Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, February 3, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Once again our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó sees the need to turn to this country and to the world to make a record of multiple attacks by those that continue to seek our destruction.
This year 2021 began with the murder of a humble campesino who lived in the town (vereda) of La Pedroza. The authorities, as they have always done, announced “exhaustive investigations” and military operations, but, as always, this is window dressing that doesn’t reach any result. They never come up with anything.
Everybody knows that the victimizers are never touched, the dead keep falling, and the threats run their course, while the extortions are more and more asphyxiating. In this region, the power of the gun is the only one walking. Nothing is done to control the paramilitaries, as the paramilitaries go around armed in the midst of the police and the Army and everything stays the same.
The paramilitaries have so much freedom that they are recruiting a lot of people, including many children. In recent weeks we have learned that the recruits are being sent to other areas for military training. Many people have claimed on social media that this is depriving a lot of young people in this region of their freedom, but no authority is taking this seriously and investigating it.
Supported by our incorruptible convictions, we continue making a record of the events that have taken place recently:
On Thursday, December 24, 2020, during the day, we learned that the paramilitary Wilfer Higuita, currently living in the settlement at La Unión, had got a young girl drunk there and abused her sexually.
In the week of December 24, 2020, the same paramilitary Wilfer Higuita, who has been involved with paramilitary organizations for many years, even serving as go-between to high officials in the 17th Brigade, and who is now located in the urban part of the town (vereda) of La Unión, was threatening several women in that town. He accused them of informing our Peace Community of the paramilitaries’ activities. As a Peace Community, we make clear that all of the information we receive about these things, and that we include in our reports, originates with the public activities of the paramilitaries. We have no need to seek information, because the paramilitaries act right out in the open.
In the last week of December 2020, the paramilitaries gathered the civilian population in the town of Naín in the Municipality of Tierralta, Córdoba Province. They threatened the leaders of the Community Action Boards for allegedly robbing money from the communities.
On Friday, January 1, 2021, several members of our Peace Community were fixing a fence that protects a monument to the memory of our leaders that were massacred by the Army and the paramilitaries in the town of La Unión on July 8 of 2000. A man that lives there, Adolfo Guzmán, who said he was in charge of the Community Action Board of the town, came up to us. He was deplorably drunk and insulted us for working on the monument. According to what he said, they planned to knock it over, because it was in the way of the kids that were playing football. They had declared the space to be a “recreational park”. He scorned the memory of the martyrs, claiming; “the dead are still dead,” meaning it’s stupid to remember them.
We understood: their memory will be a perpetual condemnation of the paramilitaries’ bestiality. He also said that he had talked with the Mayor of Apartadó, who had authorized the destruction of the monument, and we ought to respect the public recreation space.
That is how they comply in the paramilitarized territories with Statute 1408 of 2010. In Articles 12 and 13, it declares to be “Memorial Sanctuaries” all sites where it is even suspected that there might be remains of people who have disappeared; much more when it is known for certain that people were massacred there. They trample Resolution 3 of 2019 by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, which established the Principles with respect to Memorial Policies in the Americas. There it states:
“all those locations where serious violations of human rights were committed, or where those violations were suffered or were resisted, or where for some reason the victims or the local communities consider that the place can serve as a memorial of those events, and that are used to re-imagine, recover, and communicate about traumatic events, and/or to honor and repair the victims, are understood to be memorial sites.
Because of that, the Resolution orders governments to: “secure the management of the memorial, management to be understood as an obligation to adopt public memorial policies coordinated with legal and accounting procedures.” And the same Resolution adds that the management of the memorial shall “include the obligation of the government to assure the representation and participation of the victims.”
It’s a disgrace that a Mayor, an Army, a government, and a Community Action Board are unashamedly tolerating these affronts to the victims in full view of the international community, like calling out to the world without embarrassment that they want at all costs and using brute force to block out the memory of the barbarity that they perpetrated there.
On Thursday, January 7, 2021, during the day, you could hear gunshots near the urban center of the town of La Unión. According to commentaries, it was a training that the paramilitaries were doing with some people they had recently recruited.
On Sunday, January 10, 2021, we got information that the paramilitaries that control the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó and its towns, had recruited four young people and had taken them to the town of Playa Larga in the District of Nuevo Antioquia, in the Municipality of Turbo, in order to train them.
On Wednesday, January 20, 2021, the paramilitary known as “RAMIRO”, who is the brother of alias “SAMUEL”, a well known commander of the paramilitaries in the town of Unión, threated a woman with a gun in that town, accusing her if being an informant for our Peace Community, and admonishing her to stop doing that or else he would not be responsible for her life. In recent days we have learned that “RAMIRO” himself and WILFER HIGUITA are continuing to threaten this woman and her partner and, at the same time, they are threatening to kill members of our community that live nearby, supposedly because she gives information about what the paramilitaries are doing in the town, when the things they perpetrate are done in broad daylight, letting everybody that lives there know what they are doing.
On Friday, January 22, 2021, our Peace Community learned that the paramilitaries had recruited five young people, including a woman, all of them from the urban part of San José de Apartadó. According to what we heard, the Armed Forces and the Police themselves are well aware of everything that has gone on, because the paramilitaries are the owners of San José and its towns, and there is not one single thing being done to keep the paramilitaries from having total control.
The Army’s 17th Brigade itself, through Colonel José Luis Bastidas Moreno, announces that it’s carrying out operations to neutralize any criminal plan, but nothing happens; the paramilitaries are more and more free to move around and control the area. We are wondering, what military operations are being carried out? Up to now there has been no neutralization of the paramilitaries that are going around armed in the urban part of San José, and nobody explains why there is a military base and a police bunker there, with a lot of soldiers and police, but nevertheless, it’s the paramilitaries that have total control.
Several murders have taken place in this area and what use have all these people been? What have been the results? As a Peace Community, we continue to be convinced that in this area, all those who have weapons are sufficiently allied to exercise total control over the civilian population.
In that same week of January 22, 2021, the paramilitaries had a meeting in the town of Mulatos-Cabecera, in the District of San José de Apartadó. At the meeting they announced the prohibitions that they planned to impose with their usurped authority on the people living there. Some of the prohibitions are: plowing under the stubble for planting subsistence crops, and using cell phones. During the meeting they made everybody turn off their cell phones, claiming that they have a lot of enemies in the area who might complain about their presence. The paramilitary in charge of the meeting, who claimed to be “the politician” of the organization, announced that all of the reports he was collecting would be taken to his superiors, who would issue their orders later.
On Sunday, January 24, 2021, in the afternoon, a young campesino BLAS HUMBERTO DAVID TORRES, was murdered on the road that leads from Apartadó to the District of San José. It happened at the town of La Balsa. Blas Humberto was traveling to Apartadó on his motorcycle when he was attacked by paramilitaries who shot and killed him. Blas Humberto was an independent farmer and had been living in the town of La Pedroza.
Already last year, February 19, 2020, those same paramilitaries had killed Sr. Amado Torres, a resident of the town of La Miranda, a few minutes from the town of La Pedroza. He was killed because he would not submit to their deadly strategy. Now, according to what we hear, Blas Humberto was murdered for exactly that, refusing to submit to the paramilitaries. They were charging “taxes” or “vacunas” that he refused to pay.
And the most painful thing is that there has been no real investigation by legal authorities in any of the similar cases. All of that confirms that the “legal system” continues to be corrupt, and will continue to be corrupt as long as the high Courts themselves refuse to investigate the legal authorities in Urabá; as long as they refuse to re-open the thousands of files that have buried ethical putrefaction, where bribery, threats and frame-ups are camped out as determinants of the evidentiary system. The Constitutional Court itself backed down from the measure taken in Order 164 of 2012, to create a Commission for Evaluation of the Legal System or to decree an Unconstitutional Situation in the phony “legal system” in Urabá. This government has been characterized by continuing to close its eyes and fold its hands in the face of the horrors of the government and para-government criminality that is continuing to rule us.
The persecution of those who will not accept paramilitarism has not stopped, as everybody that resists is subjected to displacement or, on the contrary, ends up murdered with the same playbook in which Amado and Blas Humberto and many more were murdered. The government is responsible for what is going to happen in the future to more and more people.
Once again we express our thanks to the people and the communities in different parts of this country and of the world who, because of their most sincere convictions, have accompanied us in these more than 23 years of our being a Peace Community. In spite of the isolation because of the pandemic, they continue to pressure the Colombian government every day not to destroy our lives, nor our property, nor our legacy. Our sincere gratitude for accompanying our system of defending lives and also for encouraging us to keep defending our principles.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
February 3, 2021