Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, May 6, 2022
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Once again, our Peace Community turns to humanity and to history to make a record of new events perpetrated by the government and the paramilitaries.
Our region continues in a vicious circle where the government and the paramilitaries are the principal drug that subjects us, threatens us, tortures us, controls us, and destroys social and campesino life. It’s the voice of the paramilitaries that freely imposes its rules, so that everybody has to obey their directives or face the consequences.
How long will the government allow them to continue controlling that which we are humbly planting on our property for the subsistence of our families in this country? It’s a disgrace how every administration, after its term is over, leaves behind hundreds of thousands of violations of international humanitarian law, including the murder of leaders in the recent months in this country, leaving the victims condemned to forgetfulness and to absolute impunity. How painful!
Today the paramilitaries continue to be the greatest dark force being used to carry out the criminal work that the government agencies can’t do out in the open. Urabá is an example. The Colombian Army’s 17th Brigade and the Urabá Police themselves have been the guarantors and allies of the paramilitaries. On many occasions they operated jointly to carry out false positives and massacres in Urabá and in this country. Now, it doesn’t look as if those alliances are over at all, because the paramilitaries, self-proclaimed AGC, have absolute control in all of the countryside, and they even live together and share things with the Armed Forces in San José, Nuevo Antioquia, Piedras Blancas, among other districts (corregimientos) in Urabá, and there is not the slightest interest in dismantling these paramilitary organizations.
Presidential elections are coming up in this country, and there is evidence of different joint activities by the machines that have governed, sold, and bled our fatherland. They are looking to see how they can continue to hold on to power; and to do that, they are counting on the corruption in the existing systems of control in the different government agencies. We dream that the good ideas for a better country will be the ones that win, because now is the time for a change to this dictatorship that has only destroyed and ruined the country.
The newest events are the following:
On Good Friday, April 15, 2022, in the town (vereda) of La Esperanza in the district (corregimiento) of San José, there was an event where the well-known paramilitary, alias El Cochero, was getting married, with a great multitude of people taking part in his wedding. Some time ago this personage arrived in the town of El Porvenir as the paramilitary to take control there.
On Friday, April 22, 2022, in the town of La Unión in the district of San José de Apartadó, there was a community work group to fix the road, organized by the Community Action Board there, and with the participation of soldiers from the Army’s 17th Brigade, headquartered at Carepa, Antioquia Department. In that work effort, a national official from the Army read to everybody present there a public report from the Peace Community dated last April 18, 2022. Claiming in a joking tone, “one thing for sure is that peace community today or tomorrow is going to make another report about this work effort.” We could tell that the soldier had emphatically rejected what we say in our reports, when he said that he was inquiring of the merchants in the town of La Unión about the whereabouts, or their familiarity with, the paramilitary, alias Adolfo Guzmán. Who would think to interrogate the victims right in front of the people who had done them harm? We have reported him being just a few meters away from where the soldiers are. They can also find alias Adolfo Guzmán working with the soldiers to fix the road. This same guy, already last April 3, 2022, had threated merchants in La Unión, in the same way he took part in the community work group last April 8, 2022, in the company of members of the 17th Brigade of the Colombian Army, and that was reported by members of our Peace Community. The guy lives in a house right next to the Army installations that are attached to the N.6 demining battalion in the upper part of the population center in La Unión, but nobody knows him, least of all the soldiers.
On Saturday, April 23, 2022, our Peace Community learned of a private event where a well-known singer of popular songs performed in a public establishment in the urban part of San José. According to witnesses, a well-known paramilitary commander was present: alias León, a former FARC-EP guerrilla and a signer of the Peace Agreements, and known by the alias La Fiera. That musical event happened in the midst of a heavy military and police presence in the urban part of San José where there is a military base and a police bunker now. They say the artist has some kind of family relationship with the paramilitary commander.
On Sunday, April 24, 2022, when a committee of our Peace Community was headed toward the town of La Resbalosa, you could tell that there were a number of well-known paramilitaries present. Minutes later, on the trail between the towns of Mulatos and La Resbalosa, we noted the presence of a paramilitary that was going to La Resbalosa. Then in the afternoon we saw him go back to Mulatos.
On that same Sunday, April 24, 2022, in the town of La Resbalosa, our Peace Community was informed that a paramilitary had threatened a teacher in that town. The well-known paramilitary had warned the teacher that her days were numbered; and because of that, the teacher was transferred to a different location.
On Monday, April 25, 2022, while a delegation from our Peace Community was traveling for a community work day to improve the trail in the El Barro sector of the town of Mulatos, we found an explosive artifact that had been installed next to the trail and had been damaged by the livestock that traveled there. Seeing the poor condition of the artifact it had probably been there for many years. Artifacts like this one are the ones that are supposed to have been de-activated by the Colombian Army’s No.6 demining battalion. Judging by the long time the battalion has remained in this area, the millions that have been invested in those activities must be responding to other interests, as it looks as if social organizing is a better description of what they are investigating than trying to find explosive artifacts.
On that same Monday, April 25, 2022, in the town of Mulatos, next to our living and working space in the Luis Eduardo Guerra Peace Village, to be more precise, our Peace Community became aware of the constant presence of a paramilitary, alias “Gripin”, in our meetings and other activities in the communal house. This paramilitary is present and is permanently controlling this area. He lives in a big house in the town of Mulatos Medio.
On Thursday, May 5, 2022, during the afternoon, our Community learned of the warning by the paramilitaries of their armed strike, decreed by them to be carried out beginning on May 5, 2022, and lasting until May 10, 2022. Already in the afternoon, a group of students coming from the school in the town of Arenas Altas, together with students from the school in the town of La Unión,were intercepted by the paramilitaries in La Unión, who ordered them to go back to their homes.
On Friday, May 6, 2022, it became apparent that the armed strike decreed by the paramilitaries had taken effect; they burned vehicles, commercial centers, offices, commerce and work in general, students, transportation and every activity in general was paralyzed by the orders of the paramilitaries. And we are wondering, where are the government’s security forces? What about the Rule of Law? Isn’t this evidence that the government has been kidnapped by the mafias and their power to dominate? We are seeing that there are no weapons that keep us free, on the contrary, there are only weapons to enslave us.
On that same Friday, May 6, 2022, we learned that two paramilitaries were present in the populated area of the town of La Unión last Thursday, May 5, 2022. They ordered the merchants to close their businesses, and they ordered the civilian population not to do any kind of communal activity that had been planned for that day. In the same way, no personal activity outside the home was permitted. These well-known paramilitaries are making rounds in the populated center of La Unión, and not allowing any commerce. Remember that there is a strong military presence there, and the military had also planned some community activity along with the Community Action Board, but they prefer to obey the orders of the paramilitaries who are in control.
On that same Friday, May 6, 2022, in the urban part of San José, the local businesses remained closed; it’s a ghost town, no soldier, no police officer can be seen there, not even in their military headquarters. The soldiers and police are confined.
These events are clear evidence to our Community and to the population of our region. They show how the government has been permissive with the paramilitaries, and it’s no longer the government that does the dirty work of controlling and subjecting the civilian population.
San José and its towns have been turned into the private property for the freedom and tranquility of the paramilitaries and Armed Forces that live together with them, never doing them any kind of harm, which makes them more and more complicit in their crimes.
Whenever we renew the memory of our sufferings, we also renew our feelings of gratitude to the many people and communities of Colombia and the world who walk with us spiritually and fill us with the energy to resist.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
May 6, 2022