Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, April 29, 2023
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Gustavo Francisco Petro Urrego
President of the Republic of Colombia
In connection with the anniversary of the foundation of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, we intercede with you, the President of Colombia, to suggest some reflections about the long-standing risks that members of the Community are still experiencing after 28 years of building peace from below, in defense of our lives and of our land.
In the same manner, we intercede so that the current administration can facilitate and re-establish the relationship with this Community. As you are well aware, in 2005 they declared a rupture with all of the institutions of the Colombian government, because of the horrendous massacre of 8 members at the hands of government agents.
The undersigned are European institutions and organizations that have walked together with the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó for many years, and we recognize the immense value and cohesion of this Community, as we continue defending the principles of non-violence.
It its 26 years, it has suffered the murder of more than 300 of its comrades at the hands of different armed groups (paramilitaries, Colombian Army, and guerrillas), in addition to the long-standing aggressions, intimidations, humiliations, and refusal to admit the suffering caused by the institutions of the government.
As evidenced by historic documents—communications in which the Community made a record of the attacks on its members and on the surrounding population—the situation that they are continuing to experience is extremely serious, because of the paramilitarization of the population and of the local and regional institutions, the presence of armed men on their land and the ongoing abuses of power by the Colombian Armed Forces, and also, very important, the economic interest in their land, and the continuing attempts to take it away from them.
Specifically, one of the Community’s biggest problems, and really contradictory, is the inappropriate application by some agencies of the Land Restitution Law (Statute 1448 of 2011). As the Community itself has explained, it focuses on and concentrates on creating confrontations among the victims themselves, motivating and promoting restitution disputes between poor and unprotected families, while the macro cases involving the companies, the multinationals, and the politicians don’t move forward.
In fact, the Community complains that the Land Restitution Law is being kidnapped by the big economic interests around there, because they are taking advantage of the law to get hold of the lands that were recovered by what they have called “the land market”.
We also explain that, in the case of the Peace Community, the problem is more the way they are using this legal tool to grab and evict them from land that they have not only acquired legally, but that they have cared for and defended for more than 20 years.
An emblematic case is the situation of the La Roncona farm. In December of 2018, the Community filed suit claiming ownership of the La Roncona property with the municipal civil court in Apartadó which, legally, would be positive for the Community. But the suit has been put off four times, which could be characterized as a denial of justice. In effect, the judge who is handling the case, William González de la Hoz, was the regional Ombudsman in Urabá in 2016 and what seems delicate to us in his role as judge is that in carrying out his job as Ombudsman, he claimed there was no presence of paramilitary groups in the town (vereda) of Rodoxalí in spite of all the complaints made about the presence of illegals conniving with the Armed Forces and the forced displacement of the population in that town.
We are witnesses of the violation of their right to effective access to the administration of justice in what that judge is doing to keep their community from formalizing one of their most important pieces of property. The hearing that was set for October 26 of last year, in which they were going to have participation as observers 40 representatives of European organizations and institutions never took place, and they didn’t even notify us that it had been canceled. They justified it by saying it was an unintentional mistake. We see in that an intervention by the central government, for example, it could have remedied the defenseless situation that the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó was suffering. (See attached Register of Aggressions and Human Rights Violations in 2022.)
In spite of the foregoing, we believe it is the first time, after many years, we are seeing members of the Community having a certain hope about the current administration, and therefore, we believe it’s the right time for the central government do what is possible to re-establish the confidence of their collective in government institutions.
We recall that the Community has always asked government authorities for a minimal demonstration of good faith, for guarantees, so that they could establish conversation with the government; convinced that they are in line with their attitude and with the governing program that we now present.
- Public retraction of the libels and slanders by the government of Colombia against the Peace Community after the massacre on February 21, 2005.
- Revision and replacement of the location of the National Police bunker and the military base in the urban part of San José de Apartadó.
- Consider review and creation of humanitarian zones in San José de Apartadó, and declaring the Peace Community to be a laboratory for peace.
- Creating a Commssion for the verification of the legal system and, among other things, evaluate whether or not there has been justice for the Peace Community in San José de Apartadó.
Sr. President, the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó is an example for the world of the construction of peace, for the defense of lives and the land, and of maintaining memory, and many international recognitions testify to that. The most recent are: Peace Prize, United Nations Association of Spain (ANUE) and the AIPAZ (Spanish Association for the Peace Research) Francisco Muñoz Prize 2022 for contribution to peace building through our methodology and communitarian practice for the defense of life and territory through nonviolence.
We hope that the Historic Pact government responds to the Community’s hopes and acts accordingly.
Andrea Massari, Mayor, Mayor’s Office of Fidenza, Italy,
Tina Gielis, Mayor, Mayor’s Office of Laakdal, Belgium,
Paul Verbeeck, Mayor, Mayor’s Office Nigien, Belgium
Guy Van Hirtum, Mayor, Mayor’s Office of Westerlo
Milo Anthonis, Council President, Mayor’s Office of deHerselt, Belgium
Benny Smets, Councillor for Cooperation in Development, Mayor’s Office, Laakdal, Belgium
Alessia Quondam, Councillor and Vice Mayor, Mayor’s Office, Mayor’s Office, Narni, Italy
Lien du Four, Councillor for Welfare, Attention, and Sustainable Development, Mayor’s Office Nigien, Belgium
Sonja Corrynen, International Cooperation Officer, Mayor’s Office, Schilde, Belgium
Kristof Welters, Councillor for International Cooperation and Peace, Mayor’s Office, Westerlo, Belgium
Nelly Bocchi, Member, Jambo Association for Fair Commerce and Solidarity, Fidenza, Italy
Vincent Gard, Coordinator, Association Working Together Young and Committed (TEJE) France
Luis Escribano, President, Burgos with Colombia-Spain
Danilo Armadei, President, House of Peace, Parma Ets, Italy
Emilio Rossi, President, CIAC, Center for Immigration, Asylum, and International Cooperation, of Parma and Onlus Province, Italy
Julia Matilde Ortiz Colomina, Secretary, Maloka Collective, Barcelona, Spain
Pablo Simón Vicente, Legal Representative, Living Memory of the People, Spain
Amalia Bueno Zamora, Secretary, Living Memory of the People Collective, Spain
Coscione, Giuseppe, Vice President, Comitato Piazza Carlo Giuliani, Odv, Italy
Ignacio Hernández, Member, Valencia Coordination for Solidarity with Colombia and Valencia, Valencia and South Cacarica Collective, Spain
Fabien Cohen, Secretary General, France-Latin America (FAL), France
Irmgard Ehrenberger, Co-Director, IFOR Austria, Reconciliation Movement, Austria
Sarah Ongano, Coordinator, LAeQUAsris, Modica, Italy
Romain Bernard, Member, Lush-Inglaterra, UK
Mari Vera Valdivieso, Coordinator, Catalan Mesa for Peace and Human Rights in Colombia, Catalunya, Spain
Dr. Philipp Naucke, Anthropologist, Assistant Professor, Philipps University, Marburg, Germany
Sus Van Olmen, Coordinator, Flemish Network of Solidarity with the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, Belgium
Eleuterio Cárdenas León, Member, Flemish Network of Solidarity with the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, Belgium
Valentina Ripa, Member, Board of Directors, Colombia Vivé Italian Network, Italy
Natalia Biffi, Incidencia Coordinator, Solidarity for Social Transformation Networks, Barcelona, Spain
Patricia Dopazo, Editor, Food Sovereignty, Biodiversity, and Cultures Magazine, Spain
Pilar Rodrigo, Member, XXI Solidarity, Rivas Vaciamadrid, Spain in Peace with Dignity, Spain.
Embassy of Italy in Colombia
Embassy of Belgium in Colombia
 In the files of several international organizations you can find the answers from the Álvaro Uribe Vélez administration where they attribute the massacre to the FARC, answers signed by the Vice President of Colombia at that time, Francisco Santos, the then-Attorney Genera Luis Camilo Osorio, and other representatives who, through a put-together story, were trying to hide the government’s responsibility. On the contrary, they tried to associate the Community with the insurgent groups, to the point of asserting that the motive for the massacre was that Luis Eduardo Guerra was trying to “re-insert” himself, thus effectively associating the historic leader with the guerrillas.
 Constitutional Petition No. 18 by Fr. Javier Giraldo, directed to President Álvaro Uribe Vélez on December 3, 2009, contains the arguments in support. See in Giraldo, J (2010) “Fusil o Toga/Toga y Fusil”, p. 180-188).