Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, March 26, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
After our Peace Community’s anniversary last March 23, and after accomplishing our objective of celebrating together our path of life and dignity that we have travelled for these 24 years, once again we see a moral obligation to raise our voices before this country and the world about recent serious events that affect us, and that constitute attacks on us and on the campesino population around here. We are aware that we are facing a profoundly corrupt administration that is also deaf, blind, and complicit in systematic criminality.
The recent events that we refer to are the following:
On Saturday, March 13, 2021, our Community received information about the existence of a plan designed by the paramilitaries to penetrate our central settlement at San Josecito. Their goal is to kill several members of our Peace Community. According to the information, they have hired professional urban triggermen to carry out the plan.
On Sunday, March 14, 2021, the newspaper PACIFISTA published an exhaustive investigation of a letter that arrived at their office, with a request that it be published. The letter expressed broad support of the recently appointed Regional Public Defender for Urabá and Darién, José Augusto Rendón. According to the newspaper’s investigation, the complete results of which it published, the letter was requested, with pressure, by Sr. Rendón himself, from the Public Defender’s Office. The majority of the signers are people that signed without having any idea of what they were signing, and others that have terribly dirty resumes because they took part criminally in land theft in the Bajo Atrato. Some of them were actually convicted of that in the Colombian criminal justice system. The most deplorable thing for our Community was learning that the Community Defender who accompanied us for several years, Jorge Mario Vélez, has been forced by his new boss to collaborate in the production of the letters that arrived at PACIFISTA. They are trying to obtain fictitious, forced, and false backing for the man.
On Monday, March 15, 2021, a well-known paramilitary from this area publicly stated to two people that live in the urban part of San José that ADOLFO GUZMÁN, who is also the Vice President of the Community Action Board of the town (vereda) of La Unión, in the District (corregimiento) of San José, and one other civilian, are part of a paramilitary organization, and that they are always talking about the plan to involve, little by little, the main part of the population in this area into the paramilitary organization.
On that same Monday, March 15, 2021, there was an announcement of a partnership between FEDECACAO (National Federation of Cacao Growers) and the Law School of the General José María Córdoba Military Academy, by means of an agreement intended to assist the families that raise cacao with consulting or in finding alternative solutions to conflicts in the areas of family, employment, criminal, administrative, or police-related issues, among other things. It’s to bring to rural areas the services provided by the “only army in the world that is specialized in the training of attorneys”.
Our Community has always opposed the use of weapons, as well as the presence of agencies or armed actors that take part in areas or in projects that are exclusively a civilian responsibility. We can’t forget the horrible interventions of the Colombian Army into our humble and precarious marketing of cacao. On July 11, 2001, four attackers robbed a load of cacao that our Community was sending to Medellín. They even stole the truck and arranged to meet our leaders at the site to kill them. Thus demonstrating that there were soldiers from the 17th Brigade that were rotating at the town (vereda) of La Balsa checkpoint.
On October 10, 2002, they made another attack on another shipment of cacao, and on other occasions, they attacked and stole the money that this small business run by members of our Community had withdrawn from the bank. After that, in September of 2014, Colonel Germán Rojas Díaz, as Commander of the 17th Brigade made up a story and circulated a video that was completely defamatory and built on filthy lies, to try to accuse us of illegal exportation of cacao. So, the activities of the Army in matters of cacao have been neither honest nor legal, but rather terribly dirty. We can only call this to the attention of the families that potentially might be assisted by these “wolves in sheep’s clothing”.
On Tuesday, March 16, 2021, a well-known paramilitary from around here went up to a member of our Peace Community and insistently proposed that he work with them as an informant. He offered him big sums of money to provide exact information about where the leaders of our Internal Council were. He said he has to take them to his paramilitary bosses in order to “settle some scores”, because the Peace Community is considered to be a nuisance that is hindering the total paramilitary control of this area, because of the national and international complaints that we are making.
On Wednesday, March 17, 2021, while some members of our Peace Community were walking through the town (vereda) of El Porvenir in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó, they could see the presence there of a “punto paramilitary” (spy). He had a radio and a cell phone for communication. In the same way they could tell that there was a troop of paramilitaries on one of the ridges. A few days before, they had claimed publicly that they had arrived in this town, and they were at risk because the Peace Community was giving their presence away. So they said the Community is a “snitch”. This town has a permanent staging area of the paramilitary groups that control the area. It appears that they are there right now.
On Saturday, March 20, 2021, our Peace Community found out about meetings being pushed by the paramilitaries with the people that live in the town of La Pedroza and the bordering towns, in the District of San José. They are talking about the construction of a highway between the two towns, and intending to impose a charge of 500,000 pesos (about USD $138) on the people here to pay the cost of the construction work. They say that they (the paramilitaries) will put up the rest of the money needed, because, according to them, they have everything arranged with the local authorities. In the same way, they announced that in the town of La Esperanza, they are also going ahead with the construction of the road from Nuevo Antioquia that they have been building, without any government authority doing anything to stop them. On a number of occasions, our Community has complained about this very illegal and fraudulent territorial planning, totally under the control of the paramilitaries, and at the service of their interests and of their dangerous and antisocial proposals for the distribution and use of the land, but the municipal, provincial and national authorities continue to overlook it, reiterating in that manner their complicity with the criminals.
We found out that in the last few days of March 2021, there has been a strong paramilitary presence between the site known as Latifundio and El Porvenir, part of the District of San José. Our Peace Community has also found out about the offers that the paramilitary WILFER HIGUITA is making to people that live in the town of La Unión so that they will work with the paramilitaries and not cooperate with the Peace Community.
On Monday, March 22, 2021, on the eve of our 24th anniversary, our Community had several virtual conferences with many members of our sister communities in different countries of the world, and with friends that have supported our way of life, and participated in the protection of the land as an important focus for the permanence and survival of our Community. In the same way, we let the country and the world know the importance of having food sovereignty for the subsistence of our families; that’s why we exhibited some articles from the “canasta familiar” (a legal term used in Colombia to identify a basic household budget) that we produce here in our community so that families have the food they need. It’s a way of emphasizing the importance of being able to count on collective land areas for growing our food. That day numerous photographs about the importance of corn for our Community and the region were posted on social media. This seed is one of the most important in the food chain, and in spite of that, it has been devalued so much that the seed is going to be lost; that’s why we thought about it and sent out a call for help. The native seeds are almost extinguished because the companies have interposed the genetically modified seeds. In the afternoon we produced a community share about all of the products made from corn.
On Tuesday, March 23, 2021, our Peace Community celebrated the 24th Anniversary of its foundation on March 23, 1997. We made a pilgrimage on the highway that leads from Apartadó to the District of San José, in solidarity and in memory of the victims that have been killed in these 24 years of community. We had many minutes of silence in respect and memory of every one of those people who died in the defense or the land.
Those 24 years of life have led us once again to reaffirming our principles and not being silent about the terror of the government itself and of the paramilitaries. One more year, and nothing has changed in the legal system; impunity continues to rule in this area. We march because we refuse to submit to the paramilitaries, to the Armed Forces, and to the companies that have interests in exploitation of the land for the benefit of foreign capitalists and to the detriment of the land, radically destroying the environment.
We celebrate this anniversary in the midst of paramilitary oppression because we have been resistant and neutral in the war. It’s 24 years of struggle for life and for the defense of the land.
As we celebrate one more year of existence for the Peace Community, we cannot fail to send a message of gratitude for your moral and fraternal support. Words fall short before so much generosity and solidarity that we receive every day from people and communities in different places in the world. That sustains us with its moral and unquenchable force.
We dedicate these years of memory and community to all of our comrades and brothers and sisters who are no longer with us physically, because murderous hands have destroyed them.
We also dedicate these years of community to all those people, comrades, brothers and sisters, organizations, and sister communities that have read, listened, seen us from a distance or have shared our spaces in life and memory. To all of them, a warm embrace. THE COMMUNITY RESISTS.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
March 26, 2021