalosa. The paramilitaries were going around there announcing that they would not permit the members of our Community to keep working on one of the communal farms in that town that are part of our way of life. Apparently there are a lot of business interests and also drug traffickers that are trying to stop the people from planting food crops in gardens there. They want to see the land used for reasons other than the subsistence of campesinos. They want to see it used for plans and interests of the powerful sectors that are only trying to damage and destroy nature and exploit campesinos for their own profit.
On Thursday, August 1, 2019, during the day, we were told that the paramilitaries who control the 32 towns (veredas) of San José de Apartadó are strictly forbidding the people, especially those that own land in the towns (veredas) of Mulatos, La Resbalosa, and La Esperanza, among others, to sell their property without their permission and least of all to the Peace Community. They warn that if anybody does that, there will be serious consequences. In addition to the persecution that our Community has endured for more than two decades, with them trying to exterminate and disappear us at all costs, the people in the region are seeing more and more clearly that the paramilitaries and the powers behind them are seeking more and more absolute control of the territory. They want to subject us to harmful plans, plans that benefit a small and powerful elite.
On Friday, August 2, 2019, during the day, we found out that the paramilitary Commander, alias “René”, who has been in charge of the control and retailing of drugs for some time now in the San José area, has retired from the area, saying that he was leaving because of the continuing complaints against him, complaints that were interfering with his exercise of greater control. According to what we have heard, he was transferred by his paramilitary bosses to the District (corregimiento) of Piedras Blancas, in the Municipality of Carepa. When he left, he hurled fierce threats against our Peace Community claiming that: “the only ones that complain are from that Peace Community, but that isn’t going to stay that way.”
On Saturday, August 3, 2019, during the night, about 15 paramilitaries dressed in camouflage and carrying long guns went into the town (vereda) of El Porvenir. They barged into people’s houses announcing that they had arrived to solve some bad reputation problems that paramilitaries were having in that area. They claimed: “we’re here because the people are saying—and there are a lot of complaints about it—that we paramilitaries are thieves and killers and we are going to fix that, because we are not bad”. At the same time, they asked the people in a threatening tone of voice if they had cell phones and the people said no they didn’t. But the paramilitaries stayed around the farms there all night.
On Sunday, August 4, 2019, at 12:00 noon those same paramilitaries who had gone into the town (vereda) of El Porvenir the day before and had camped close to the campesinos’ houses were seen once again.
On Tuesday, August 6, 2019, our Peace Community went, accompanied by internationals and by staff of the Public Defender’s Office in Apartadó, up to the towns (veredas) of Alto Joaquín and Puerto Nuevo and to the District (corregimiento) of Frasquillo in the Municipality of Tierralta in Córdoba Province. Our Community is defending some collective properties there where some members of our Peace Community are living. It was plain that the paramilitaries continue to be the ones who control everything there, from the illegal drug business, where the drugs are transported with the permission of the Colombian Navy that has a base there, to merchants of food products. They control that by allowing food sales only by their permission. They control the reservoir by regulating all of the mobility of Johnson-type boats, and they control the plundering of the farms belonging to families that live near the reservoir. All of this is tied to the payment of the obligatory tax payments that they demand from the campesinos.
On Wednesday, August 7, 2019, our Community made a journey with international accompaniment to the town (vereda) of La Esperanza, passing through the town (vereda) of El Porvenir. Both are located within the territory of the District (corregimiento) of San José. We went because we had received a lot of reports that paramilitaries had been there a few days earlier going through the houses belonging to the campesinos. When we got there, on the road that leads to the town (vereda) of El Porvenir from the town (vereda) of La Esperanza, you could see that the armed paramilitaries had been very close to the road, thus confirming their presence in the town (vereda) of El Porvenir. According to the people living in the town (vereda) of La Esperanza, the soldiers had been patrolling those very same days in the town (vereda) of La Esperanza, but not in El Porvenir. El Porvenir is 40 minutes away from La Esperanza and it was the place where the paramilitaries had been barging into the houses belonging to the campesinos. These military tactics and their articulation with the paramilitaries are well enough known—it consists of not being near the places where the paramilitaries are, so as not to give the impression that they are supporting each other.
On Thursday, August 8, at 9:00 a.m. a military contingent from the Colombian Army’s 17th Brigade arrived at a small settlement, a long-time settlement of our Peace Community in the town (vereda) of La Unión. There they started visiting the campesinos’ houses, making a census or registration. We don’t know the purpose of this census, but it’s very clear that in previous years the Army’s 17th Brigade used to make these illegal registrations. All of that information ended up in the hands of the paramilitaries, who then went on to murder many of the people whose names appeared on those lists.
Last June 19 we furnished President Duque with a compendium of the attacks against our Peace Community; attacks that we have suffered between August 2018 and May of 2019 (File: EXT 19-00060721), along with our repeated petition that he carry out his constitutional obligation as a guarantor of our rights. We accompanied it with a reminder of the principles of international law that impose on a president the duty to take responsibility for the decisions of his predecessors when they decide not to punish, correct, and repair what has in the past been destructive of the Rule of Law. His answer was identical to those of ex-Presidents Samper, Pastrana, Uribe, and Santos: sending the petitions to the Defense Ministry (responsible for the offenses) and there the petitions begin their pilgrimage of years, from office to office, where no official or sub-official wants to repudiate the deeds perpetrated by his colleagues, preferring solidarity with the others in dissimulation, evasion, covering up, and the decision to throw up their hands and “overlook it”. Nothing changes. Nothing changes. Nothing changes. Everything continues to be the same. These are the routines that have been used over and over for 22 years.
Once more our Peace Community thanks the multitude of people in this country and in the world who have been in solidarity with our resistance and who condemn with ethical and moral conviction the criminality of the Colombian government. We are sincerely grateful to all of those.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
August 16, 2019