Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, September 20, 2022
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Once again our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó calls on the country and the world, making a record of the latest attacks we are suffering as a Community, and as a social group. The paramilitary control of the civilian population appears to have no end; on the contrary, it’s being prolonged, protected by the government’s security forces. The events that we present, so that humanity and history can some day pass judgment, are the following:
In the first weeks of August 2022, our Community learned of the presence of a committee made up of engineers and topographers, along with other technicians, in several towns (veredas) in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó. They included the town of Mulatos, El Porvenir, and La Esperanza. The commission’s objective was to redesign and define the routes for the construction of roads in those towns, using private investment. In their travels, they were saying that the project is “a done deal”, or that the roads will be built “no matter what”, since they are urgently needed for coal mining and mining of other minerals in the region, especially in the Serrania de Abibe (Abibe Hills).
On Friday, August 26, 2022, Germán Graciano, Legal Representative of our Peace Community, received a call from a member of the Community Action Board in the town of La Unión. The caller repeatedly stigmatized as “snitches” anybody giving information to our Peace Community about actions in violation of human rights, or about serious infractions of international humanitarian law committed by the military and the paramilitaries. The caller warned our Legal Representative that if he didn’t stop filing complaints about these events, they would file a complaint to prosecutors, saying that leaders of our Community had had meetings in the past with the FARC guerrillas. We can only describe that warning as an attempt to muzzle and blackmail our Community to make us stop complaining of serious violations of our rights and those of the civilian population in this area. All of that constitutes an incomprehensible foolishness, very probably induced by those that have acted as victimizers for years, and can’t stand it that our Community and the people of the region are continuing to demand justice.
This new affront can’t be compared with the numberless attacks on us by the now-defunct guerrillas that they are trying to connect us with now. There were selective killings and the massacres of our brothers and sisters at the hands of the guerrilla commanders, like in the case of Danis Daniel Sierra, alias Samir, a former commander of the FARC’s 5th Front, who led a campaign for the total extermination of our way of life, first as a guerrilla commander and later as one who reincorporated.
We have made reports to humanity and to history during all those long years of violent and merciless actions that ruined human lives – the tortures, the disappearances, the threats against our Community and the people of the region by alias Samir and by some former members of the FARC and signers of the Peace Agreement that are now enjoying legal and economic benefits, while at the same time they make up part of the paramilitary structures. And so, one after another, the list of crimes perpetrated against our campesino way of life and against other victims in the region continues to increase, while truth, justice, and a minimum of recognition of responsibility by the now-defunct FARC cannot yet be discerned.
In the week of August 23 -28, 2022, a committee of members of our Community, accompanied by international organizations, in a tour of various towns in the District of San José, namely Buenos Aires, Las Nieves, Mulatos Cabecera, Mulatos Medio, and La Resbalosa, was able to verify the strong paramilitary presence in those areas, where they exercise total control, carrying weapons, radios, and wearing dark clothing. The committee could also verify that in the town of La Resbalosa, the paramilitaries occupy houses that belong to the civilian population, without any authorization by the owners, as well as well as occupying several paramilitary control points that are strategically located all throughout the territory.
On Thursday, August 25, 2022, in the crowded La Navarra sector in the urban center of Apartadó, the well-known resident of San José, and our neighbor, ALBEIRO GRACIANO, suffered a terrible attack by armed subjects that were traveling on motorcycles. It left him between life and death. We are in solidarity with Sr. Graciano and his family, and we hope for his prompt recovery, while at the same time, we demand that the authorities provide him with justice, protection, and reparation.
On Friday, August 26, 2022, at 4:00 p.m., in the town of La Resbalosa, in the sector known as Calzón Rojo, several members of our Community were confronted by a well-known paramilitary, alias “El Gordito” (“Little Fat Guy”). He repeated the order from his superior, warning that the Peace Community could not keep on developing any plan for planting subsistence crops, announcing that they must inevitably stop those farming activities immediately.
On Tuesday, August 30, 2022, our Community learned that in the town of La Unión, not only were soldiers from the 17th Brigade present there, and troops from the Colombian Army’s De-Mining Battalion, but also minors were consuming psychoactive substances that were furnished to them, with the blessing of the paramilitaries.
On Thursday, September 1, 2022, our Community received testimony from several residents of the town of Arenas Altas to the effect that the paramilitaries were gathering some campesinos together and announcing the prohibition of subsistence crop planting, stating that if they violated the prohibition and planted the crops they would have to pay a fine of five million pesos (roughly USD $1,100 at today’s rates) or they would have to leave the area if they didn’t want to risk being killed.
On Saturday, September 3, 2022, our Community learned of a new plan to kill a well-known campesino in our region. Because of the timely intervention of one of his relatives, he received a warning that his days were numbered. Once again death stalks the civilian population, right under the noses of the government’s security forces. The life of this campesino is in danger.
On Sunday, September 4, 2022, our Community was informed that in the District of San José there had been another case of death threats by the paramilitaries against another well-known resident of the region. This time, alias Franco, a well-known paramilitary in this area, boasted that killing him wouldn’t be a bad thing at all. It’s miserable when lives are at the mercy of these killers.
On Wednesday, September 7, 2022, our Community was able to confirm that the young man, JUAN CAMILO HIGUITA ÚSUGA, who had been murdered on Monday, August 15, had been beheaded by his killers and presented to his family as “drowned”.
On Saturday, September 10, 2022, at 11 p.m. and for several minutes, two unidentified subjects were present in the communal settlement of San Josecito.
On Monday, September 12, 2022, a resident of the region warned us of an existing plan to attack our Peace Community, in any one of our communal settlements.
On Tuesday, September 13, 2022, next to the Community’s settlement at San Josecito, more precisely on the community property at La Roncona, two subjects carrying pistols were seen. The subjects, who were walking around for several minutes, calling out “this one is about to be vomiting bullet casings.”
On Friday, September 16, 2022, at 4:30 p.m., in the town of La Unión in the District of San José de Apartadó, military troops halted for several minutes near the residence of Arley Tuberquia, a member of our Peace Community’s Internal Council. The first one in the arriving troop warned by signaling to the others that they had to keep their eyes on that house. Immediately after that, one of the soldiers with a service weapon in his hand pointed it at the house, while the rest of them parked at the same place temporarily. These actions were taken in the presence of several of Tuberquia’s family members, who personally witnessed the attitude of the military troops.
Our Community has been able to verify, time and again, that the soldiers that are present in the town of La Unión do not scruple to allow the presence of minors (children) in their internal military activities. This has happened every time the helicopter lands on the outskirts of the populated center of La Unión. There are children in the midst of the heavily armed men, children that are barely 10-12 years old. How have the Armed Forces arrived at such infamy!
In the midst of threats, attacks, and announcements of our extermination by any means, we reaffirm our principles and we will give up absolutely none of our convictions, even if it costs us our very lives.
Once again, we are thankful to those who accompany us spiritually in our resistance, from so many places in this country and in the world.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
September 20, 2022
See also the Peace Community’s web site at cdpsanjose.org and its Facebook page at https://facebook.com/Cdp.S.J.A. Also see the Colombia Support Network Facebook page at https://facebook.com/ColombiaSupport