Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, January 12, 2022
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
The murder of Huber Velásquez last December 18, 2021 in the town (vereda) of La Balsa in San José de Apartadó has the characteristics that reveal the extreme seriousness that paramilitary domination has reached in the region, and their relationships with our institutions, with the Peace Agreement, with their development model and with their dominating model for society. It was not just one simple violent episode like those that the people of this region have been used to for many decades of terror.
The immediate context was the pantomime of the paving of two kilometers of the road between Apartadó and San José. A group of residents of the town of La Balsa decided to do some citizen oversight and they discovered horrifying corruption, houses damaged and not repaired, unfit materials, a very low quality of work in spite of its extremely high cost. The cost scandalized a Deputy in the region. This oversight was not accepted because there had already been oversight registered in the Clerk’s Office; however the La Balsa oversight group decided to continue its investigative work, since they lost confidence in the other oversight group when it accepted the numerous irregularities that were being committed.
If you keep in mind that the financing of the work was covered by funds from the Peace Agreement, taking it as a PDET (Program of Development with a Territorial Focus) for which the international community had furnished enormous sums of money, it’s just elementary honesty to ask that the international agencies make an exhaustive examination of the expenses. That ought to include a minute examination of the contracts with METRO-PLUS. The Mayor’s Office also ought to be subjected to rigorous examinations of their spending. There is a rumor among the people who live around there about the participation of Mayor Cañizalez in Huber’s murder, because his sympathies with the paramilitary organizations are well known to the public. An independent international agency must investigate those rumors, because the Government’s control agencies are now coopted, in bright daylight, by the current administration.
Many people that live in La Balsa can’t get over the shock of seeing very young men from their own town paralyzing the traffic, not just toward San José but also toward Apartadó, while the killers were murdering Huber. They permitted the eight armed men to get into his house and take his life violently. However, those residents knew that to break their silence was to risk certain death. Several murders that took place in the area in the last year are explained by the victims’ disobedience to the paramilitaries’ orders. Terror sealed their silence, which covered up and continues to cover up this crime,
In addition, there is another rumor among the residents of La Balsa, and that rumor is that the Community Action Board ordered the destruction of the house that Huber built on his farm. It looks as if the urge to erase the memory of the victims, like in the cruelest regimes, is continuing here.
The messages could not be more compelling. The paramilitaries rule here, and disobedience risks your life. The people have to choose; life, or death.
Just a few days later, the Community Board of the town of La Esperanza decided to force the introduction of some machinery into our Peace Community’s settlement, for the purpose of starting the construction of an illegal road. The Community has complained repeatedly about these illegal roads; they don’t respect any prerequisites of planning or community participation. They are planned and constructed for the use of the paramilitary organizations, with the machinery belonging to the Armed Forces, and they are intended to allow the introduction of machinery to be used by multinational extraction companies, contrary to humane and ecological development.
The leaders of the La Esperanza Community Action Board have stated that they intend to build the road, come what may. They don’t care about violating any private property and any interest that opposes their conception of development and progress; a concept that is counter to humanity.
The methods of coordination and acquiescence between the Armed Forces and the paramilitaries are now very well known and routinized. The negativism, the evasion, the pretense of ignorance; the verbal agreements so as not to be found in the same territories by coincidence. That way, when the evidence is unavoidable, it’s still possible to fool the society.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
January 12, 2022