(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Once again our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó turns to the country and to the world to make a record of our anxiety and concern produced by the daily activities of the para-government organizations that subject and control the populations here, looking after their own interests. We live in the context of a government that does not protect our rights or liberties, but rather uses the worldwide tragedy of the pandemic to curtail the elemental rights of the most unprotected citizens even more, and to give an ever freer hand to the violent, and even support their power.
San José de Apartadó continues to be a prize for the paramilitaries, because the control of the territory, the extortion, and the recruitment of minors are their daily bread, and the Colombian Army’s 17th Brigade itself, together with the Urabá Police District, have been the most responsible for this phenomenon that is bleeding this region. Now they announce the arrival of new paramilitary commanders in the area, supposedly with personnel from other parts of Urabá and the whole country, with the intention of intensifying their control over the population in the area, and of better planning for their criminal activities.
The national situation is marked by the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court of Justice to order the former President and current Senator Álvaro Uribe Vélez to house arrest after it verified his crimes involving falsified testimony through abundant material evidence.
With the false witnesses that he tried to buy, he tried to silence a brave Senator who rebuked him for committing crimes a thousand times worse, such as the creation and incentivization of paramilitary organizations with enormous criminal capacity, as well as vast corruption in his management of the government in order to keep it under the domination of a small moneyed sell-out elite; besides maintaining terrifying levels of inequality, injustice, corruption, impunity, foreign military intervention, falsified information, cronyism, plundering of natural resources for the benefit of transnational businesses, and disregard and repression of the most elemental rights and liberties of the impoverished national majorities.
Our Peace Community has suffered intensely under the different stages and levels of power that this subjugated country has conceded to such a diabolical person. While he was Governor of Antioquia (our province) between 1995 and 1997, one of his great friends General Rito Alejo del Río served as Commander of the 17th Brigade. He tried to drown our fledgling Community in blood, massacring many of our founding brothers and sisters, trying to make them look as if they were being promoted by the armed insurgency at a time when he was creating and exporting all over the province the paramilitary organizations that were inundating our towns and cities with murder.
When he conquered the Presidency of the Republic in 2002 and fraudulently got himself re-elected in 2006, he consolidated a real reign of terror in which he stigmatized our Peace Community with an unconcealed focus, subjecting it to differing strategies of extermination. Now a number of soldiers and paramilitaries have confessed their crimes to the transitional justice system, and have revealed that Uribe Vélez convinced them that our Peace Community was “a nest of guerrillas.” His goal was to get them to take on our extermination with a clear conscience, and so they massacred without compassion, but as time passed, they found that they had been fooled by the President; he had sucked them into eliminating countless innocent people.
In one of the most painful episodes that our Peace Community has lived through, the massacre of February 21, 2005, in the towns (veredas) of Mulatos and La Resbalosa, he has shown not a bit of remorse for the cutting to pieces of our children and of our honest and innocent leaders. Rather, he tried to complete the crime by making us live together with the murderers day and night. Thanks to the wise and Christian principles that have accompanied us on our path, the criminal temerity of this President opened for us the doors of a communitarian autonomy that made us independent of the corrupt and criminal domination of a government that was rotting in the most repugnant decay. In that breakdown of ethics that we have been describing, we have had the accompaniment and solidarity of numerous communities in this country and in the world that prize human dignity. They have sustained us with a moral force that is persistent and is not susceptible to subornation, and we can never stop being thankful.
Our Community today would like to make a record of the following events that have occurred recently:
On Friday, July 24, 2020, during the daytime, a paramilitary seized a young member of our Peace Community on the trail that leads from the urban center of San José de Apartadó to Mulatos. The paramilitary, whose name we don’t know, tried to recruit our associate to his gang, promising him good pay if he worked with them. The young man refused the offer, and a little later the paramilitary went away, leaving the member of our Community to continue on the trail.
On that same Friday, July 24, 2020, during the morning, you could see a strange presence near our Luis Eduardo Guerra Peace Village, in the town (vereda) of Mulatos Medio. There were people that looked as if they were connected to the paramilitaries that have been spying on members of our Peace Community that live there.
On Tuesday, July 28, 2020, our Peace Community learned of a recent change of command by the paramilitaries in the area where we live. According to what we were told, the new commanders are planning to carry out a massacre of more than three people from our Peace Community. To do that, they will be intensifying the control of all of the activities of the population in this area. The new commander, who is now a grave threat to our way of life, is known by the alias of “Rogelio”, demobilized from the FARC-EP in 1995, and who has coordinated with the Armed Forces and the paramilitaries in incursions against our Peace Community in 1997 and succeeding years.
On Sunday, August 2, 2020, in the daytime, we learned of the presence of new paramilitaries in the area. All the evidence points to the fact that the former troops that were controlling the lives of the District (corregimiento) and its towns (veredas), have been relieved by others that are coming from various regions of the country and now will be under alias “Rogelio”. We’re told that their purpose is to collect higher extortion payments or taxes that they force the people of the area to pay.
On that same Sunday, August 2, 2020, we found out about a supposedly new plan for the invasion of our private property, the La Roncona farm. We don’t know yet who the invaders will be, but we hear that the plan is being coordinated with the Apartadó Mayor’s Office.
On Saturday, August 8, 2020, during the morning, we noticed a strong presence of paramilitaries with long guns and camouflage uniforms. They were near the place known as La Casona, in the town (vereda) of Mulatos Medio in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó. They are still there.
On Sunday, August 9, 2020, our Peace Community received information that the paramilitaries are once again prohibiting the planting of subsistence crops on more than one hectare of a campesino’s parcel. They threaten that anybody that plants more than that limit will have to pay them a lot of money, as an illegal tax or “vacuna”. This money will be used to finance their crimes.
On Saturday, August 15, 2020, the 17th Brigade carried out a civic-military day, using their customary method, in the town (vereda) of La Unión. They called the civilian population together and offered hairdressing services, recreational activities, organized football games, and other distractions. All of this was in flagrant violation of the biosecurity regulations issued by the government itself for this tough time of the pandemic. We can’t forget that the contagion of the coronavirus arrived in Urabá precisely by military units. The troops themselves brought it to Chocó with Navy ships, and it was spread to other regions and propagated in this region thanks to the minimal or absent precautions they take in their relations with the civilian population. Not only did they bring that, but also immense waves of violent deaths produced by lethal weapons and by their branch–the paramilitaries—but also in the irresponsible handling of relations, forgetting that their barracks had been the principal focus of contagion of this deadly virus.
On that same Saturday, August 15, 2020, according to information obtained by our Peace Community, there was a meeting in the District (corregimiento) of Nuevo Antioquia, apparently to get familiar with the now advanced plans for mining exploitation in the Serranía de Abibe. Most of the Community Action Committees in the region were at the meeting. They said they were in agreement with the mining exploitation plans. It’s public knowledge that the company that has been managing these projects is the DEL GOLFO COAL COMPANY and its actions and meetings have been aided and advised by the paramilitary organizations in the region. For a long time now, it’s clear that there has been a continuing cooptation of the campesino population that live in the region, and that’s why they are seeking the consensus of the Community Committees. Some of the campesinos have told our Peace Community about their concerns about the immoral manner they have been using to obtain agreement with the plans by the leaders of those Committees, using handouts and special favors. We wonder if these dirty procedures are a substitute for a public consultation, but we can see that such crude and immoral procedures are a long ways from fulfilling the legal requirements of a consultation. It’s not for nothing that neither the Registrar’s Office, nor the Inspector General’s Office, nor the Public Defender’s Office, nor the Comptroller’s Office have intervened, and neither have they divulged complete and credible information about the exploitation , or the social and environmental consequences of these plans. It’s only known, superficially, that the ARGOS and the DEL GOLFO COAL COMPANY are negotiating with multinationals and are projecting coal exports in exorbitant quantities in the coming years. For that reason, a gigantic port is already being constructed: PUERTO ANTIOQUIA in the Municipality of Turbo. We wonder if this is a “democratic” way to decide on natural resources for the whole region; bandaging the eyes of its people so that they don’t know about the environmental damage and the social, political and economic manipulation that transforms the conditions in the region, that will certainly require the transformation of the type of people that occupy the region and displace the rest of them, using the criminal methods of forced displacement to which the Colombian government has become accustomed as a routine matter. Only that way can we understand the fundamental role that the paramilitaries have played in all of these years, the way they played it in Ituango to eliminate fringes of population that get in the way of the elitists’ plans to usurp and exploit the natural resources for the benefit of an elite without any moral sense.
Again we thank the people and the communities in different parts of the country and the world who from their hearts have accompanied us now for more than 23 years as a Community and that, in spite of isolation because of the pandemic, are pressing every day for the Colombia government to protect our lives. Our sincere gratitude for following this way of defending our lives, and besides that, for encouraging us to continue defending our principles.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
August 22, 2020