Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
May 17, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Peace Community’s Twitter message:
Thank you friends all over the world that are accompanying us. Your letters and your support for demanding our freedom of expression from the Court, and living in our territory is very important to us. @CConstitucional. We, the civilian population, are the victims.
Once more our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, as many times before, sees a duty to make a record before the country and the world about the most recent events in which we have been victimized by an exterminating entity that does not rest in its purpose to destroy our way of life.
We find ourselves in a time of social mobilizations all over the country and in other parts of the world. The source of all of this is the zeal of the powerful to eliminate or marginalize its victims more and more. We are confronted by governments acting against their own citizens, without guaranteeing one single right that is basic to the protest. It’s clear that they don’t care about people’s lives; reforms and strategies of “security” are directed to causing more hunger, exclusion, and the destruction of those who get in the way of the interests of the élites.
While in the city, people are calling for a life of dignity, in the countryside, paramilitaries never stop controlling the civilian population, silencing them and instilling fear with weapons supported by the government, and using pamphlets continuously to threaten those who won’t submit to their orders. In our area, the paramilitaries are trying to coopt more and more people into their goal of destroying our Peace Community. They help public officials to prepare civil rights actions to make their fight to exterminate us look legal. The Police and the Army are far from protecting the vulnerable population; their strategy of total tolerance of the paramilitaries and their shady partners is to get far away tactically from the places where the paramilitaries are planning to act, and thus be able to respond with their formula tweet: “we don’t have any troops in that area.” We don’t understand why we have agencies of protection that don’t protect, and in addition tolerate and use “pots” for consumption of drugs.
The decisions in civil rights actions continue to be in favor of the victimizers, while they try to muzzle the victims and keep them from doing the most basic thing: make known their suffering to the society and to the world. The right to expression, to denounce, and to protest are being eliminated with bullets in Colombia: the number of dead and wounded in the protests is staggering, and the elimination of social leaders continues in a constant rhythm, an incentive for anonymity and impunity.
The most recent events that affect us are the following:
On Tuesday, May 4, 2021, according to some people that live in the area, Sr. CÉSAR JARAMILLO, after the meeting on May 1 in the town (vereda) of La Esperanza, where they called the Community Action Boards together to make them sign an agreement to exterminate our Peace Community, began calling the Presidents of Boards that did not attend the meeting, in order to make them sign the document calling for our extermination.
On Thursday, May 6, 2021, some people in the area told us that there is pressure by the paramilitaries to buy land located in strategic places, such as the mountain ridges where they want to locate their centers of operations. There have already been threats against several people that have not wanted to sell their property.
On Friday, May 7, 2021, during the day, in the town of Arenas Altas, some people who aren’t part of our Peace Community destroyed our signboards, which are the emblems of our way of life.
On Saturday, May 8, 2021, in the day time, our Peace Community was informed that a group of people from the town (vereda) of La Esperanza was planning to ask CORPOURABA to come to our private property there, and they would measure 30 meters of river bank to begin construction of a highway without our consent.
On Sunday, May 9, 2021, we were informed that the paramilitary that belongs to the Community Board in La Unión, ADOLFO GUZMÁN, had made threats against a member of our Community who lives in the town of La Unión.
On Tuesday, May 11, 2021, in early morning hours in the urban part of San José and its surroundings, the paramilitaries, who act with complete freedom in our region, left pamphlets and graffiti on the walls of houses, using the initials (AGC present here).
On Wednesday, May 12, 2021, during the day, three well-known paramilitaries, carrying long guns, entered the settlement in the town of La Unión and barged into the home of one of the residents.
On Thursday, May 13, 2021, we received calls and messages from many people that were alarmed when they found out that the Constitutional Court, in a 5-4 decision, had decided to affirm the order of Decision 342/20, in favor of the Army’s 17th Brigade in its civil rights action against our Peace Community. The Court held that our reports offended its good name and ought not to be permitted as long as the actions reported had not been the subject of court decisions. Even though we still don’t know the text of the decision and the Court has not even announced it with a press release, the news does reveal a profound collapse of the Rule of Law. Our Community filed a motion to vacate the decision and we supported the motion with very abundant international and national jurisprudence, which manifestly gives precedence to the right of free expression as an essential element of any democracy. This jurisprudence also prohibits the interpretation of the right to “good name” as an attachment to charges or advantages or requirements. lo GOOD NAME must be construed as an essential of GOOD BEHAVIOR, which leads to earning esteem and respect. But in the case of the 17th Brigade there exist criminal convictions by national and international tribunals and even the Supreme Court of Justice in Colombia. Because of that, the Court’s decision, in a moment of such government violence and legal chaos, only adds one more drop to the thousands of arguments that are circulating these days about the illegitimacy of this government and the total collapse of the Rule of Law.
On Friday, May 14, 2021, paramilitaries that control our area prohibited residents of the town of Arenas Bajas from breaking ground to plant subsistence crops on their farms that they inherited from their ancestors.
On Saturday, May 15, 2021, in the day time, we learned that in the town of La Unión they had organized a meeting of the Community Action Board to take down, without our permission, the wire netting that protects the monument to Memory that our Community built in memory of the victims of the massacre committed by soldiers and paramilitaries on July 8, 2000. Apparently they plan to build a playground there, approved by the Apartadó Mayor’s Office. The president of the Board himself said that the decision has already been made.
Our Peace Community has defended life for more than 24 years. We emphatically refuse to accept the destruction of our historical memory and at the same time, we make clear to the local and national government that we do not intend to keep silent about the barbarity that is being committed against our way of life and the integrity of all of the civilian population by paramilitary organizations, the Armed Forces, and other government agencies that, with shadowy alliances, are trying to destroy decent life in our region.
In these times in which the country is out in the streets in defense of the people’s rights, caused by the imposition of “reforms” that oppress the Colombian people and, rather, benefit the pockets of government officials themselves, and where the violent deaths of the dissatisfied people are multiplying day after day. The institutions are living enclosed in a repressive government model that is repudiated more and more by the great majority of the people.
Now more than ever, we thank the different people and communities that, from this country and the world, have supported us on this long and difficult path, especially in their support in insisting that the Constitutional Court open its eyes to understand that the decision we challenged violated very essential and basic principles of the Rule of Law and of a democracy, as has been maintained by the Inter-American Court for Human Rights, United Nations officials and experts, eminent legal associations in various countries, as well as so many people that have judged that the most basic common sense was what ought to predominate. Even though the results were not what we hoped for, we believe that we have gained dignity in the face of a Court that doesn’t care about the lives of campesinos, and that let itself be coopted by interests, and the nonexistent “good name” of a military brigade that has only accumulated reasons for having a bad name, given its enormous criminal trajectory of impunity They want the camouflage of a “good name”, contrary to everything that’s ethical, against all reason, and against the most basic common sense.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
May 17, 2021