Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
September 17, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Once more our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó finds it necessary to report to this country and to the world about the most recent events by which we have been victimized by the paramilitaries who continue to do whatever they wish in our region, without being disturbed by any competent authority, because they can count on their economic and political support. That’s what makes them strong enough to be able to force the campesinos to submit to their projects.
Our region seems to be more and more coveted by all kinds of forces, economic as well as political, military, and paramilitary. What characterizes all of them is that they abuse the people who live here, squeezing them in order to take out everything they can for the benefit of their interests.
There are the mining companies that want to exploit the minerals in the Serranía de Abibe. To do that, they can count on the help of the paramilitaries to use force to take over the land for those companies. On the other side are all of the phony development projects of the government, designed to deceive the campesino. At another extreme you find the political chicanery or bogus policies they use to embroil the citizens with phony projects of road improvements and opening of highways, as a method of winning seats in Congress. Finally, there is the power of the weapons, used by military and paramilitaries to take charge of forcing submission by fear and threats to the civilian population.
In recent months Sr. César Jaramillo, who is on the board of directors of FEDECACAO (cacao producers federation), SAMA, and is part of the Mayor’s Office in Apartadó, has been leading, along with some of the Presidents of the Community Action Boards, the execution of a plan he calls: “No More Peace Community”.
The first step was to call together the people that live in and around the town (vereda) of La Esperanza, in order to sign defamatory papers intended to get the Attorney General’s Office to charge the Peace Community with crimes. Later he began to make phone calls to the people who didn’t attend the meetings and didn’t sign the papers, in order to make them do it.
Some organizations and some people don’t agree with what this fellow is doing, and they have filed complaints against him for defaming their organizations. We know that his purpose is to be able to obtain a good quantity of people he can use to exterminate anyone who interferes with his interests. All of this redounds to the advantage of the Colombian Army’s 17th Brigade, which for all these years has been using every method of getting rid of us and our way of life.
First they coordinated with the most powerful paramilitary blocs in Urabá, and perpetrated numerous massacres, including the one on February 21, 2005. Later they tried to disparage our Community by falsely accusing us of illegal commercial machinations. Commanders like Colonel Germán Rojas Díaz pitched various slanders against members of our Community, treating us like guerrillas belonging to the different FARC fronts that had been in this area, and finally, he made use of miserably supported civil rights actions against us. It was his perverse intention to keep us from complaining about his atrocities; he was trying to shut us up so that we couldn’t reveal his complicity with the paramilitary groups that have existed ever since the Brigade was created.
So in our region, there is an atmosphere corrupted by devious strategies against our Peace Community. Now Sr. César Jaramillo, using audios, is manipulating a supposed plan for conciliation among the community boards, organizations, and people that have not wanted to share in his ideas. According to him, it’s to smooth over the bitterness, and unite efforts to solve the internal problems in the towns (veredas).
As a Peace Community, we know that what he’s looking for is a way to have the whole population on his side for two things: First, to carry out his assigned task of exterminating our Community, and second, to have enough votes and signatures to rig the political seats and the victims’ representation in the Congress.
To the Community Action Boards in all of the towns in San José de Apartadó, we tell you from our hearts as a Peace Community: All of you, members of your communities, are capable of going forward autonomously in your organizational procedures in your towns; you don’t have to submit to the guidance of people who are only trying to use the population for their unspeakable purposes. Let’s all understand that the paramilitaries and their political interests are what have ruined our region. Rejecting them must be the duty of all of us as campesino communities. We long for an area where the campesinos can organize and seek the development of their communitarian projects, far away from people who are pursuing their own interests above everybody else.
The roads continue to be an important means for allowing evil to penetrate into our community places. We’ve heard that there will be a meeting in the town of Playa Larga, where it’s announced that the Governor’s Office and officials from the administration in Apartadó will take part. It’s said the goal is to legalize the roads that for more than ten years have been promoted illegally by the Colombian Army’s 17th Brigade and the paramilitaries.
The events that we report today are the following:
On Wednesday, August 25, 2021, our Peace Community learned that a series of audios in which Sr. César Jaramillo and several Presidents and members of the Community Action Boards in San José de Apartadó call all of the other boards together, including people that don’t agree with the plans of Sr. César Jaramillo, to meet and reconcile, and evidently to submit to the logic that that man is bringing to our area. In the audios, you can hear clearly that he’s inviting the civilian population to “demobilize”, as if it were an armed group; that is an obvious slander by some of the town leaders against the campesinos.
On Sunday, August 29, 2021, during the day, we received reports about the party that was held last July 17 and 18 in the town of La Unión, coordinated by the Army’s 17th Brigade, César Jaramillo, and the Community Board itself in the town of La Unión. There was a very high amount of liquor consumed, for which Sr. César Jaramillo, a member of the National Board of FEDECACAO, furnished part of the money, and the rest was furnished by the paramilitary Wilmar de Jesús Úsuga, alias “El Mexicano”, who was killed by the Army in Cauca Province last July 25, 2021.
On Wednesday, September 1, 2021, during the day, friends of ours told us about the details of the strategy that’s being planned by some Community Action Board Presidents, allied with Sr. César Jaramillo, to defame our Peace Community to the prosecutors in the Attorney General’s Office. According to that, they are giving them reports they have made up about us, to the effect that there are connections between our Peace Community with the now-defunct FARC-EP. They have been trying to do that for 25 years, using the nastiest methods of blackmail, bribery, torture, and criminal uses of people that were arrested unjustly and illegally as victims of frame-ups. All of this was promoted by ex-President Uribe and his minions. One of the most productive authors of slanders, frame-ups, and blackmail against our Peace Community was Colonel Néstor Iván Duque López, whose criminal activities have been successfully complained of in several international tribunals. Many of those files, with all of their tricks and legal and ethical corruption, have been brought to light now. Their authors have been shamed publicly, and many of those who lent themselves to the frame-ups have confessed under the pressure of Statute 975, or by the JEP, and they are profoundly repentant.
With all of that, a lot of people have heard Sr. César Jaramillo express his desperate desires that the leaders of our Peace Community should “rot in jail”. He longs for the frame-ups of the past, and would like to see them come back. His closeness to the 17th Brigade, the premises where they plotted so many crimes in the past, which were seeking the same objective, the destruction of our Peace Community, perhaps makes him confident that it’s possible to repeat all that.
On Friday, September 3, 2021, a group of 12 paramilitaries carrying long guns and military uniforms was seen between the towns of Arenas Altas and Arenas Bajas in San José de Apartadó. They’re still there and they aren’t being disturbed by anybody.
On that same Friday, September 3, 2021, several paramilitaries were seen in the town of La Resbalosa in San José de Apartadó. One of them was carrying four radios for communication.
On Saturday, September 4, 2021, during the day, we learned that the paramilitaries are buying land in the area through third parties, or undisclosed principals, the so-called “straw men”. According to our sources, they have already bought a number of farms in the towns of Mulatos, Arenas, Playa Larga, and La Cristalina. The Apartadó Mayor’s Office itself, several years ago, bought several farms in the towns of La Unión, Buenos Aires, La Linda, the populated center of San José, and La Cristalina, as well as others. Why are they buying all of those farms? Nobody is allowed to work up there.
On Wednesday, September 8, 2021, in the morning, Sr. César Jaramillo, on Antena Sterio radio in Apartadó, claimed that our Community and other civil organizations in the area are placing him at high risk by publishing statements opposing him. He claimed that if anything happens to him it will be the responsibility of the Peace Community. He’s claiming that he has two very great enemies in the area; one is our Peace Community and the other is the Campesino Association of San José de Apartadó, ACASA. Supposedly the Attorney General’s Office has assigned him to report to them every day. In that radio interview, he claimed that he is very vulnerable to criminals, by whom he means our Community, and other organizations that have complained about his detrimental activities in this area, and he says that we are “criminals”. Our Community has never wished to do harm to him or to anyone, and if we have spoken publicly about him, it has been in defense of our integrity and our rights, because that man has used every means in his effort to destroy our Community, and we have made that known publicly in recent months, using social media.
On Tuesday, September 14, 2021, during the day, we learned that the Association of Community Action Boards, ASOCOMUNAL, in San José de Apartadó had sent a letter, supposedly inviting us to meetings in some of the towns, including Playa Larga. The reasons are to talk over things like the roads, for one thing. Our Community has frequently stated our objections to this kind of illegal project promoted by the Army’s 17th Brigade itself, as well as by public officials in Apartadó.
According to what we are feeling in the atmosphere here, something really bad against our Peace Community is being planned. We are very worried about it, because we have felt a lot of reports and discontent from a lot of people that are commenting about how they are calling together everybody we know, wanting them to help to exterminate and destroy our way of life. Many others oppose that extermination strategy, believing it to be wrong.
For the Armed Forces, public officials, and the paramilitaries of Urabá, who are intrusive here, we are public enemy number one, and they have been talking about that for years. We know that as long as we don’t stop making a public record about the barbarities they are committing against the civilian population in our area, we will always be a nuisance for those that are trying to divide the population and impose their murderous logic in favor of the powerful.
We now make clear that it’s not our responsibility as a Peace Community if something happens to any public official, and much less to the humble people who live in our region. Our Community is a PEACE COMMUNITY, and if we have suffered so much persecution, it has simply been because we refuse to participate in armed conflict, and we refuse to live together with any actor that uses weapons or supports their murderous logic. WE ARE VICTIMS, NEVER VICTIMIZERS. That’s why we formed our Community 25 years ago, internalizing the spirituality of Peace and Life, and expanding our distance from every strategy of killing and violence. The government itself, both local and national, has been the most responsible for all of the actions of violence and killing that have take place in our surroundings. And the government has been deaf and blind to all of our clamor that it put an end to the violence. The only thing we have done as a civilian population is, through public communications, to demand that they protect the lives and respect the property of the campesinos here. That’s why we will never stop telling the world about everything that goes on here, and how little the Colombian government cares about this situation.
We have nothing but thanksgiving for all of the encouraging voices that we receive every day, from this country and from the world, as gestures of solidarity and moral power that we have been able to rely on for so long.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
September 17, 2017