Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
December 20, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Once more our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó finds it necessary to make a record, before this country and the whole world, of the new events that affect us and that affect our neighbors, both social and geographic neighbors. The death penalty continues to be a reality that is tolerated by Colombian institutions, even though it is barred by our Constitution. The elimination of social leaders, as the whole country and the whole world has seen in evidence here, has been especially intensified in the wake of the “Peace Agreement”.
We now make a record of events that have taken place in recent weeks:
On Friday, November 19, 2021, in the town (vereda) of Mulatos Medio, at the place called La Casona, there was a meeting of Community Boards that had been called by the paramilitaries. One of their leaders, who introduced himself as “Mateo”, was present. At the meeting, among other things, they announced strict control of cutting lumber and of various crops, explaining that it was necessary to preserve forests for the paramilitaries’ hideouts. They also announced that they would be controlling the activities of our Peace Community because, according to them, our actions are not in accord with their interests.
On Monday, December 6, 2021, in the town of El Guineo in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó, the campesino known to the neighbors as “VICTORINO” was murdered by members of the paramilitary organization. He was a merchant selling hogs in the area.
On Wednesday, December 8, 2021, at 1:00 p.m. eight well-known paramilitaries were seen in the urban part of the town of La Unión. There is a military contingent from the 17th Brigade there now, in a supposed humanitarian de-mining program that they have purposed more likely as an occupying presence and to move into people’s houses. There doesn’t seem to be any de-mining activity.
On Thursday, December 9, 2021, our Community found out that the paramilitaries were forbidding the campesinos to cut any wood at all, even to build their own houses. They were threatening anybody that did any cutting.
On Friday, December 10, 2021, during the morning, at various times, you could see the well-known paramilitary, alias “ALFREDO”, hanging around our settlement at San Josecito and looking suspicious. Other well-known paramilitaries have been seen in the town of Arenas Bajas, carrying out their assignments as “puntos”, or spies.
On Sunday, December 12, 2021, we learned of threats that the paramilitaries were planning strategies for getting into our settlement at San Josecito to steal documents, money, and information, and to kill members of the Community, and trying to make it look like an attack by common criminals. We had a similar alert in December of 2017, which actually took place on December 29, 2017, when armed paramilitaries wanting to kill our legal representative and members of our Peace Community’s Internal Council broke in. Thanks to the Community’s immediate reaction it was possible to detain two of them while the others fled in a hurry on their motorcycles, even seeking public support from Luis Pérez Gutiérrez, the Governor of Antioquia, and FEDECACAO’s representative, César Jaramillo. Meanwhile, the legal and intelligence agencies hurried to set them free and to characterize our Community’s complaints as “inventions”.
On Friday, December 17, 2021, in the town of La Balsa in the District of San José de Apartadó, at the place known as “La Batea”, where numerous residents of that area had been killed by the paramilitaries, military, and police, a social leader and Citizen Overseer, HUBER VELÁSQUEZ was murdered. He was the Citizen Overseer of the paving project of the road between Apartadó and the District of San José. There had been strong public protests about the work being behind schedule and of poor quality. Last November 8, social networks revealed that Huber and other residents, together with a Deputy for Antioquia, had complained about it. Huber stated as follows:
“As campesinos, we are ashamed that the current administration has done absolutely nothing about the irregularities we are seeing on the roads”.
The Deputy added:
“A road of 2.1 kilometers where they are going to do paving, costing 5,400 million pesos (roughly USD $1,400,000). That’s a lot of money, it a lot of taxpayers money.”
The campesinos added that the bulldozer had damaged houses, and the material being used was not suitable, and the work had been terrible. They were asking for a committee for technical review.
The conflict between Huber and the paramilitary organizations and with the agencies that support them was of long standing. In 2006 he was attacked at gunpoint by Council Member Miguel Mariano Acevedo Polo, and he had to pull out his own gun, and ended up killing the aggressor. He immediately turned himself in and spent several years in prison. The place where he was murdered is just a few meters from what had been a restaurant owned by his brother IVÁN VELÁSQEZ, who was murdered the night of January 2 of 2002 when he refused to take part in the “circle of hunger” against our Peace Community. He was killed by seven men that were part of the military-paramilitary organization. They sacked all of his belongings and burned them.
In recent months the conflict between Huber and the paramilitaries who dominate this region was re-activated, as paramilitaries went to his house and threatened to kill him, even more after the complaints of corruption that he made against the municipal administration because of the irregularities in the paving project.
Our Peace Community has suffered throughout the last 25 years hundreds of deadly attacks by the military-paramilitary alliance, and we want to file our most energetic protest of the execution of HUBER VELÁSQUEZ, who had a close relationship with our Community. He always supported our cacao business. Also his brother IVÁN, who was murdered in 2002 for refusing to take part in the criminal “circle of hunger” with which the soldiers and the paramilitaries tried to exterminate us definitively. Now HUBER joins the long list of campesinos in our neighborhood that have been victimized by the genocidal government that has always been trying to exterminate us.
Finally, we thank all of the people and communities that in Colombia and in many other countries have remained close to us, with fraternal solidarity, in the painful moments that we have endured.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
December 20, 2021