Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
December 26, 2019
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Once more our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó finds it necessary to turn to the country and to the world to report that, in recent months, we have been the victims of serious violations of our fundamental rights.
Just like previous governments, President Duque has chosen the policy of arms folded and ears deaf when confronted by the paramilitaries. In spite of having received voluminous documents that demonstrate the government’s continuing policy of complicity, connivance, tolerance and much more in the face of the thousands of crimes perpetrated by armed systems whose relation with the government has by now been placed in evidence by numerous national and international court decisions. It prefers to keep silent and take no action and instead continue allowing them to act with a free hand.
The paramilitaries in Urabá went through periods in which they acted together with the Armed Forces in bright daylight with no embarrassment at all. Then they went through periods of coordinated separation, accompanied by intense denial, with all government institutions insisting that “there are no paramilitaries” while the whole world could see them acting within the same political and criminal parameters as always. Now they seem to be entering a new period in which their cooptation of the community action committees serves them as camouflage. They unload the execution of their decisions on the committees, forbidding them to disclose their close relationship. Thus the most insolent policies that harm the campesino population, that are against their ancestral values, appear to be “democratic decisions” by the community action committees, even though the whole world knows they are orders given by the paramilitaries, orders they have received from the highest ranks of the government. To oppose those decisions could bring serious consequences and the honest members of the committees know that very well, and therefore prefer to be quiet and submit.
By means of this strategy, the community action committees have been assigned to manage the MEMORICIDE, or the extermination of historical memory. Our Community is now suffering threats of the destruction of the monuments to memory that mark the sacred locations where our leaders were sacrificed with high degrees of atrocity by soldiers and paramilitaries. Now it is the community committees that are blocking or want to exterminate that memory, obeying the wicked orders of those in power. It was difficult to imagine that they could arrive at that infamy, but tragically, it is now a fact.
The events that we report to the country and to the world are the following:
In the last week of October 2019, the former militant of the FARC-EP, known as “Pablo”, and now a member of the paramilitary organization present on Cerro Chontalito, attended a party in the town (vereda) of Cabecera de Mulatos. He wanted to kill a young man from that area and was chasing him with a weapon. When the boy escaped, “Pablo” went into several houses, looking for him, to kill him. When the Community Action Committee considered the case, they felt that they would not be able to resolve the problem with alias “Pablo”, but rather would have to talk to alias “René”. He is also a former FARC-EP militant who is now a paramilitary commander in the San José de Apartadó area.
On Saturday, November 2, 2019, in the town (vereda) of La Esperanza, an Army troop went into a house where the children were alone, because their parents had left for work. When one of the children saw that they had a radio, he said that that radio was just like his father’s and went and got his father’s radio to show them. The soldiers saw that in reality it was one of theirs, which proved that the homeowner was a spy or a “punto” for the paramilitaries. The soldiers went back to the house in the afternoon after the father came home from work and they were chatting just like colleagues.
In the first week of November 2019, at a place next to the urban center of San José de Apartadó, a young man who lives there was approached by some paramilitaries. They threatened to kill him, accusing him of robbery and drug addiction. He denied the accusation of robbery and said that he did use drugs but it was with his own money. This event demonstrates the kind of de facto “legal system” the paramilitaries are trying to implant in this region.
On Saturday, November 9, 2019, the former FARC-EP militant known as “Pablo” and now a member of the paramilitary group present on Cerro Chontalito, went in to the storeroom in San Josecito where cacao is being prepared for marketing. Some other members of the paramilitary group were with him and they stayed for a while around the storeroom, acting as if they were doing some espionage.
In the second week of December 2019, The Peace Community learned that alias “Pablo”, the former member of the FARC-EP and now an important and high-ranking member of the paramilitaries, was heading for the town (vereda) of Saiza, in the Municipality of Tierralta, in the Province of Córdoba. He was planning to teach a course there on explosives and on the paramilitary organization.
On Friday, December 13, 2019, several members of the Peace Community were traveling on the path that leads from the urban part of San José to La Unión. On the trail they found a pamphlet urging “kill the snitches”, referring to people who file complaints. The rage and fury that the paramilitaries express when they refer to complaints about their actions is something that is now very well known in the region, as well as their permanent accusation that the Peace Community complains to the whole world about all of the criminal aggressions by the armed actors and their violations of human rights and their attacks on human dignity.
On Wednesday, December18, 2019, some community action committees in the area called a meeting of the residents in the town (vereda) of La Esperanza to transmit the paramilitaries’ order forcing all of the residents to pay their illegal tax of ten thousand pesos (about $3.30) for every hectare of land that they own. (A hectare is roughly 2 ½ acres.)
In the month of December 2019, the announcements made by the community action committees in the area have intensified. That’s because the paramilitary organizations give them directives, such as to destroy the constructions created by the Peace Community on holy sites in the memory of their victims. For quite a while, the Peace Community has been building a monument in memory of the massacre perpetrated by the Army and the paramilitaries on July 8, 2000 in the town (vereda) of La Unión. For its part, the community action committee of that town has repeatedly threatened to destroy the memorial, claiming that the government has offered to build an all-sport signboard at the same location. This coincides, in their strategy, with the pressure on the community action committee in the town (vereda) of Mulatos Medio, where they have tried to use violence to take over the Luis Eduardo Guerra Peace Village, where the Community has been for 15 years and has built a chapel on the sacred site where Luis Eduardo and his partner and his10-year-old son were massacred. At that same place, the community action committee claims that the government is offering to build a school and a stand for the sale of liquor, precisely on that spot and on no other. There can be no doubt that these coincidental threats reveal a government policy of memoricide, an urgent desire to erase the memory of the victims and of the crimes by the government.
In other countries, denial and memoricide do develop in periods of postconflict and postviolence, when memory can work to demand that corrective measures be taken, so that there is no repetition. In Colombia, those wicked strategies coincide with the continuation of the crimes, because the paramilitaries, the illegal armed arm of the government, are trying to block out the memory, and they are taking advantage of the community action committees. Meanwhile those same paramilitaries continue to destroy the social leadership of the country and to murder demobilized combatants.
Another exceptional effort by the community action committees in recent months has been collecting signatures in favor of the Far Eastern (Chinese and Korean) multinational businesses that are now planning the exploitation of coal and various metals. They started in the District (corregimiento) of Nuevo Antioquia (Municipality of Turbo) and are advancing to the towns (veredas) of San José de Apartadó. In the same way they are promoting the production of resumés to get jobs in those companies, as a solution to the problem of unemployment. It is profoundly sad that the government is trying to rely on the shortages of basic necessities of the campesino population to get them involved in an economic model based on the permanent destruction of non-renewable natural resources. This exploitation radically damages and poisons the environment.
Once again we thank the numerous persons and communities who from many parts of the country and of the world are keeping up our morale of resistance and our ideals of a less inhuman world to live in. At the same time we hope that the coming year will be a new opportunity to join in humanitarian ethical principles to advance in the building of justice, of solidarity, and of peace among all people.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
December 26, 2019