Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, May 6, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Once more our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, as on many other occasions, finds that we must make a record before the country and the world of the most recent events of which we have been made the victims, by an exterminator that does not rest from its goal of putting an end to our way of life.
In our most recent reports (April 23 and April 29 of this year) we have referred to a project that’s being promoted right now in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó, building roads for access to some of the towns (veredas). We have opposed having one of these roads pass over a piece of property owned by our Peace Community in the town of La Esperanza, and we have insisted that it does not seem correct that these roads are being built in violation of existing regulations. There has been no prior consultation with the communities; there are no environmental permits, and the roads are not included in any Land Use Plan. First and foremost, they are being planned to serve the interests of transnational companies that are exploiters of our natural resources and destroyers of our environment. Their management has been handed over to paramilitary organizations in the region, and they are using equipment and personnel from a military garrison (the 17th Brigade) that has inundated our whole region in blood and pain. Besides, they are charging illegal and extortionate “taxes” of all of the inhabitants, supposedly to finance the military vehicles. They are hiding all of these irregularities from the people here, and threatening anyone that wants to open their eyes and alert the Community Boards about the evident manipulation by corrupt officials and organizations that are obviously criminal.
Nevertheless, instead of reflecting and correcting the plan, those that are behind this illegitimate and illegal procedure, have reacted with new threats to destroy our Peace Community.
The following are the events that have occurred recently:
On Friday, April 30, 2021, during the afternoon, we first saw the text of a document entitled “A Message to our Institutions”, dated April 24, and supposedly prepared and signed by the Community Action Boards of the District to answer one of our most recent reports (last April 23). It claimed to be promoting sustainable development, which is flagrantly contradictory to the facts. They claim to have a monopoly of all of the spokespeople of the campesinos that live in this region, demanding that people listen only to the Community Boards as the only people who can speak for the population. Added to that is their policy of muzzling the victims, led by the 17th Brigade with its civil rights action of September 28, 2018 that tried to silence our Community. They wanted to stop us from denouncing anything to the public; they didn’t care that they were violating the most sacred principles of international law. They also insisted that here the Armed Forces combat the paramilitaries, which is at an enormous distance from the raw reality that we are experiencing, as our Community has proved with our daily register of their attacks, even giving the names of their commanders. They deny the presence of paramilitaries in the region, adopting the same denials as the highest levels of the government, so often criticized by the Constitutional Court itself, and by the entire international community. They hurl infamous slanders against our Peace Community. Some of them are based in an absolute ignorance of what we are; they think we are a company that hires workers and doesn’t pay them, that we invade properties, and that we grab the land of people who are displaced.
It’s a document, then, that’s based on high caliber lies, unforgiveable ignorance, denial of the most overwhelming evidence, and claiming a monopoly of public opinion, all of which is contrary to every principle of living together.. The document also includes an elegy of defensive and adulatory rhetoric in favor of Sr. CÉSAR JARAMILLO, an official of FEDECACAO. He is taking over the de facto leadership of the Community Boards and who, to top it all, turns out to be the author of the document, with the complicity of the Mayor of Apartadó.
On that same Friday, April 30, 2021, after reading the document we mentioned, we tried to find out its origin, and we went to the digital structure itself. There we found something unexpected: the letter or communication had originated in the Office of the Mayor of Apartadó. It had used for its base a previous version dated July 6, 2009, a report that is still part of the file in the defamation case. All the evidence, then, contained in this communication, was written in the installations of the Office of the Mayor of Apartadó, by officials that are not part of the Community Action Boards. As can be seen, the content of the document is in an outdated format from another letter that had been written there in the Mayor’s Office in the name of the Community Action Boards.
It looks as if what they did was update it with recent situations. It also looks as if the municipal government is trying to convert San José de Apartadó into a battlefield between factions of the civilian population. They’re not content with tolerating, maintaining, and protecting paramilitary organizations, which no one is lifting a finger to dismantle, but which rather are permitted to exercise absolute control in the towns and on the roads. Now they are trying to cause a confrontation between the Community Boards and the Peace Community, backed by libels, and encouraging hatred of the Peace Community by the Boards, and promising to exterminate it.
On Saturday, May 1, 2021, in the town of La Esperanza in the District of San José de Apartadó, toward noontime, nearly 24 Presidents of the Community Action Boards of the towns in San José de Apartadó got together. At the meeting, Sr. CÉSAR JARAMILLO and officials from the Mayor’s Office in Apartadó presented the document mentioned earlier and a kind of a CONTRACT that the delegates from the Boards were expected to sign, containing a commitment for the EXTERMINATION OF OUR PEACE COMMUNITY. The text, we concluded, was prepared by the Apartadó Mayor’s Office on April 26, 2021. While the document was being signed, Sr. CÉSAR JARAMILLO was taking photos of many of the signers. He later published the photos on his Facebook page and that produced indignation in some of the signers because of the fact that their faces and their action in signing the supposed “contract” were now in the public domain, and this could subject them to high risks in the environment of violence that they themselves had re-invigorated with intensity.
On that same Saturday, May 1, 2020, in early morning hours, the paramilitaries that control, threaten, recruit, extort, and murder in our region, left pamphlets in front of our settlement of San Josecito and in different places in the District of San José de Apartadó.
On Sunday, May 2, 2021, Sr. CÉSAR JARAMILLO, on his Facebook page, “Cesar Jaramillo”, posted a series of publications where he exposed photos of individuals, among them leaders of the Community Action Boards, and included phrases that incite violence, such as the following: “leaders of San José de Apartadó have made decisions about the attacks by the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó,”; “No more peace community”; “The battle continues to free us from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó”; “The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó will have to deal with the JAC of San José de Apartadó.”
This episode reminds us of December 20, 2017, when five armed paramilitaries tried to kill our legal representative and other members of our Internal Council, and later in the communications media, the Governor of Antioquia, Luis Pérez, and this Sr. César Jaramillo claimed that there were no paramilitaries and that the attackers were cacao producers or barbers from the Community itself.
On that same Sunday, May 2, 2021, the President of the Community Action Board in the town of La Unión posted on his Facebook page some statements in support of César Jaramillo. The paramilitary Wilfer Higuita from the town of La Unión and that same César Jaramillo, President of Fedecacao used that to attack our Peace Community and call us a bunch of SOB’s.
On Monday, May 3, 2021, around 3 p.m., while members of our Peace Community were going from San Josecito to La Esperanza, they could tell that at the place known as El Filo de las Nieves, two well-known paramilitaries, alias “Higuita” and alias “Richi”, were present. They were camouflaged in the woods so they could spy out where the members of the Community were going.
On that same Monday, May 3, 2021, around 5:40 p.m., at the sign our Community installed at the entrance to the property located in the town of La Esperanza, we could hear several blows with stones and sticks against it, while a number of unidentified individuals were shouting excitedly, trying to destroy our emblems.
On Wednesday, May 5, 2021, during the day, we learned that César Jaramillo had sent an audio message to gather all of the Presidents of the Community Action Boards in San José for a meeting next June 6, 2021, to create The Community Association of San José and assess how the communication and the lawsuit being promoted against the Peace Community were going. The audio message totally prohibits attendance at the meeting by anyone who is not a President. It also states that 31 Board Presidents have already signed in support of the communication and the lawsuit that they plan.
For our Peace Community, this new campaign of extermination is hardly a novelty. Not only the Army and all of the Armed Forces, but also the Mayors and the Governors have proposed to exterminate us. For many years the soldiers that go around in our towns were constantly saying, “should we charge them with crimes or should we just kill them ?”, which translates to a message of genocide: “You don’t belong in this country.” The book that collects the 1,462 crimes against humanity committed against our Peace Community up to the middle of 2018 (“In the Bowels of Genocide”), now on file in multiple international tribunals, recounts minutely the seven strategies of extermination that the Colombian government and its ruling classes have invented for our extermination. They still have not achieved that. Perhaps they will. Our decision is to resist and not surrender.
It’s well known that Sr. CÉSAR JARAMILLO is the President of the FEDECACAO Board, and now he has taken on the actual leadership of the Community Boards, but we don’t know the legal basis for that. He himself reveals that he works in close collaboration with officials of the Mayor’s Office in Apartadó, as evidenced by his posts on Facebook. In a previous statement for the record, we expressed our concern for the alliance that was sealed on last March 15 between the General José María Córdoba Military School and FEDECACAO, to aid the families that produce cacao. We have reported historically that our experience with the involvement of the military in matters of cacao have been fatal. That has led us to make clear that the presence of armed actors in matters that are civilian in character is disastrous. We cannot forget the horrendous interventions of the Army in our humble and precarious marketing of cacao:
On July 11, 2001, four attackers robbed a batch of cacao that our Community was sending to Medellin. They also took the pickup, and called our leaders to the site of the robbery to kill them. That proved the presence of soldiers from the 17th Brigade who had been working their shift at the checkpoint in the town of La Balsa.
On October 10, 2002, they made a second attack on another batch of cacao, and at other times, they attacked us and stole the money belonging to our Peace Community’s little business when we had withdrawn some money from the bank.
Later, in September of 2014, Coronel Germán Rojas Díaz, as Commander of the 17th Brigade, created and disseminated a video that was absolutely libelous. He constructed it with disgusting frame-ups, trying to accuse us of illegal exportation of cacao. His actions of inserting the Army into the marketing of cacao were neither honest nor legal, but rather terribly dirty. We are saddened to see that now the matters that ought to be dealt with by the Community Action Boards, through Sr. César Jaramillo, are involving FEDECACAO, the Army, and the Mayor’s Office. We expect that nothing of that will be transparent.
As a Peace Community, we return to making clear that our complaints have always been focused on showing proof of the way that the activities of the paramilitaries are being strengthened by businesses and government agencies; we don’t attack the honor or good name of the Boards; we’re not the enemies of the Boards. On the contrary, we have always hoped that every Board would be autonomous, that it would refuse any attempt at paramilitary oppression, that it would not allow the imposition of corrupt regulations by officials who don’t care about anything except looking good to their bosses.
It has caused us great sadness to see that these honorable campesinos who have suffered from this war just as we have, are now the ones that have signed a paper calling for the destruction of a system that has only fought for the survival of the civilian population in this area.
But we have to keep our eyes open; this isn’t the first time that letters have been signed against the civilian population. Remember that in August of 2017 when Sr. Vice President of the Republic, General Óscar Naranjo, visited the urban part of San José de Apartadó. He took the opportunity, together with Sr. César Jaramillo, to sign some documents for a supposed “development” that they were promoting in the District and that undoubtedly the members of the Boards signed, without knowing what was in it and later on the signatures were posted against those very same people.
For 24 years our Peace Community has tried to construct communitarian spaces with collective properties, obtained legally. We have never evaded the subject of land restitution, as claimed in the infamous communication offered as having been prepared by the Community Boards, and which in reality was prepared by people in the administration of the municipality, along with Sr. César Jaramillo. On the contrary, we are included legally in the proceeding to formalize our property, which is now the object of a suit by some former owners who, freely and without any pressure at all, sold us the rights. It’s there in the land restitution process and through legally proffered evidence that the issue will be settled.
We are sending this report in a context of true national tragedy. The protests that have been repressed are against discriminatory, unfair, oppressive and repressive policies of the current administration. They have broken out in an explosive manner and the government’s answer has been to wound and kill. The number of victims is enormous.
At the same time, we are thankful to all of our friends in solidarity in the world, for their support of our Community, which has been victimized for 24 years. We thank you immensely for your solidarity with our other Colombian brothers and sisters, victims of a truly fascist government, and who have suffered so many horrors because of their protest.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
May 6, 2021