Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, April 23, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Once again our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó sees the need to report to the country and the world about the most recent events of which we have been the victims; events caused by the paramilitaries who continue doing whatever they feel like doing in our region, without being bothered by any competent authority, because they can count on their economic and political support. That makes them powerful enough to subject the campesinos to their projects.
In recent weeks they have been implementing an onslaught of illegal road construction in the towns (veredas) of San José de Apartadó. We know that the main promoters of these roads are the paramilitaries, because they have already been calling the people in different towns in the District (corregimiento) together and charging big sums of money. Those are illegal and extortionate taxes, supposedly to buy gas for the machinery belonging to the Colombian Army’s 17th Brigade, which is to be used in the roadwork.
It all started around Nuevo Antioquia a while ago, with a road to the town of La Esperanza, and later another spur from Nuevo Antioquia to the town of Rodoxalí. At that time it was investigated and it was proven that those road projects have no legal support; the mayors and national and regional agencies assert that they know absolutely nothing about the projects undertaken by the paramilitaries.
Now they are starting to push those illegal roads again, around other towns. They have already started with opening the illegal road from the urban part of San José to the town of La Linda; a few days ago the paramilitaries had already held meetings with the civilian population in the towns of Cristalina, Miramar, La Miranda, La Pancha, and Salsipuedes, among others, to demand that every person pay 800,000 pesos (roughly USD $220) to buy gas for the machines that were coming in to work. According to reports, these machines belong to the Army’s 17th Brigade.
We know that they are implementing the repair or improvement of the road that goes from a place known as Campamento to the locality of Belencito, in the District of Piedras Blancas, municipality of Carepa. Who is doing the improvements? It’s public knowledge that every resident of the area is required to provide money in order to open or improve the roads.
As a Community, it worries us that there is a double strategy that is putting the exploitation of the natural resources in our region into play. The most concerning is that the people that live around here are being used to despoil their own land.
It’s evident that all of this plan, which they present as “progress” or “development” of the region, is being implemented illegally, which has been customary in this region. In the first place, these roads are not part of any Land Use Plan; nor do they have environmental permits, and still less, prior consultation with the communities. They are supported by the illegal collection of extortionate ‘taxes” based on threats. Their implementation is coordinated with a criminal organization that has inundated this region with blood, and has been rewarded by a criminal government that guarantees them absolute impunity for their crimes. The machinery belongs to an armed agency of the government, the 17th Brigade, itself implicated in hundreds of crimes still in impunity, and which has tried to “wash its hands” of all of the blood by taking on work that cannot be done legitimately by an armed agency, because these are civilian projects. Their close relationship with weaponry constitutes the most extensive and profound violation of the rights of the civilian population.
But perhaps the most perverted thing is that the objectives of this phony “progress” or “development” are covertly oriented to the service of transnational companies for extraction of mining and energy resources that destroy the environment and human health. The economic transformation of agriculture into cattle ranching is no less destructive, not only of the environment but also of the traditional production of food that is essential to life.
A government official has come out defending such a monstrosity, claiming that these roads are part of the PDETs (Programs for Development with a Territorial Focus). These are projected in the Peace Agreement between the government and the FARC-EP in 2016 (Number 1.2). But that official—Counselor to the President—doesn’t understand that what’s going on is contrary to what the Peace Agreement establishes with respect to the PDETs. Here is how the primordial objectives of the PDETs are defined: “the welfare and the good living of the population of the rural areas—boys and girls, men and women—making effective their political, economic, social and cultural rights, and reversing the effects of the misery and conflict (. . . ) and the development of the campesino and family economy (cooperative, mutual, communal, microbusinesses, and solid associations) and for their own ways of production in the communities . . . “ (No. 1.2.1)
Does the government think it’s complying with the Peace Agreement without consulting the communities even a little, while having assemblies called together by paramilitaries and community boards that have been coopted by them, deceiving the campesinos and destroying the campesino and family economy to take it over with strategies that ruin the soil and displace the population, turning the planning, design, and implementation over to the victimizers that have viciously destroyed lives in the area: soldiers and paramilitaries, and subjecting the population to extortionate, illegal, and impoverishing taxes? This is just depraved.
We have been filing public records for quite a few years now of all of the barbarity that goes on in this area, The government knows more than it would need to know about how they are building illegal roads in this region, and about all of the corrupt interests of those who hold de facto power.
It’s clear that those who are coordinating and controlling these plans for “progress” and “development” are the paramilitaries, and the ones who are putting out the work are the military Brigades. Personages like Cesar Jaramillo have said so. He is part of the National Federation of Cacao Growers—FEDECACAO-, and here is what he said: they are really going to open roads around the towns, it’s been done already, and there is already money for it. Where is that money? Is it the money the paramilitaries took from the campesinos with their extortionate “taxes”?
Supported by our incorruptible convictions, we continue to make RECORDS of the events that have taken place recently:
On Sunday, March 28, 2021, during the day, in the District of Frasquillo, in the municipality of Tierralta, Córdoba Province, a well-known politician was seen with the paramilitaries that control that region. The paramilitary control is evident there, and at the same time there is an anti-narcotics military base, constructed recently. It is supposedly in control, but you can see that the ones that are in control are the paramilitaries that are constantly going around there in Johnson-type watercraft that they own. Nobody ever bothers them.
On Wednesday, March 31, 2021, when a humanitarian committee from our Community was going through the town of Baltazar in the municipality of Tierralta in Córdoba, we could notice that there was a strong paramilitary presence there, because on the trail you could see their “puntos”, or informants with radios for communication. They were walking in a big hurry, certainly to inform them of the presence of our Community.
On Sunday, April 11, 2021, during the day, our Peace Community found out that Sr. CÉSAR JARAMILLO had commented on a plan that is being carried out from the Army’s 17th Brigade. They are continuing to open illegal roads around the towns in San José de Apartadó.
On Monday, April 12, 2021, we learned that the paramilitaries were gathering the Community Action Boards from different towns in San José de Apartadó to impose quotas of 800,000 pesos (roughly USD $220) on the residents in order to open the roads that they are going to be promoting with the machinery belonging to the Army’s 17th Brigade.
On Tuesday, April 13, 2021, during the day, we noticed a strong paramilitary presence in the town of La Unión, in the District of San José de Apartadó. According to information we received, they were very close to our settlement, Rigoberto Guzmán Peace Village, in the town of La Unión. It looks as if they are going around from the town of El Porvenir, where they have been encamped for several weeks.
On that same Tuesday, April 13, 2021, a group of paramilitaries prohibited some families from the town of Las Nieves, in San José de Apartadó, from working on their land. They also ordered them to stay away from their pastures, crops, and houses on the property. They told them if they didn’t obey they would have to leave the region.
On Thursday, April 15, 2021, during the day, we were told that the Community Action Board of the town of La Esperanza, in San José de Apartadó, had met with some other Community Boards to organize a possible invasion of our private property there. According to them, it’s because our Peace Community didn’t allow them to put a road through there. The paramilitaries are building the road. Our Community has rejected the road because its promoters are the paramilitaries. It’s public knowledge that the paramilitaries started to open the road from the District of Nuevo Antioquia in Turbo Municipality to the town of La Esperanza, with a spur going toward the town of Rodoxalí. When the legality of those roads was investigated, not one agency of those that by law would have to handle the licenses knows anything about the project. The local Community Board says they are going to start with the machinery belonging to the Army’s 17th Brigade, but earlier the paramilitaries themselves met with the people that live in the area and imposed quotas between 500,000 pesos (roughly USD $138) and 800,000 pesos (roughly USD $220) to buy the gas for the Brigade’s machinery.
On Saturday, April 17, 2021, during the day in the town of El Porvenir, in San José de Apartadó, two groups of paramilitaries were seen going around dressed in camouflage uniforms and carrying long guns. Each one of the groups had some 15 men, and they were divided between patrolling and controlling the area. We know that one of the commanders is ALIAS SAMUEL, a well-known paramilitary from the town of La Unión. These paramilitaries have been there for several weeks, dressed in military gear and with long guns. They do whatever they want and nobody bothers them. They are still camped in that town.
On Wednesday, April 21, 2021, in the town of Arenas Altas in the District of San José de Apartadó, there was a group of heavily armed paramilitaries very close to the property that belongs to the Peace Community.
In recent days, photos of meetings and agreements between residents of the District of San José and soldiers from the 17th Brigade about road construction in San José de Apartadó have been circulating on social media. They’re the same projects that the paramilitaries are pushing in the towns in the District of San José, and built with the machinery and personnel from the 17th Brigade. According to reports in connection with that, in the meeting between residents of San José and soldiers from the Vélez Battalion, they were finalizing details for the opening of roads in San José. After the meeting was over, a Colonel told one of the facilitators that the relationship between the military and the paramilitaries is joint. What more evidence is needed that on one side is the military with their machines and personnel of the 17th Brigade will open new roads, while the paramilitaries go ahead with forcing the campesinos to contribute to the project?
Paramilitary control continues to be the sustenance of the economic interests. We have reached the point where even working your land is prohibited, as a strategy to expropriate the land away from the campesinos, or to have them end up getting bored and selling their land to the very same companies that hired the paramilitaries to do the dirty work.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
April 23, 2021