Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó

March 22, 2023

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Once more our Peace Community appeals to the national and international community to make a record of the most recent actions that are attacking the lives of the civilian population in our geographic and social surroundings, even actions against the existence of our Peace Community.

We are at a time of much uncertainty in this country, as they have announced different peace processes with different illegal armed groups. We are not noticing progress, because the oppression by those groups is more and more fierce against the civilian population. In our beloved region, we don’t notice any changes in the policies of paramilitary terror, obviously protected throughout the years, mainly by the Armed Forces and by various government institutions.

The towns (veredas) in the district (corregimientos) of San José continue to be a scene where paramilitaries live comfortably, without being bothered by anybody. You can clearly observe that in the now more than 7 months of the Gustavo Petro administration, we can’t yet feel that they are doing anything to avoid having the civilian population be controlled by the whims of the paramilitaries.

So far this year, in the training exercises carried out by the Police and the Armed Forces in the area, you can see that it’s intended to somehow legalize or paper over what we are experiencing. In some cases where there have now been some arrests in the urban part of San José, they have been to get publicity on social media, fooling the public by saying that they are dismantling the drug traffic or the paramilitary organizations. In reality, they have arrested real paramilitaries in a training exercise and then the next day they let them go, and in many cases they come back to the area to continue the expansion of their drug dealing and their actions of terror even within the paramilitaries themselves.

It’s evident that the opening of roads within the District of San José de Apartadó has not been an initiative of the government at all, but rather by the big companies that are trying to use the paramilitaries to control the civilian population, and thus, they are able to penetrate the region with roads for mining exploitation, with more than 7 mining titles already issued, not counting the more than half a dozen titles that are in the request process.

The events that we now describe for judgment by history and humanity are the following:

On Saturday, February 11, 2023, using regional communications media, it was reported that three citizens had been arrested in the urban part of San José de Apartadó for drug trafficking. The young men were released minutes later, as soon as the media had circulated the report of the arrests.

On Wednesday, February 22, 2023, when a committee of our Community was returning from the commemoration of the massacre 18 years ago at Mulatos and Resbalosa, heading for our settlement at San Josecito, they were followed by four paramilitaries for several minutes in the sector known as La Sucia, already very close to San José where there is a military base and a Police bunker.

On Friday, March 3, 2023, our Community learned once again of a plan for the invasion of our Peace Community properties. It was motivated by some people living in the region and by well-known paramilitaries that have a permanent presence in the District of San José de Apartadó.

On Sunday, March 5, 2023, a number of residents of the District of San José de Apartadó approached our Peace Community to tell us of their concern about the announcements by the Land Restitution Unit (URT), that it would be taking their properties and giving them, in the next few days, to people reclaiming their land. It’s outrageous that in the cases where business owners, politicians, palm growers, along with other powerful sectors in the region, allied with the paramilitaries, have caused so much bloodshed, the claimants’ cases don’t progress. The URT with its eagerness to show land restitution “results” in Urabá, is pushing through cases where the new victims are humble campesinos who have suffered and survived the horror of the violence, and who, in spite of living with all that pain, acquired small properties freely from the hands of other suffering residents. They defend their attachment to the land by risking their very lives. Now the companies want to take it away, causing eviction, re-victimization, and displacement, in this case generated by the government, with the URT against the campesinos. That’s what we’ve seen in some cases already carried out in this region.

On Monday, March 6, 2023, our Peace Community found out that, in some parts of the District of San José de Apartadó, a number of people had been confronted by paramilitaries bragging that they had no interest in peace negotiations with the Colombian government, that they were only taking advantage of the circumstances to get stronger.

On Wednesday, March 8, 2023, our Peace Community learned that alias Cristian, a long-time paramilitary who was a commander in the District of San José, had been making accusations against the civilian population in the towns around San José, claiming that the majority of the people living in the District are working closely with the paramilitary groups and that that was no secret.

On Friday, March 10, 2023, at 10 p.m., and for 10 minutes in the town of La Unión in the District of San José de Apartadó, a few meters from where people are living, there was fierce machine gun fire, apparently by members of the 17th Brigade of the Colombian Army; they have been going around in that town. Several residents of the populated center said that the shooting had been distressing and dangerous, as the bullets were going toward the houses in the town. At this time, we don’t know the reasons for that violation of peace and quiet in that neighborhood.

On Saturday, March 11, 2023, at a checkpoint installed by soldiers from the 17th Brigade between our settlement at San Josecito and the urban part of San José de Apartadó, a member of our Peace Community was halted and subjected to insults and forced to get off the animal he was riding to go to work, allegedly in order to search him.

On Monday, March 13, 2023, some leaders of the Community Action Board of the town of La Esperanza approached members of our Community to announce to them that they planned to take part in opening a road over the Las Delicias property, which is the private property of the Peace Community.

On Wednesday, March 15, 2023, in the town of La Esperanza, a group of people who live in that town and belong to the Community Action Board barged in and commandeered the fence at the farm, Las Delicias, located in that town. The intruders claimed that the road would be built because it was a right, not caring that they were violating private property belonging to our Community, and not without first accusing us of being guerrillas.

On Thursday, March 16, 2023, five paramilitaries were seen in the town of Buenos Aires in the District of San José de Apartadó. One of them was carrying a long gun and they were proceeding on the route that goes from San José to the town of Mulatos.

On Friday, March 17, 2023, at 11:00 a.m., in the town of La Esperanza, several members of our Peace Community were confronted by Mr. Daney Tuberquia, in the presence of some internationals who were accompanying us. Tuberquia was annoyed, he said that our Peace Community was violating a right that they have to build the road (highway) on our property. It looks as if the push to build this road, which besides being illegal (it has no legal basis because it is not approved by local ordinances) would also violate our right to private property as established in Colombia’s Constitution. We reminded Mr. Daney that this highway was a project pushed, financed, and coordinated by the paramilitaries for several years now. In recent months even the Mayor’s Office in Apartadó and the 17th Brigade have collaborated on the project sponsored by the paramilitaries. With that level of brazenness, they want to force us, even worse, to build without our consent a highway project that would be useful only to the paramilitaries. It would be for coal mining exploitation in the Abibe Hills as proposed to be carried out by Carbones del Golfo in the next few years.

On Monday, March 20, 2023, a resident of the District of San José came to our Peace Community to warn us about a plan to attack and try to kill Germán Graciano Posso, the Legal Representative of the Peace Community, and Arley Tuberquia, a member of the Internal Council. The attack would be by paramilitaries who have already been following them around for several months.

In the last few days, we have noted a strong movement of paramilitaries carrying long guns and pistols and communication radios on the farms they own and going around the different towns in the District of San José de Apartadó.

Also in the last few days, the Colombian government has cancelled the ceasefire with the Clan del Golfo, or the so-called Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC) because they didn’t carry out their agreement. As a Peace Community, we are aware that whether there are peace processes or not, the situation of conflict will not change much, because we hear that the paramilitaries themselves here are looking for ways to trick the government in the peace process.

Looking at all of that, we can only stick tight to our way of life and our ethical and moral convictions, knowing how hard it will be to confront the machinery of terror that looks as if it will never end. We can only thank, from our beloved countryside, all of the encouraging voices that we hear from every day, from this country and from the whole world, and that fills us with courage to continue our civil resistance as a Peace Community.

Peace Community of San José de Apartadó

March 22, 2023

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