Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó

July 28, 2023

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Once more our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó turns to the national and international community to make a record of the most recent actions taken against the lives of the civilian population that surrounds us socially and geographically, and against the very existence of our Peace Community.

You can see how more and more the door to freedom in our territory is being closed, as the cynicism and complicity of the government, with its permissiveness, brought about the situation in which the paramilitaries were able to become what they are today. Here in the towns (veredas) they cynically permit us to see big groups of armed military going around as if they were the troops of the Colombian Army itself, and nobody says anything about it because they are the ones in control here, and everybody that lives here or comes here has to submit.

The events we set before humanity so that history may some day judge them are the following:

At the end of the month of June, 2023, a leader of the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó received a death threat via WhatsApp. According to the audio message, they will kill him if he doesn’t stop complaining about the bad management in the execution of the projects being put forward by the Mayor’s Office in Apartadó.

On Sunday, July 2, 2023, at 6:30 in the afternoon, two subjects were seen riding around on a motorcycle and pointing toward our settlement at San Josecito and claiming that we are guerrillas here.

On Monday, July 3, 2023, during the day, a group of paramilitaries wearing military outfits with AGC insignia, carrying long guns and field gear, entered onto our private property known as La Campaña and stayed there for 40 minutes. That day, the family from our Community that lives in that town was not at home. This community property is the same one where the soldiers and the paramilitaries committed the horrible massacre of February 21, 2005.

On Thursday, July 6, 2023, at 3:00 p.m., there was an overflight by helicopters in the towns of Nain, Baltazar, and Murmillo in Córdoba Department. Those towns are very close to La Resbalosa in the District of San José de Apartadó.

On Tuesday, July 11, 2023, at 7:00 a.m., the geo-reference proceedings by the Land Restitution Unit (URT) were commenced on our private property, the La Roncona farm. The mission was arranged in advance between the URT (Land Restitution Unit) and our Peace Community. However, the presence of the well-known paramilitary, William Muñoz, at the commencement of the proceedings and, in part, during the execution of the mission, was rejected by the Peace Community. That subject was not only connected with the paramilitaries in the region, but he had also led, together with James Sepúlveda, Elkin Ortíz, and other people from the region, the invasion of our property at La Roncona on September 11, 2018. It’s worth pointing out that the paramilitary William Martínez was contacted by cell phone on multiple occasions by people with pending applications to the URT. They were asking him for instructions about the boundaries, instructions that the URT was abiding by. Already at 2:11 in the afternoon of that same day, in publications by the 7th Division of the Colombian Army, based in Medellín (@Ejercito _No.17)  William was seen at meetings in Apartadó with the Combat Engineers Battalion No. 17. This Battalion is attached to the Colombian Army’s 17th Brigade, based in Carepa, Antioquia Department.

On that same Tuesday, July 11, 2023, at 10:53 in the morning, our Peace Community received a call from a person with a faltering voice asking for help. We couldn’t identify the location precisely.

On that same Tuesday, July 11, 2023, you could see a well-known paramilitary in the town of La Victoria traveling on the highway very close to group of members of our Peace Community who were accompanying the URT’s geo-reference proceedings at the La Roncona farm.

On that same Tuesday, July 11, 2023, at 9:41 in the morning, a subject wearing camouflage and carrying a big sack, barged into our settlement at San Josecito for several minutes; after he used his cell phone, he was picked up by a white SUV and they left in the direction of Apartadó.

On Wednesday, July 12, 2023, during the morning, a contingent of paramilitaries, heavily armed, dressed in camouflage and wearing bracelets with the initials AGC, was seen crossing the river in the town of Mulatos in the District of San José de Apartadó. They entered our private property, Palma de Vino. The strong paramilitary presence in this area—is it because of the control and hegemony they have always had in this region? Or is it because of their plan to invade and take over our property, announcing it ahead of time and coordinating with some people that live in the region?

On that same Wednesday, July 12, 2023, at 11:00 a.m., a drone guided by officials of the Land Restitution Unit crashed in the bushes that it had been flying over at a low altitude. After that not only the URT officials, but also our Community set up a committee to try to find the drone. After a long search and without any success, the search was suspended until 5:00 p.m.. During the search, URT officials entered our settlement of San Josecito without any kind of authorization, violating every kind of agreement and discussion that had been going on for several months.

On that same Wednesday, July 12, 2023, during the morning, the URT’s geo-reference proceedings on our private property, the La Roncona farm, included the presence of Elkín Ortíz, who was acting as a witness in favor of the parties requesting La Roncona. Minutes after the proceedings, we could see that Ortíz was driven by, and received telephoned instructions from, James Sepúlveda and the paramilitary, William Muñoz. It should be remembered that Ortíz, along with William Muñoz, James Sepúlveda and others living in the region, led the September 11, 2018 invasion of our property, La Roncona, and in the same manner, Ortíz has on several occasions broken and destroyed the fences on our communal property.

On Thursday, July 13, 2023, at 10:52 in the morning, during the geo-reference proceedings at the La Roncona farm, two known paramilitaries arrived there and kept riding around on the highway on their motorcycles.

On that same Thursday, July 13, 2023, really early, the committee started searching again for the URT’s missing drone that had crashed into some bushes on the day before. Around noon, our Community found it entangled in a lemon tree. With this incident of searching for topographical equipment, we reported that this was not our job, not our responsibility. Even though we were glad to take part in the search for the equipment, thus facilitating conditions for everything to proceed in good order, we can’t tolerate the negligence and sloppy handling of the equipment by the URT officials. We were really worn out physically, but it was also a serious risk to us to be involved in an incident in which the Peace Community had no part. We are also reporting that our Peace Community turned the piece of equipment over to the respective URT operators as soon as we found it.

On Friday, July 14, 2023, at 7:00 in the morning, at the time the geo-reference proceedings commenced at our private property, the Santa Isabel farm, we found that one of the boundary witnesses was Sr. Nicolás Jesús Montoya, known by the alias, “Manicortico”, a former member of the now-defunct FARC, who on October 18, 2014, on the “First Hand Witness” program on Caracol Radio, fiercely stigmatized our way of life by saying several times that our Community was created by the FARC. At the same time, various documents now in the possession of the Attorney General’s Office and in the Peace and Justice Tribunals, contain every kind of libel and defamation expressed by Nicolás against our Community. We reject the very presence of this kind of a person in our living spaces, because his bloody and criminal history shows no respect for our fundamental rights or for our right to keep alive the memory of those who were killed at his hands. In the same way, we still can’t get over the shock of seeing how a land unit like the URT Urabá could impose on us by giving a place to criminals, murderers, and paramilitaries in our own living spaces, the opposite of defending our rights established not only in the Constitution and the laws, but also in international treaties to which Colombia is a signatory. At different times, government officials, through the URT, urged us to walk alongside this kind of person, who has done so much harm to our Community.

On Sunday, July 16, 2023, several paramilitaries were present on the ball field in the town of Mulatos Cabeceras in the District of San José de Apartadó, trying to join in with the civilians in the town.

On that same Sunday, July 16, 2023, at 6:00 p.m., a resident of the District of San José, along with some others, made threats against our directors, especially against two members of the Internal Council of our Peace Community, announcing that they have them ready to be killed and that then they would turn themselves in to law enforcement. We have found out that this fellow had been accepted by the San José Community Action Board and had been assigned responsibilities and a residence.

On Monday, July 24, 2023, at 3:00 p.m., our Community was warned of a death threat by the paramilitaries against a well-known campesino in the District of San José. For the sake of his safety, we will omit his name.

On Thursday, July 27, 2023, during the day, we learned of new death threats against our Legal Representative.

The actions that we report every day demonstrate that the situation of oppression and death has not changed and the most worrisome thing is that everybody is afraid to say anything.

We are wondering: where can a person file a criminal complaint today in Colombia, if the legal system itself, the Colombian Army’s 17th Brigade, and even the Mayor’s Office in Apartadó, can’t guarantee any kind of independence or impartiality or security, because frequently, when there are meetings with people in the area to receive petitions and complaints, the real answer the people get the next day is a death threat.

Because of our devotion to civil resistance, we will never stop communicating to the country and the world everything that’s going on in our region. At the same time, we thank the different voices of encouragement that we receive from this country and from the world. Thanks for all the moral strength you are giving us and for believing in our way of life.

Peace Community of San José de Apartadó

July 28, 2023

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