Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, October 18, 2021

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Yesterday during the night, paramilitaries tried to kill a young man of San José de Apartadó. You could hear several shots that sounded as if they came from a long gun. It happened in the place known as “La Invasión” (The Invasion). The Police and the Army there continue to be deaf and blind.

Once again our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó finds it necessary to make a record before this country and the world about the most recent events by which we have been victimized by the paramilitaries. They continue to do whatever they want in our region, without any competent authority interfering with them, because these are counting on their economic and political support. That’s what makes them strong enough to subject the campesinos to their schemes.

Our region is feeling great pain and frustration, because now we don’t know how to go forward, having to face a wall of death that doesn’t allow us to live on our lands in dignity and liberty. Now the paramilitaries, as they have been doing since the beginning of 2017, are making the civilian population get together with them and, in order to strike terror at those meetings, groups of them wear camouflage uniforms and carry long guns. That’s how they believe the civilian population will obey their orders and directives.

Alias “CHRISTIAN” and alias “FRANCO”, well-known paramilitary politicians, right now are forcing the people that live here to attend meetings, and nobody does anything to stop them. Whoever doesn’t participate is forced to pay a big fine or to place themselves at high risk if they don’t agree to take part in those gatherings.

The saddest thing is seeing how the politicians’ economic interests are only trying to enrich themselves at the expense of the civilian population, while the paramilitaries scheme policies seeking their extermination. The politicians, business owners, Armed Forces, and paramilitaries have converted San José de Apartadó into a scene of bondage and dictatorship, since now they are all living in this region and do not harm each other, but rather the campesinos who must submit to their stranglehold suffer the  damage. One hears that there is humanitarian land mine removal being done in some of the towns (veredas), and to get that done, allegedly, the No. 6 Demining Battalion has to place some relays or control towers for their VHF communication radios, among other things. We don’t understand whom they are trying to benefit with this, as it is clear that it doesn’t benefit the civilian population; it just reinforces the armed control in this area.

The events of which we make a record are the following:

On Monday, September 20, 2021, during the day, and along with a heavy consumption of liquor in a public area, the paramilitary known as alias “Pollo” (Chicken) was seen in the town of La Union.

On Tuesday, September 21, 2021, during the night, well-known paramilitaries who control the urban part of San José de Apartado and the towns in the district tried to kill a young man in the urban part of San José. You could hear a number of shots that sounded like they came from a long gun. It happened in the place known as La Invasión. On that day the Police and Army units in charge of public order in the urban center were acting as if nothing had happened, as they seemed deaf and blind to the event. That confirms once again the complicity and unified actions between the Armed Forces and the paramilitaries around here.

On Thursday, September 23, 2021, at 1:00 p.m. a paramilitary “punto” or informant was seem at the place known as La Pedrona, in the town of Mulatos Cabecera. He was carrying two communication radios.

On Sunday, September 26, 2021, there was a party organized by Sr. CÉSAR JARAMILLO, an officer of FEDECACAO and an assistant in the Mayor’s Office. He works with the Community Action Boards in the urban part of San José de Apartadó. They invited the towns in the district to the party and an ambulance was allegedly delivered to the district there, to be used for emergencies when sick people have to be taken to medical services in Apartadó. His swindles are endless, as it appears that Colonel Bastidas obtained the ambulance to serve the No. 6 Demining Battalion, and it will only be in San José until the day when the humanitarian demining is complete.

On Tuesday, September 28, 2021, during the afternoon, the paramilitaries that control the region used threats to force all the civilian population in the town of La Cristalina to attend a meeting. There, according to our information, alias “CRISTIAN” and an older person named “FRANCO”, who seemed to be in command and were with more than 20 men dressed in camouflage and carrying long guns, forced the campesinos to attend the meeting so they could impose new orders on the people.

On that same Tuesday, September 28, 2021, we learned of an audio where Sr. CÉSAR JARAMILLO lashed out with serious libels against a person that is close to this region, and also against our Peace Community. In the audio, aimed at the Community Action Boards, he tells them that the person is a “criminal” because he “defends criminals,” meaning that he defends our Peace Community, made up of  “criminals”, according to him.

On Wednesday, September 29, 2021, we heard about some audios where officials of the Humanitarian Demining project for San José de Apartadó were announcing that they would be putting up some communication towers in this area for the VHF communication radios. According to reports from people that live around here, the towers will be placed in the town of Alto Bonito and another one in the town of La Hoz. It’s worrisome that they are planning to put relays for communication radios when we don’t know what the relation is between that equipment and the plan to demine some of the towns. What’s clear is that the ones using communication radios are the Police, the Army, and the paramilitaries, and this will allow them to carry high frequency radios around in this area. The strategy of control doesn’t stop in this region. They are looking for a thousand ways to control the whole lives of the people, so as not to allow them to have their own way of thinking, to organize, to live, to think about their future. That all comes from the paramilitary mold, where they try to impose their will by blood and fire, stigmatizing anybody that doesn’t think as they do, or who hinders the projects of exploitation and oppression that they’re trying to impose.

On Thursday, September 20, 2021, during the morning, the same paramilitaries that made the campesinos attend a meeting last Tuesday, September 28 in La Cristalina, called a meeting, this time in the town of La Linda. Here they called together not just all the people that live in the town, but also everybody from the urban part of San José de Apartadó. According to reports, they were putting out the new rules that the whole civilian population has to obey, according to the meeting carried out by alias “FRANCO” and alias “CRISTIAN”. That person has already, on another occasion, gathered together all of the civilian population in other towns and even had a meeting with the people that live in San José in the place known as La Invasión, right in the midst of the Police bunker and the military base. It was ordered that the urban part of San José would have to put together one single Community Action Board and not keep on, as they are doing now, having a separate one for “Invasión”. They told the people that there will continue to be one microtrafficking “olla” or “pot”[1] open to the public for the people of San José, and that they will place high fines on everybody that doesn’t accept being part of the plans that they are setting up for the region, including for not taking part in the obligatory meetings that the paramilitaries impose on the campesinos, and that anybody that doesn’t participate in those meetings will be forced to suffer serious consequences.

On Sunday, October 3, 2021, during the morning, a pistol shot was heard in the settlement of La Unión.

On Thursday, October 7, 2021, the civilians living in the urban part of San José were forced to work communally for the paramilitaries, following orders given in the last two meetings on Tuesday the 28th and Thursday the 30th of September in the towns of La Linda and La Cristalina. According to reports, those in charge of supervising the forced work were alias “MARLENY” and alias “WAFER”, along with others. It appears that everybody above the age of 12 had to take part in the work and the refreshments; even all of the students at the Bartolomé Cataño School were working on the project. Undoubtedly the paramilitaries are trying to force everybody that lives in the region to be subjected to the work parties controlled by the paramilitary forces, and if any person doesn’t take part they will have to pay heavy fines. At the same time they gave an order that in the district of San José they will put together just one Community Action Board, which cannot be divided as they are now. They are announcing that the paramilitaries will be carrying out more meetings with the civilian population, and that everyone is required to participate. It looks as if some people didn’t attend, and that has annoyed the paramilitaries, so they are making threats against the ones that don’t want to take part.

On Saturday, October 16, 2021, during the day, our Peace Community was informed that the soldiers that are camped on the football field in the town of La Unión had entered the home of a member of our Peace Community illegally, and had used it as his lodging or hotel, as he was there all of the time, taking advantage of the fact that the owner was not at home. According to the complaint, the soldiers spent several days encroaching there, supposedly because they were going to start working on Humanitarian Demining in that town, and they made use of empty houses and trespassed on people’s property.

How long is the government going to allow the paramilitaries to be the ones that are governing and have the say-so as to what you’re allowed to do in San José de Apartadó? The local government is responsible, and so is the national government, for everything that’s going on in this area. Our Community has been denouncing these aberrations for 24 years without being heard, in spite of the fact that the Constitution requires the President to guarantee fundamental human rights. They have never cared to listen to us. If anything happens to a person that lives here it will be his responsibility. How is it possible that in an area with so much military and police presence, we are flooded with paramilitaries that are characterized by a close and coordinated relationship with the Armed Forces, so that their very name tells the story, that they are the ones that govern us in fact? We wonder, what has really been done to dismantle the paramilitaries in this area? On the contrary, the order from the paramilitaries is to maintain the “ollas” for microtrafficking and to maintain the forced payments of “taxes” in San José, and the Police and the military themselves make use of the drugs that are available for their consumption. You wonder, where are all of those politicians that are trying to serve their own interests at the expense of the civilian population of San José? Whey aren’t they denouncing this stranglehold, or is it that they are serving them?

As a Peace Community, we will not stop making reports of all of this barbarity that is being committed against our Community and against the other people that live in our region. We know that nobody in the region is going to file a complaint, because of the fear they are feeling under the paramilitary oppression. We also know the risk we run when we make complaints about this deadly phenomenon, but nevertheless, we will keep on going with our way of life. There’s no more to say, except to thank all of the encouraging voices that we hear every day, from this country and from the world, as gestures of solidarity and moral strength that we have been able to count on for all of this time.

Peace Community of San José de Apartadó

October 18, 2021

[1] An “olla” or “pot” is a small or not so small drug trafficking operation that controls a neighborhood or specific area. See “The ‘ollas’, their operation and the increase in homicides in Bogotá”. By Nadia A. Guío Pérez, FIP (Ideas for Peace) Foundation, March 16, 2015.

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