Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó

September 9, 2019

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Once more our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó turns to the country and to the world to make a record of the most recent events that affect us profoundly.

The announcement of a return to making war by a group of former FARC-EP combatants who had identified themselves with the so-called “Peace Agreement” signed in Havana, Cartagena, and Bogotá at the end of 2016, constitutes an announcement of the resurgence of the armed conflict in our territory. After the demobilization of several fronts of the FARC-EP that operated in our region, the territory has been falling completely under the control of the paramilitary groups that have enjoyed the support of the Armed Forces and other government agencies for decades, although they stubbornly deny it, like holding up your hands to hide the sun. Now they announce an armed insurgent presence that will certainly bring new rivers of blood to our towns, because they are sure to try to use military might to attack the paramilitaries who lord it over the region and also to attack the transnational companies that are destroying the environment and stealing our natural resources. Facing the return of war, our Community reaffirms its complete rejection of the use of weapons, and of any direct or indirect collaboration with armed actors. We are convinced that weapons do not resolve conflicts, but rather they are an incentive to increase conflict, and progressively they destroy the base on which democracy is built, living together in lives of elemental humanity.

Facing these events and the speeches that insist on relegitimizing the war, we wonder who will be helped by this. The mass information media say that the only guilty parties are the ex-combatants of the FARC-EP who have quit the process of incorporating into the status quo. For its part, the government refers to those ex-combatants in the worst terms and refuses to listen and to consider the reasons for their dissidence. They unload an irrational and warlike fury on them, a fury that disregards numerous principles of international law. 

We stand by our conviction that none of this contributes to building the peace. We believe that the Peace Agreement that they signed in 2016 did not make reference to the real roots of the century of violence that we suffered; not with regard to the mechanisms for the concentration of land ownership, nor with regard to the absence of democracy, nor with regard to access to a minimum satisfaction of the peoples’ necessities, nor to the invasive corruption of governmental power, or to the absence of justice, or go the moral rottenness of the government’s legal and administrative system. Whoever receives the weapons is forcibly bound to some degenerate institutions and to a government led by the worst of the caudillos that have been in control of the government in recent decades. They destroy every legal and ethical principle.

To make matters worse, the government ignores even the most straightforward commitments contained in the “Peace Agreement”, and has tolerated a permanent massacre of ex-combatants with total and complicit passivity, and also a bloodbath without a truce of social leaders by groups that don’t hide, implicitly or explicitly, their applause for the prevailing governmental model.

We are deeply grieved that the so-called “Peace Agreement” has not served to break down practices that have for many decades tormented the majorities at the core of our nation: paramilitarism, corruption, the “anti-communism” that has produced millions of blood victims, the pork barrel politics, and the dependence, both military and economic, on oppressive foreign powers.

The government’s answer to both old and recycled insurgencies: all they come up with is killing, blood, suffering, and destruction. They have a radical incapacity to recognize their mistakes and their crimes, and a morbid drive to sink deeper and deeper into the swamp of their injustice and their passion for the spilling of blood. Now they want to plunge us into a new war that can only bring chaos, catastrophe, and an endless reprise of hatred and desperation.

Besides expressing our absolute rejection of this latest incentive to war, we are reporting to the country and the world the latest events that affect our area:

On Friday, August 23, 2019, at about 9:00 a.m., you could hear loud shooting from long guns, and bomb explosions at the place known as El Barro in the town (vereda) of Mulatos Medios in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó. We had realized that there was a strong presence there of paramilitaries in camouflage and carrying long guns. There was a group of soldiers a short distance away. That shows that the firefight, which could have been between the two groups, had no impact and didn’t result in any pursuit. Some people interpreted it as just a sign of mutual salute or a simulation.

On Monday, September 2, 2019, our Peace Community focused on a solidarity group to accompany the family of young Weber Andrés Arias, who was murdered on August 18. The group had to go and get his belongings in the town (vereda) of La Cristalina, because of continuing threats from the paramilitaries. During the trip to get those belongings, we could see the persistent presence of paramilitaries such as the one known as “Alfredo” in the area. You have to remember that the paramilitaries killed Weber Andrés after warning him on repeated occasions that he would have to submit to their orders, which he adamantly refused to do, so they finally killed him. They were enraged, and then they threatened his family for having made a complaint about the murder. The complaint has already been converted into a “crime”, as the 17th Brigade of the Colombian Army can’t stand it that our Community communicates with civil society to describe how people are suffering. So they filed a “civil rights” action against us that was ridiculously accepted by the Branch 2 Common Pleas Judge in Apartadó, demanding that our Community take down from the Internet all the reports we have made and muzzle ourselves, which we have refused to do.

On Wednesday, September 4, 2019, a prosecutor from Apartadó, accompanied by Armed Forces and apparently even by the International Red Cross, called together various community councils and people from the District (corregimiento) for a meeting at the Bartolomé Cataño School in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó. They held a public consultation about the execution of young WEBER ANDRÉS ARIAS GARZÓN, to whom we referred in our most recent public report. The execution took place on August 18, 2019 between the towns (veredas) of La Cristalina and la Linda in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó. At the meeting, several of the participants denied any presence of paramilitary elements in the area and attributed the murder of Weber Andrés to “unknown parties”. In particular they denied any presence of paramilitaries in La Cristalina and they referred to the victim’s mother and to our Peace Community as guilty of being “loudmouths” because the murder was the subject of a complaint and everybody heard about it. The police and the military dedicated themselves to collecting signatures from everyone who was present and we wonder what’s going to be done with those signatures.

If this procedure by the Attorney General’s Office constitutes the investigation of the crime, anyone can see that it’s absolutely irregular. It leaves the impression that they want to rely on supposed public opinion, clearly manipulated and with intimidation of a populace that is either muzzled or sunk into complicity with the paramilitaries, to reach a verdict that exonerates the paramilitaries of their responsibility for the crime, affirming its “nonexistence”. At that meeting, the presence of numerous paramilitaries was evident and our Community is deeply worried that some community action councils are covering the backs of those same paramilitaries, the very organization that is coordinating the murder of members of our Peace Community and of the campesinos in our neighborhood. We don’t know if this is the beginning of a process where the murder will just be placed in a file, but we do know for certain the it is following the same path of numerous procedures where the legal system is not investigated as it should be, and its impunity is protected by a media strategy full of muzzling, manipulation, and intimidation. This reminds us of the procedures that have been routine in the so-called military “justice”, where they ask the killer if he was guilty of the crime, and when he says no, he wasn’t, he is immediately released and the prosecution is filed away or time-barred.

On Friday, September 6, 2019, during the day, our Community received information about new threats to members of the Community’s Internal Council, including our Legal Representative GERMÁN GRACIANO POSSO. These threats are based on the annoyance among the paramilitaries and the soldiers by the reports that our Community sends to the country and to the world about the happenings that affect us. This worries our Community very greatly and we hold the national government responsible for anything serious that could happen to members of our Community. The various governments have refused to control the junior officers of the Armed Forces in this area. The proof of that was the plan we complained of on December 22, 2017, a criminal plan that, in spite of the fact that we had filed a complaint earlier, was carried out on December 29 of that same year.

In the midst of troubling news about the recycling of the war, the armed actors that have stayed in our area permanently are hounding us more and more. They always announce our extermination and no agency pays any attention to our need for protection. All of our clamors to the heads of the government, including those that we have brought to the current President Duque after he completed a year of his administration, the only answer we receive is absolute silence, THE SILENCE OF COMPLICITY.

Once again we thank all of the people and communities that in this country and in the world are sustaining our resistance with moral support, and whose spiritual presence always strengthens us in the difficult moments we are experiencing.

Peace Community of San José de Apartadó

September 9, 2019

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