Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, December 4, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Once again, our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó finds itself ethically and
morally obligated to make a record about the most recent developments. In everything we have been suffering in our way of life, we are more and more hemmed in viciously by the
institutions that are acting in this area. We have been regularly verifying that the national
leadership not only supports them, but also gives them orders and designs their strategies.
The recruitment and forced submission to the claws of the paramilitaries is something that is not stopping in our beloved region, and it’s designed to be the constant merciless suffering to which the people are subjected. Many interests of powerful people that are using illegal entities to achieve their objectives in this area are supporting all of this.
The national government itself, in recent months has only looked for ways to cover up and hide its lack of commitment to the people of this country; that led to the farce of the capture of alias “Otoniel”, top leader of the paramilitaries. This was a new mechanism for the simulation of “the end of paramilitarism”. However, reality is otherwise, as the regions still live under the terror, and you can see that the “capture of Otoniel” has not affected that system in the slightest. On the contrary, paramilitarism has intensified its power in every one of these regions where they are operating.
The towns (veredas) in San José are a paramilitary corridor where they operate to their hearts’ content, with the protection of all of the institutions and powers of the Colombian government. The Armed Forces are careful not to conduct searches in the places where they carry out their activities and controls.
Recently the paramilitaries have recruited a number of young people in this area and they have taken them to other towns in the district (corregimiento). Frequently they are being taken to other parts of the country, where some of them have already been killed, even at the hands of the Armed Forces. These youths are literally serving as “cannon fodder” for criminal strategies.
Now we want to make a record of the following events:
On Friday, October 29, 2021, we saw a contingent of heavily armed paramilitaries in the town of Playa Larga.
On Saturday, October 30, 2021, we learned of the paramilitaries’ forced recruitment of two young men from the town of La Unión, and it appears that they were taken to the town of Playa Larga in San José de Apartadó where they were seen later on.
On Sunday, October 31, 2021, during the day, we learned of a new regional order that was supposedly being established by the paramilitaries in this area. According to what they announced, it includes threats against our Peace Community.
Between November 5 and November 10, 2021, our Community received information about a series of extortions on the road that leads from the urban part of Apartadó to the district of San José. There, armed individuals, apparently paramilitaries, were demanding amounts higher than 100,000 pesos (roughly USD $25) from people that were transporting food and lumber, along with other products that they were carrying in trucks or all-terrain vehicles.
On Saturday, November 13, 2021, we found out about threats against our Peace Community by alias “Chiquito Malo” (“Bad Boy”), allegedly the top man of the paramilitaries in Urabá, “Otoniel’s” replacement. According to the information, he is planning actions against our Peace Community.
On Sunday, November 14, 2021, we learned that the contingent of the Armed Forces that has been camped in the urban part of La Unión for more than a month, supposedly with a humanitarian mine clearance group, never leaves the encampment at all, which shows that they aren’t there to do mine clearance. They have remained there all this time on several private properties that belong to campesinos, without asking for permission to stay there. People are wondering, where are the results of the mine clearance? There don’t appear to be any results anywhere. The people in the area have figured out that the 17th Brigade has a strategy of occupying these properties. And what they have done is to trespass on private properties and build houses so that they can live there among the civilian population. Now the people don’t know how to get them to leave, as they now understand that “mine clearance” was a fraud; maybe they were needed somewhere else, but had been turned away, because mine clearance has to be done by neutral experts and not by actors in a war that involved the placing of mines. Maybe the ignorance of some people in the towns brought them there, but they are now settled there for no reason, as the paramilitaries walk right by them, drinking liquor, and in close conviviality with the soldiers themselves.
On Friday, November 19, 2021, very late at night the paramilitaries left pamphlets in the urban part of San José, on the paths, and in several towns in the region. All of this shows the immense power they have in this part of the country and more still in the urban part of San José, where there is a police station and a military base, but the ones that stand out are actually the paramilitaries, who do whatever they feel like doing.
On that same Friday, November 19, 2021, there was a meeting of the Community Action Board in the town of Mulatos Medio, in the school. According to our information, this meeting was called by a paramilitary politician, who arrived there in the company of other men with communication radios; apparently one of the subjects talked about at the meeting was our community space, Luis Eduardo Guerra Peace Village. The paramilitaries have been wanting to invade this space for several years now, and they have used numerous vicious threats and strategies, but our Peace Community has always demonstrated the legitimacy of our settlement at that place, a place that was watered with the blood of our leader Luis Eduardo Guerra and his other companions in sacrifice.
On Tuesday, November 30, 2021, during the morning, the private property of our Peace Community, the La Roncona farm, was disturbed by two people who said Sr. Martin Jaramillo had hired them. When they invaded the property, they insisted that they were surveyors, and that they belonged to the D. Tovar Surveying Company. While they were inside our private property without any authorization whatever, they claimed they had been sent by an engineer named Jorge Alberto, who was part of that company, and that their purpose was to prepare a survey of two (2) hectares of the farm. They said that Martin Jaramillo himself had requested the survey. Jaramillo is the defendant in the legal ownership proceeding. They told us that they had come to mark off the point where they would start the work, entirely without any authorization whatsoever by our Peace Community.
At that moment they met a work group from our Peace Community, performing some community work on the farm and they noticed what was going on. They told the “surveyors” that there is an ongoing legal proceeding regarding ownership of the property, to which they responded that they knew nothing about that and had only been hired to do the measurements. The two persons communicated with their supervisor, the engineer, who ordered them to leave the property, which they did, but not before claiming that their supervisor would get in touch with Sr. Martin Jaramillo.
Added to all of that barbarity and paramilitary control of the area, is the new rule of control that they are now trying to impose: obliging every person to register on the books of the Community Action Boards, an obligation that must be carried out by everyone and if you don’t, it’s the paramilitaries that will take measures. Furthermore, they warn that every individual that wants to enter the area will have to bring the respective permits from them, or be accompanied by persons known to the paramilitaries.
As a Peace Community, we will always reject all of these paramilitary activities in our region, and we will always make a public complaint about such activities. We know that is dangerous, but keeping silent would be worse, and worse yet, because we know about the terrifying bloodshed that this is causing in the lives of the civilian population in this region.
We can only thank all of the voices of encouragement that we receive every day, from this country and from the world. They are gestures of solidarity and moral strength which we have counted on all of this time.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, December 4, 2021