MESSAGE FROM THE PEACE COMMUNITY OF SAN JOSÉ DE APARTADÓ
JULY 17, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
On the 8th, 10th, and 14th of July 2000, by means of papers filed with the President’s Office, the Vice President’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office, the Inspector General’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office, and with other high-ranking government agencies, such as intergovernmental and nongovernmental, national and international agencies, and the Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace, we reported that:
On July 8, 2000, the peaceful territory of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó was intensively militarized, not only on the road that leads from Apartadó to the urban part of San José, but also in several of the towns (veredas) where there are groups of people who are part of the Peace Community way of life.
Into one of these towns, the community of LA UNIÓN, where the people had returned months ago from the urban part of San José, at 3:00 p.m., 20 masked men entered, from a nearby site where military from the Colombian Army were camped. The masked men destroyed the community’s telephone, dragged the people out of their houses, and gathered them in the center of the town. They demanded to see the leaders, but the people answered that all of them were leaders. A nun explained to them that this was a neutral community, but they gave her a push and shoved her aside.
Later they selected six campesinos who were members of the Community and they killed them: RIGOBERTO GUZMÁN, ELODINO RIVERA, DIOFANOR DÍAZ CORREA, HUMBERTO SEPÚLVEDA, PEDRO ZAPATA, and JAIME GUZMÁN. While the slaughter was going on, a Colombian Army helicopter was hovering over the settlement.
On the next day, July 9, one of the paramilitaries who was recognized during the massacre, alias “Alfredo”, was seen with Colombian Army troops in the town (vereda) of La Linda in San José de Apartadó.
BETWEEN SABOTAGE AND PARTY-TIME, WE GET A LOOK AT WHAT THEY ARE REALLY TRYING TO DO
The bleeding-out of our region by the power of weapons has no limit, as on every day that passes there is another drop of torment in the lives of the campesinos. Now they are forbidding the campesinos to plant on their own plot of land. In no way does the government try to protect a decent life for the campesinos in our region and in the rest of the country, because of the paramilitaries and other numerous armed organizations that feed on the recycled war that paradoxically has succeeded the “peace agreements”. They control the country, doing whatever they want to, and, at the end of the day, it’s the campesinos who have to live with it day after day, in the different regions of the country.
How long are they going to be allowed to destroy the campesinos’ morale and confidence? We notice that the armed groups are looking for ways to make the civilian population feel so desperate that they will abandon their land. Their goal is to have the multinational mining companies do as they please with our natural resources, destroying the lives of the people in the territories.
This is a destructive paramilitary cancer that the government doesn’t want to eradicate from this and other regions, because it needs them; needs them to exercise control by doing things that the Armed Forces cannot do in broad daylight. They are closing off the dreams of the boys and girls that they are recruiting every day. The campesino sees himself more and more asphyxiated on his own plot of land, but that is something that the government cares nothing about.
The towns (veredas) in San José are paramilitary and Colombian Armed Forces corridors. You won’t see even the most minimal confrontation between the two forces, but the “native shrewdness” of our campesinos has figured out pretty clearly the supposedly hidden strategies of coordination and unity of action between the two. When the FARC were here, in contrast, the hostility was ferocious, but the armed action by the soldiers was primarily directed at the civilian population, which they called “false positives”, so as not to risk military integrity in real combat. In the current landscape of conflict, the paramilitaries can count on the total acquiescence of the government and the media, as a powerful means of control over the territory, and we know at whose service that control is intended.
The events that we are reporting here are the following:
On Sunday, July 4, 2021, we learned that the paramilitaries are buying houses or parcels in the towns in San José to build homes for their “PUNTOS” (informants) that they have placed in every town to control the civilian population in the area.
On that same Sunday, July 4, 2021, during the day, our Community was told that the paramilitaries are prohibiting the residents of the towns of Arenas Altas and Arenas Bajas from growing cacao on their own farms.
On Tuesday, July 6, 2021, during the day, several armed paramilitaries were seen crossing one of our private properties in the town of La Resbalosa, in San José.
On Wednesday, July 7, 2021, paramilitaries that control the area of Mulatos Medio, in San José de Apartadó, were asking questions very insistently of members of our Peace Community, trying to spy on them, especially when they work communally, and trying to get into the properties in our “Luis Eduardo Peace Village.”
On Thursday, July 8, 2021, our Peace Community commemorated the 21 years since the July 8 massacre perpetrated by paramilitaries, together with soldiers from the 17th Brigade, in the settlement at La Unión, while a Colombian Army helicopter hovered over the town, supervising the barbarity.
Members of our Community arrived very early at the place of the massacre to carry out the memorial ceremony and organize the memorial space that our community has built on the same site where our comrades were massacred. While we were there, we could verify once more the strong presence of paramilitaries, who on this day had invaded the settlement of La Unión, and we perceived their intensive consumption of liquor. They did everything they could to interfere with our memorial ceremony, turning the sound equipment to its highest volume in the cantinas where they were drinking, and turning on songs that alluded to paramilitarism.
We would never have imagined that that settlement, a sanctuary of resistance and defense of dignity for years, would reach such levels of human degradation. Nonetheless, in the midst of that vulgar and dirty sabotage, we performed the much-deserved honors to those who gave their lives with great courage and dignity in defense of our system of peace and justice.
On Wednesday, July 14, 2021, during the day, information reached the Peace Community that, in the towns of La Unión, Arenas, Las Nieves, El Porvenir, and others, a group of paramilitaries are patrolling. They are seen carrying long guns, and appear to be preparing an atmosphere for celebrating a “campesino fiesta” in their way. The 17th Brigade in coordination is preparing it with the official from FEDECACAO, an official from the Mayor’s Office in Apartadó, César Jaramillo, and the Community Action Board, with the party planned for the days of July 17 and 18.
For some time now they have been doing propaganda with the paramilitaries, urging people to take part in the party. They are inviting all the campesinos from the towns, and are announcing the presence of well-known national singers. The serious part is that they are inviting people to be concentrated in a place that’s so marked by the presence of paramilitaries, apparently without any government agency showing the slightest concern, and not caring about the reports of serious events that our Community has made public. They are even supplying the names or the aliases of the paramilitary leaders that have been the chief actors in the scandals.
The complicity of the 17th Brigade is worrisome. The Brigade seems to be the principal host of the party, along with representation by FEDECACAO, the Apartadó Mayor’s Office, and several Community Boards. Nobody cares about the strong presence of the paramilitaries that can be seen in broad daylight, even exhibiting their long guns in the now-desecrated settlement and its surroundings.
No matter how difficult the situation in our territory, our Community will not stop beseeching the country and the world for our lives and for the lives of the other people that every day have to endure the oppression of a paramilitary government in this area and in the rest of the country. We are strong, because we have known how to build community, and because our resistance is unique and unshakable. That’s why today once again we thank all of you for the efforts of individuals, organizations, communities, municipal offices, canton offices, among other collectives that, from many parts of the country and of the world, in spite of the isolation they endure because of the Covid-19, still have furnished us their moral force, and demanded our rights to the land and to our lives, in a country where murder and impunity reign. To all of those, our profound gratitude.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, July 17, 2021
 FEDECACAO is the cacao growers trade association.