Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, October 26, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Once again our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó sees a moral and ethical obligation to make a record of recent events. With all that our Community has been suffering, viciously encircled by the institutions that function in this region, we have been steadily substantiating that their national leadership not only supports them, but it gives them orders and plans their strategies. Recently, when a delegation from our Community had the opportunity to dialog with some sectors of the Diplomatic Corps, we were shaken by the fact that the horrors that we shared with them they seemed to know about in advance, and to have heard the same thing in many other victimized communities in this country.
Now we want to make a record of the following events:
Since the first weeks of the month of October 2021, we have been seeing a massive presence of men, dressed in civilian clothes and carrying pistols near our private property, the farm La Rincona. You could see them coming from the Municipality of Apartadó on motorcycles, parking there with pistols in their hands and, after they barged into our private property, they left later on.
On Saturday, October 23, 2021, at about 2:00 p.m., while a delegation from our Peace Community was traveling in a public bus that runs the Tunja-Barbosa route (Boyacá/Santander), at the point of Arcabuco Municipality in Boyacá, we noticed that the suitcase belonging to a member of our Internal Council had mysteriously disappeared from the bus’s baggage area. The suitcase contained documentation and information relevant to the Community, and regarding the work of human rights defense that our Community is promoting. The victim of this theft went to the Police Station in Arcabuco to make a complaint of the theft, as the bus driver had claimed that neither he nor the company is responsible for that kind of thing. At the station he was met by a Police Officer identified as AGENT BUITRAGO, who disrespectfully refused to accept the complaint. When the owner insisted on the importance of the stolen documents, he made a gesture of opening a file on the complaint, but the power was cut off immediately, only in that Police station, and the Officer used the power failure as an excuse to repeat his refusal to respond to the complaint. This was a new scheme of impunity that is combined subtly with the quantity of obstructions and abuses that we have been suffering as a community for several decades. Are these just occasional robberies, sporadic and unconnected? We doubt it, because this happened in the context of a deployment of obstructions that different government agencies are using against our communal system.
On Saturday, October 23, 2021, we received the news, widely publicized by all of the national and international information media, of the alleged capture of DAIRO ANTONIO ÚSUGA, better known as “OTONIEL”, alleged top commander of the paramilitary organization “Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia”, –AGC—by the Colombian Army. Since our Community is located in the area that has been considered to be the principal territory for his criminal activities, we, together with the population of Urabá, have shared in the assaults and violence connected with “OPERATION AGAMENÓN”, supposedly designed to capture him. For at least seven years it has consumed enormous government resources, calculated in many thousands and thousands of millions of pesos. But the whole world has had doubts of its credibility and authenticity, judging by the thousands of indications of friendship and solidarity between the criminal ranks and the Armed Forces of Colombia. What good will it do to capture the chieftain when the activities of thousands of his subordinates are tolerated and supported?
The freedom of action that alias “Otoniel” has always enjoyed has resulted in suspicion about certain attempts at “negotiation” between him and the government that have come out in the media at various times. The media’s detailing of the capture itself has augmented the suspicion in large areas of the country’s population: his unconcealed smile that he inexplicably shared with his captors, as well as the soldiers’ applauding him as he descended from the plane that brought him to Bogotá, left substantial questions about the theatrical activity. The circumstance that his “capture” coincided with the visit of the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has led many sectors of the citizenry to suspect some keen theatrical settings, aimed at influencing the highest international criminal court about the “effectiveness” of the Colombian legal system, hiding what all the statistics reveal about the levels of impunity in Colombia, which border on 100%. All these years as a Community, we have been witnesses to the joint criminal activity between the government’s Armed Forces and the troops of paramilitaries in our region. The capture of a subject of the stature of alias “Otoniel” doesn’t change anything, and much less does it improve public order in Urabá, when you understand that this is an organization that is protected and supported by numberless corrupt public and private officials, saturated with every kind of ambition.
President Duque’s first declaration, when he announced the captive’s imminent extradition to the United States, reiterates once more the execrable positions of the Colombian government. They give primacy to the crime of exporting some kilos of cocaine, a crime where the traffickers and the consumers in the North all receive complete impunity, while thousands of innocent campesinos have been murdered. Then the Colombian government keeps on insisting that they don’t care about the acts of destroying human lives, and justice for them is unimportant, compared with the interests of the drug lords, trying to punish their businesses that don’t share with them the enormous profits from the vice.
The people of Urabá are also afraid that this theatrical capture will serve as a pretext to fake an organizational chaos of the AGC, which will cover up another outpouring of violence against the humble campesino population that doesn’t want to submit to domination by the paramilitaries.
On Monday, October 25, 2021, at 10:30 a.m., a delegation from our Peace Community went to the principal office of FEDECACAO in Bogotá. Sr. FREDY ROLANDO CANTOR CUEVAS, the legal counsel for Fedecacao and an aide to members of Congress, met the delegation. The delegation explained its concern about the varied and systematic accusations against our Community by FEDECACAO’s representative in Urabá, Sr. CÉSAR JARAMILLO, who lately has been spouting filthy slanders against us, taking advantage of his position, his excellent relationship with the Office of the Mayor of Apartadó, and with the Army’s 17th Brigade, and about the influence he is seeking to gain in the region’s Community Action Boards. He is trying to start a media campaign to exterminate our Peace Community. When the Fedecacao counsel began hearing our complaints, he ignored us and baselessly defended the attitudes of Sr. César Jaramillo, claiming absurdly that he was a free man and that his activities do no harm to our Community; neither do they discredit Fedecacao. When our delegation was completely ignored, while he played with his cell phone, our delegation got up and left, but not without recording the disgust we felt when a national official of an entity with this stature is in solidarity with the aberrant and criminal behavior of their local representative.
On this same Monday, October 25, 2021, during the day we received audios and papers about a supposed armed strike all over Urabá. It looks as if the paramilitaries were organizing as a response to the capture of their chieftain, alias Otoniel, by the authorities.
The memory of our brothers and sisters, martyrs of the vicious activities of the para-government motivates us every day to follow our moral and ethical convictions, our principles for living in our communal way of life that we will never give up, even though it costs our lives.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
October 26, 2021