Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, March 12, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
In spite of the uproar that has lasted for more than two decades, our Peace Community has raised its supplications in every corner of this country and the world, in search of solidarity and humanity. It has demanded that successive governments stop the barbarism and dismantle the plan of extermination to which we have constantly been subjected. But to date, no effective measure to put an end to the suffering we have endured, over a lot of years now, has been implemented. While we are undergoing this horror, we here are continuing to cling to the love that we have for life.
Once again our Peace Community sees a moral and ethical obligation to make a report to this country and to the world, so that some day they can judge the attacks perpetrated by the paramilitaries, the Colombian Army’s criminal branch, on the civilian population here in our social and geographical surroundings. We now report the following events:
On Tuesday, February 2, 2021, our Peace Community learned about an attempted sexual abuse a few days ago, against two girls who are between 11 and 13 years old, by the well-known paramilitary, alias “Samuel”. It was in the town (vereda) of La Unión in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó. The paramilitary offered them money if they would submit. They are doing the same thing to encourage other children to allow the sexual abuse.
At the beginning of the month of February 2021, our Peace Community learned of death threats made by the paramilitaries against a young man who lives in this area, who had also been in charge of selling and marketing drugs for the paramilitaries in the urban part of San José. The Army and Police authorities, apparently working with the paramilitaries, have been using the civilian population, especially the young people, to involve them in this evil and dirty game and later on, justify their deaths or their displacements in the region. Fortunately the young man’s family protected him in time and transferred him to another place away from this area, thus being able to save his life.
On Saturday, February 6, 2021, our Peace Community learned from a resident of the area that “the previous commander of the Police station in San José had a very close relationship with the paramilitaries, the subject being drugs.” And that “the new commander arrived, came in, and followed along, on the exact same line as the previous one, so it looks as if it’s already all worked out.” He also said, “ during the night, when it’s getting dark, one of the Police goes down in civilian clothes and gets the pots (dispensers for the drugs) to buy the drugs and comes back and goes up to the station.” He also said that “the Police don’t get mixed up in any problems; they’ve left all of that to the paramilitaries to control public order, and you can’t tell anybody about this, you have to keep quiet, because if you say anything to anybody, and the person is with the Police or the paramilitaries, you will be having some problems.”
On that same Saturday, February 6, 2021, once again a resident of the area came up to our Peace Community to tell us that, in the urban part of San José de Apartadó, there’s a very serious and deplorable situation where they allow children as young as ten years old to buy drugs (hallucinogens) to consume during the nighttime, without anybody doing absolutely anything to avoid it, in spite of the fact that there is a military base and a National Police bunker in San José de Apartadó.
On Tuesday, February 9, 2021, in the afternoon, in the towns (veredas) of La Unión, Buenos Aires, and El Cuchillo, in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó, paramilitaries that live in those towns called a meeting for the next day (Wednesday, February 10, 2021) at the place known as Las Claras, in the same District, with the warning that whoever fails to attend will bear the consequences.
On Wednesday, February 10, 2021, at the place called Las Claras there were paramilitaries there from very early, and they were carrying handguns and dressed in civilian clothes. At around 1:00 p.m., in the school there in Las Claras, which is also located a few minutes from the urban part of San José, where there is a military base and a bunker of the National Police, there was a meeting of the paramilitaries commanded by alias “Cristian”. He had been a militant of the FARC-EP for more than 20 years, according to alias “Cristian” himself. At that meeting, the paramilitaries imposed regulations and orders that are entirely contrary to the customs and practices of the campesinos in the region. Some had to do with agricultural production and some with social manners, limiting the campesinos’ rights to use their property or land that they have farmed for many years, and had been farmed by their grandparents and their ancestors. In the same way, they imposed “vacunas” (illegal and extortionate taxes) on cutting and selling wood and total prohibition of hunting and fishing without direct authorization by the paramilitaries.
In that meeting they also argued energetically against the complaints that our Peace Community is making publicly. Alias “Cristian” insisted that they have people everywhere, and that they have a watch on all of the civilian population. Either you submit to the rules and regulations, he said, or you will have to get out. The warning for the young people and the teenagers is that every boy older than 12 has to take part in the group, or he will be fined, or won’t be allowed to stay in the town. He also said that they aren’t going to permit the guerrillas to take over the territory again. They will fight that ruthlessly and if anyone has to die, let them die, because this region represents great economic interests. Faced with those threats, the civilian population is very scared, and there is a lot of worry about the warnings and threats that the paramilitaries continue to make.
On Thursday, February 11, 2021, in the town (vereda) of Bellavista, which is also part of the District (corregimiento) of San José, there was a meeting with the civilian population of campesinos. The paramilitaries here are acting freely throughout these regions. The subjects covered were the same as the ones covered at Las Claras the day before, Wednesday, February 10, 2021.
Between February 16 and February 20, 2021, the paramilitaries were circulating on social media in the District (corregimiento) of San José, hurling death threats and exhibiting a list of persons to be killed.
We have learned that there have also been meetings in other towns in the District of San José where the paramilitaries impose the economic and social orders they announced on the previous days. They roam freely and openly throughout the territory of the District of San José de Apartadó.
On Friday, February 26, 2021, in the town of El Porvenir in the District of San José de Apartadó, you could see a strong presence of a group of paramilitaries wearing camouflage uniforms and carrying long guns. The presence of this paramilitary group generates anxiety and intimidation in the civilian population, given that they are taking control and threatening the campesinos, imposing certain uses of the land and models of agricultural production on the parcels that are the subsistence for campesino families.
On Monday, March 8, 2021, our Peace Community announced to the country and to the world a NEW BREAKING OFF WITH THE PUBLIC DEFENDER’S OFFICE, because once again it has shown its radical detachment from the role assigned to it by the Constitution, with corrupt practices that are counter to its mission. This is because of the appointment of people to the positions of National Public Defender and Public Defender for the Region of Urabá. The first, Sr. Carlos Camargo, is an unwavering friend of President Duque, and the second is Sr. Augusto Rendón, the lawyer for the people who plundered land belonging to campesino and Afro-Colombian communities. He’s also a sworn enemy of the Victims and Land Restitution Statute. By these appointments the government is clearly choosing the oppressors, the plunderers, and the corrupt business owners, while at the same time, impeding what the Constitution and laws establish as the missions of the Public Defender’s Office.
It’s evident that they don’t care about the victims, but only have ambition for political power, and for the accumulation of economic power in the hands of the oppressor élites, in league with companies and political parties that are distinguished by their capacity for plunder, displacement, elimination of grassroots communities, and disregard for fundamental human rights. Everybody knows that those two personages come from a very dark past in this country, which makes them radically disqualified to be defenders of the victims, a role essential to the Public Defender’s Office. Our previous break-offs have been based on our sad experience of having to seek help from a Public Defender’s Office that guarantees us nothing and that, on the contrary, has done everything possible, sometimes with corrupt actions, sometimes with systematic omissions, just to guarantee the business owners and the corrupt politicians the full enjoyment of their capacity for plunder, for land theft, for forced displacement of entire communities, and for genocidal practices of extermination of communities.
The conspiracy between the Armed Forces and their paramilitary branch can do nothing but add crimes to crimes against the civilian population, practices that do not change and that show a brazen and shameless contempt and complicity of all of the agencies; it’s not worth the trouble to file complaints with the President, with any of the high Courts, even with the Public Defender’s Office, which has now been corrupted to its core. Nobody does anything; the government doesn’t make any relevant responses to international organizations that complain. The abandonment is absolute.
In spite of all that, our unquenchable and incorruptible convictions for the defense of our lives lead us to continue more firmly than ever, raising our voices to the four winds, insisting on our principles of life and work, and of civil and peaceful determination against our own tormentors. They will never be able to extinguish our voices. Our cries are going down in history and in humanity.
We won’t turn back and we will never renounce our memory of life and community.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
March 12, 2021