(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Once again our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó must speak to the country and to the world to share the events that continue to reveal a criminal policy by the Colombian government and its tolerance and complicity with all of the criminal actions that have gone on in the past.
The murder of ordinary Colombians, nonconforming, and/or vulnerable, began many decades ago. For a long time, the government’s Armed Forces considered themselves free to kill, simply relying on their decision that the victims were enemies of whatever authority happened to be in power at the time. With the passage of time, the United States taught the Colombian governments, secretly, to inject the civilian population into the war, not only as military objectives, which they already were in their impoverished and misfit clothing, but also as combatants, in the form of paramilitaries, or a clandestine armed branch of the government. This happened in 1962 with United States General William Yarborough’s mission to Colombia and his secret instructions, so that the government would not have to carry the whole weight of the deteriorated morality, the illegitimacy of its image, and its universal condemnation.
When paramilitarism started to be in the focus of some of the judges, the government made an effort to make it disappear from the media and it coined the term BACRIM or Criminal Bands, leading society to believe that it was all a problem of common crime. When the Peace Agreement interfered with identifying all the victims of disappearance and execution as guerrillas, the murder of the social leaders and people from nonconforming sectors or “expendables” began to be attributed to domestic violence, neighbor problems, snakebite, or drunken brawls. In general the phony reasons were imposed against what whole populations knew, but didn’t dare to tell the truth for fear of murder or stigma.
In the violent murders perpetrated by the paramilitaries, who continue to control our area of San José de Apartadó, they have most recently looked for ways to camouflage that defy the understanding of the campesinos that live around here. In the urban part of San José, there was a palpable silence that surrounded the execution of young Rafael Antonio Guerra last May 12, in the area called Caño Seco in the town (vereda) of Alto Bonito. According to what people are saying in San José, the family had to camouflage the crime with a story of a “death caused by a snakebite” so they would be allowed to carry the coffin through the urban center.
The most recent execution, which took place last Sunday, June 7 is being read by a lot of people as the effect of “the Sunday drunken brawls”, or “the boys getting into fights”, or conflicts between the paramilitaries themselves. The media don’t talk about legal proceedings in these cases and they don’t make any reference to the context of complete control of this area by the paramilitary organizations. The local and regional media, instead of helping investigate the events, always help to spread the camouflage versions that favor the interests of the dominant political sector, interests that sometimes pretend to focus on the necessity of eliminating the paramilitaries who are serving them. That can happen when a paramilitary feels tired or disappointed in his murderous mission and shows a desire to abandon the criminal ranks, or they may be confronting some of those same paramilitaries for resources that include a market for hallucinogenic drugs. Versions of the recent killings point in some of those directions.
Our Community desires to make a record of the following events:
On Sunday, May 10, 2020, the paramilitaries permitted and promoted the celebration of a Mother’s Day party in the town (vereda) of La Unión, including the consumption of a lot of liquor, disobeying the regulations for control of the pandemic.
On Saturday, May 16, 2020, the paramilitaries once again permitted and promoted a Mother’s Day party in the town (vereda) of La Resbalosa, with abundant consumption of liquor.
On Thursday, June 4, 2020, a group of paramilitaries wearing uniforms and carrying long guns was seen once again on the farm belonging to Sr. Muñoz, in the town (vereda) of La Esperanza. Several times before, our Community had surprised, photographed, and filmed the members of that paramilitary group at the same spot. The members of the Colombian Senate had the opportunity to examine the videos, but that did not produce any kind of objection or crackdown, much less arrest, trial, and punishment of this paramilitary organization. Afterwards, on several occasions we have surprised them at the same farm, armed and in uniform, without having any agency do anything whatsoever to investigate and try them.
On Friday, June 5, 2020, there was a paramilitary convocation in the town (vereda) of Playa Larga. At the meeting, where there were at least 50 paramilitaries, they were insisting on the need to control the population of the area near San José more stringently, because there are people there that ought to be eliminated.
On Saturday, June 6, 2020, units of the 17th Brigade of the Colombian Army arrived at the town (vereda) of La Unión and went into a public establishment where they consumed liquor. When people living in La Unión asked their commander to explain why the Army never combats the paramilitaries, he responded that they don’t combat them because later on, when they are off duty, they might attack them. The officer said that he would be taking over command of the base in San José beginning on June 15.
On Sunday, June 7, 2020, at 8:00 p.m., in the town (vereda) of La Victoria in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó, a group of paramilitaries killed JESÚS ALBERTO MUÑOZ YEPEZ, 35 years old. His nickname was “El Tato” (“Brother”) and he lived in the Policarpa neighborhood in Apartadó. The paramilitaries also injured a young woman named Leidy who was with him. She is pregnant and is a cousin of young Yeminson Borja Jaramillo, who was murdered on July 7, 2019 in the bordering town (vereda) of La Balsa by paramilitaries that control that route and subject the civilian population to their commands by means of threats and executions. Several stories are circulating about the motives for that crime, including one that pictures the victim as an active paramilitary who had retired, thus earning the death penalty. The permissive and complicit silence of the authorities, along with the terrified silence of the people who live here, sets up a monstrous arrangement for the total impunity that reigns here.
On Friday, June 12, 2020, the paramilitaries called together the Community Action Committees in the town (vereda) of Mulatos Medio, in the school that was recently constructed on the boundary of our Community’s Peace Village. A paramilitary political leader took part in the meeting and he announced some regulations to the people. Our Community has already figured out that that building, motivated by offers from the government, is going to be used for political events and parties and consumption of liquor, all of which will sabotage the principles of our Peace Community, besides using spaces in our village for their meetings.
On Sunday, June 14, 2020, the Community Committee in the town (vereda) of Arenas Altas organized a party where liquor was consumed in the town school, on land that belongs to our Peace Community. This violated the isolation regulations that are in effect, ending up in fights with injuries. One of the paramilitary organizers was John Edinson Góez, alias “El Pollo” (“The Chicken”).
On Wednesday, June 17, 2010. Beginning with the safety controls being followed by the civilian population in San José de Apartadó in the town (vereda) of La Balsa, controls that are intended to avoid the expansion of coronavirus (Covid-19), right now they are organizing ways to restrict free mobility in our Community. This is supposed to be because foreigners will be coming in and bringing the virus, and now they are saying: people from other places are coming in and violating the national quarantine and this is a case that should be handled by the authorities because if anyone gets sick with the virus it will be the fault of the Peace Community.
As the Peace Community, we reject such accusations, because it’s not the responsibility of our Peace Community to keep the whole population from getting infected. Especially when all of the people in the area are going to the urban part every day without taking any measures for protection. The paramilitaries themselves and the Armed Forces are the ones that are taking the risk of infecting the population, because they are the ones that are patrolling all around the region. Besides that, they go to public places in San José and the towns (veredas) to drink liquor and now they are trying to blame our Community when we are the ones in the area that have the best management of an autonomous quarantine. So it’s not our responsibility or that of the national and international people who accompany us. If it turns out that there is contagion with virus covid-19 in the area, the responsibility is that of the competent authorities themselves for not having taken the truly necessary precautionary measures to guarantee that every day there will not be any more contagion in Urabá. The Armed Forces themselves are the ones who have the most infections in Urabá. Besides it’s the free movement of the paramilitaries that has allowed them to exercise greater control over the civilian population. They are going around on highways and trails from the Urabá region to Chocó and other places in the country without any restrictions whatsoever.
In the different towns (veredas) of the District (corregimiento) of San José, our Peace Community continues to demonstrate the presence of paramilitary organizations that control the people through people or families that are spies, called “puntos” (“points”). They continually inform the paramilitary commanders in the area about the thoughts and movements of the people. While the “para” commanders move freely around the territory carrying weapons and, using the “puntos”, they issue regulations for the people, they call them to meetings and they charge them illegal taxes, threatening to kill them if they don’t submit to their orders and their domination. No government institution has shown any control over these criminal organizations. They are behind the death threats and the executions that today are camouflaged with fictitious causes.
Once again we thank the people and communities in different parts of the country and the world that support our system and encourage us to defend our principles.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
June 22, 2020