Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, September 22, 2023
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Once again our Peace Community turns to history and to the world to make a record of the new events that are seriously attacking our way of life and the lives of the civilian population around here.
A new assault on our way of life is aligned with the statements by government officials from the Land Restitution Unit (URT in Spanish). The official or “extra-official” statements that these officials have made are attacking the integrity of the legal processes at the administrative and juridical stage. They have assumed the decisive conclusion about the properties being reclaimed in these proceedings and, something even worse, when those statements are expressed by people trying to flaunt functions that they are not authorized to perform, pretending to report a court decision in a proceeding that has barely begun, in their urge to play the role of judge or even take the place of the judge.
The baseless statement by those URT officials has set off a ferocious persecution of our campesino way of life and the land that we have acquired peacefully, freely, publicly, and within strict compliance with the Constitution and the Laws. This situation has motivated us to participate in these cases as the opposition, and this is the way we can demonstrate the legality of our acquisitions in spite of the radical rupture we have with all of the institutions of the Colombian government.
The events that we are reporting, so that someday humanity and history can judge them, are the following:
On Tuesday, August 1, 2023, a military checkpoint was installed at the place known as La Tequera, next to the urban part of San José. The check points and supposed military and police controls haven’t been of any use. It’s very well known that in San José de Apartadó the military has been sponsoring its paramilitary arm for decades.
On Saturday, August 5, 2023, our Community learned of a meeting being planned for San José de Apartadó in which officials of the central government will take part. The meeting is proposed to advance the process of establishing a campesino reserve. The projected Campesino Reserve Area is necessary for the District of San José de Apartadó and its surroundings, and goes much farther than a development for the region; it’s more than that, it’s a path and a tool for the protection of the environment of the Abibe Hills.
On Sunday, August 6, 2023, at the school in the town (vereda) of La Resbalosa in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó, a group of paramilitaries were right next to the school. When they saw members of our Community and the internationals that were with us, they hid themselves in the school. And it’s routine for us to see paramilitaries carrying weapons and radios mixing with the civilian population, and they subject the civilians to their whims.
On that same Sunday, August 6, 2023, at 7:00 p.m. several paramilitaries were walking through the place that is the Peace Community’s private property in the town of La Resbalosa. In spite of the presence of international accompaniment, you could see them walking by brazenly, without any shame whatsoever.
On Tuesday, August 8, 2023, during the morning, there was a meeting between a delegation of our Peace Community and some officials of the URT territorial office in Apartadó and also the federal office in Bogotá. The URT and the Peace Community are planning dates and procedures to continue with the second stage of georeferencing on some properties that belong to our Community and are the subject of requests for land restitution under Statute 1448 of 2011, by major political interests and the economic interests that motivate them. On this occasion, to be precise, they were evaluating the development of the georeferencing procedures, which were carried out between July 11 and July 14 of 2023. The Peace Community re-affirmed our principles, and rejected the presence of any type of personnel in the service of paramilitarism or of any legal or illegal armed authority in our living spaces during the proceedings. The URT officials claimed that they had consulted criminal records internally as a means of protection. The Community rejected that means of protection, since there is plenty of evidence that the majority of the members of the paramilitary organizations that are present here in the territory of San José de Apartadó don’t have criminal records, given the rampant impunity in Urabá. That doesn’t mean they aren’t paramilitaries, or that they can be exonerated of responsibility for the bloodshed of so many of our martyrs that were murdered and massacred by their organization, with the complicity of all the institutions present in this region. Trying to ignore the impunity that has protected so many thousands of crimes in this area, of which our Peace Community has been one of the principal victims, betrays the most aberrant complicity.
On Monday, August 14, 2023, during the morning, our Peace Community noticed that on the La Roncona farm, the private property of our Peace Community, a portion of the property had been the object of a violent, arbitrary, irregular, and abusive incursion by some of the residents of the town of La Victoria, including Sr. JAMES SEPÚLVEDA and Sra. LILIANA SEPÚLVEDA. With a furious and arrogant tone, he cut down a tree risking the lives of several people from our Community, and the lives of other neighbors who happened to be there at the time.
On TUESDAY, AUGUST 15, 2023, at the La Roncona farm, the private property of our Peace Community, a portion of the parcel was once again the object of the violent, arbitrary, irregular and abusive intrusion by some residents of the town of La Victoria and of the urban part of San José. Taking advantage of the irresponsible statements made by URT officials at the time of the proceedings last July, and now with the clear purpose of slowing down the proceedings that are going forward, saying that “beginning when the property is returned to its owners”, (a statement in which they assured hearers that they were authorized to invade properties belonging to the Peace Community). These actions are coming from the Guatinaja sector regarding the La Roncona property.
On Wednesday, August 16, 2023, several people from the town of La Victoria and from the urban part of San José, who are in the service of shady interests, according to those who invaded with the consent of the Jaramillo family (now claimants for land restitution), violently, arbitrarily, and in an irregular and abusive manner, invaded a portion of the La Roncona property, a situation that is being repeated ever since Monday, August 14. There they destroyed trees that were fenced and the lumber that had been stolen by the invaders. All of this unconscionable outrage is happening in the context of the statements made by the URT officials during the georeferencing proceedings of last month at this farm, when they said, “starting right now, they can finally return to their property.”
On Thursday, August 17, 2023, several residents of the area, acting for shady interests, invaded our La Roncona property violently, arbitrarily and in an irregular and abusive manner once more, arguing that they had the approval of the URT to invade properties belonging to the Peace Community. On this occasion the violence, the arbitrariness, the arrogance, and the insults of the intruders against our Community were without any limits; they actually took down one of the signs bearing the distinctive insignia of our Peace Community, folded it in half, and put it under an arm and made provocative gestures against members of our Community, claiming that if we want the sign back we will have to go and request it from the Community Action Board (which now actually contains a well-known paramilitary as a member of the board of directors). It’s important to make clear that those who are leading these violent, arbitrary, irregular, and abusive incursions are those that the Jaramillo family (now claimants before the URT) authorized to establish the boundaries of the property that is part of the georeferencing proceeding.
On Friday, August 18, 2023, our Community obtained access to an audio recording in which Sr. James SEPÚLVEDA, a resident of the town of La Victoria in the District of San José, claims that the Community is accusing the whole world of being paramilitaries: “Everything that can move is a paramilitary.” Faced with that insolence, our Community rejects his statement, because it is untrue. We recognize publicly the honesty of hundreds of humble campesinos, responsible people who are working for their very lives, who would never kowtow to the paramilitary regimen to obtain a piece of bread. At the same time, we affirm once again that we’re not afraid to raise our voices to announce publicly and before all humanity, the history of the attacks carried out by any armed actor against our Community and against the defenseless civilian residents of our geographic and social surroundings; we will never protect the criminals, we will denounce them publicly.
On August 23, 2023, in the town of La Resbalosa, more precisely, in the vicinity of the local school, there was a party attended by a group of paramilitaries who had been there since early in the morning. But in the evening, a paramilitary known by the alias of PILOTO, (The Pilot), who’s from the town of La Hoz, inflicted serious injuries on a campesino who is from that town. He was left in serious condition. We have learned that this was a plan to kill him, and the strategy is to eliminate him and to make it look as if he was killed in a fight like drunks have at parties. This is the second time they have tried to kill him.
On that same Wednesday, August 23, 2023, in the afternoon, several dump trucks and machinery for the extraction of road construction material invaded the La Roncona property arbitrarily, abusively, and in an irregular manner in spite of the fact that members of our community immediately surrounded the site to claim that they were in violation of private property protected by the Constitution and the laws. The intruders ignored it.
On Saturday, August 26, 2023, our Community learned of new attacks against our Peace Community by CESAR JARAMILLO on social networks. He claims that on several occasions our Community attacked his integrity for the purpose of eliminating him. The infamous attacks by that personage, who brags of being a member of the board of directors of FEDECACAO against our way of life, is limitless. Listening to his statements on social networks, the only thing he inspires is hatred and rage against our way of life and against other leaders and people of the District that he has stigmatized and put at imminent risk of their lives, all because they won’t kowtow to his perverse, destructive, and authoritarian plans
On Wednesday, August 30, 2023, two paramilitaries, alias Conejo (Rabbit) and alias Gildardo, barged into the private property of our Peace Community in the town of Mulatos Medio, better known as the Luis Eduardo Guerra Peace Village. Every day you see these personages crossing into our private living spaces. The presence of these subjects in our spaces limits our freedom and confines our tranquility. Already on several occasions the paramilitaries have tried to invade us, along with some of the people that live in our Luis Eduardo Guerra Peace Village.
On Thursday, August 31, 2023, our Community found out about the presence of a group of Police Special Forces that were present in the place known as Crucito, a site in the District of Frasquillo in the Municipality of Tierralta in Córdoba. They are insulting a number of residents of the area.
On Friday, September 1, 2023, there was a meeting in Bogotá with officials of the URT Territorial Management for Apartadó and also the Central Level. It was reported there about the serious threats and assaults that some campesinos are making, while saying that, by order of the URT, they can go into the properties belonging to the Peace Community. And there was also evidence of the serious situation of invasions of the La Roncona property, and how they took advantage of the manifestations of the officials at the time of the proceedings by taking these abusive and irregular actions. These statements have unleashed unlimited consequences against our civil and peaceful resistance. They are telling us to pay no attention to what is going on, and to what is probably coming, that it’s just an issue among neighbors that they will excuse by saying they have no jurisdiction to face up to the situation which is attacking our communitarian way of living in solidarity. The response by the Central Level of this agency is of great concern to our Community. They are pressuring us to go forward and to put aside the situation that is going on right now on this property.
On Monday, September 4, 2023, in the January 20 neighborhood in Apartadó, the young man DAYRON ANDRES OSORIO ARTEAGA was shot to death. He was a person that the residents and people of the District of San José de Apartadó knew.
On Saturday, September 9, 2023, a young man named DAVID TORRES was murdered in the town of La Pedrosa. He was a brother of Blas Humberto David Torres, who was also murdered by paramilitaries on Sunday, January 24, 2021.
On Sunday, September 10, 2023, our Community learned that a group of paramilitaries went to the farm that the paramilitaries own in the town of Mulatos in the District of San José. According to the campesinos who live in the town, the paramilitaries came heavily armed with long-range weapons, camping equipment, and were wearing military uniforms.
On Tuesday, September 12, 2023, on social networks, we found out about the incursions by several Colombian military who, wearing outfits and appearing to be guerrillas, intimidated several families in Bocas del Manso, in the Municipality of Tierralta, in Córdoba Department. This practice by Colombian soldiers isn’t new. In our experience of more than two decades as the Peace Community, we have seen the horrors of the war, mostly perpetrated by Colombian military troops that are either identified as paramilitaries at the time of carrying out crimes, or they are patrolling jointly with them. In our territory, they are actually living together.
On Thursday, September 14, 2023, a number of paramilitaries intercepted members of our Community when they were going to the sector known as Calzón Rojo to do some farm work and to plant subsistence food. Shamelessly and in the presence of international accompaniment, they kept on making calls and communications with their service radios and upbraiding our comrades.
On that same Thursday, September 14, 2023, two paramilitaries, including GILDARDO ARIAS, barged into the interior of the Luis Eduardo Guerra Peace Village, the private property of our Peace Community. The two subjects paid no attention to the international delegation that was accompanying a commission of our Peace Community.
On Friday, September 15, 2023, at the place known as Baltasar, in the Municipality of Tierralta, there was a fierce exchange of gunfire with long guns, and some bombs exploded. The details, and the fate of the civilians who live there, are not known, even though later on a helicopter could be seen flying over the area.
On that same Friday, September 15, 2023, once again some people, including a woman who identified herself as Claudia Milena, better known as the wife of James Sepúlveda, tried violently, arbitrarily, and in an irregular and abusive manner, to invade the La Roncona farm, the property of our Peace Community. They destroyed the fence that denotes the boundaries, and destroyed some of the trees, claiming categorically that they have URT authorization to invade our communitarian property, which invasion the URT did authorize. In this episode, the woman was communicating with somebody who clearly was asking whether Germán Graciano (legal representative of the Peace Community) was present at the time, and the woman answered that no, he was not, that someone else was there, “you know which one.”
On Monday, September 18, 2023, at 6:20 p.m., two paramilitaries in dark suits and carrying weapons entered our Peace Community, staying several minutes next to the Community Center. The presence of the two subjects was registered by the security cameras. Once the members of our Community reacted, the intruders started to flee and they left a dark-colored tee shirt at the site.
On Monday, September 18, 2023, our Peace Community received a document drawn up and signed by the Community Action Board of the town of Mulatos Medio in the District of San José. The document warns us that the property, Luis Eduardo Guerra Peace Village, the property of our Peace Community, belongs to them, and that, furthermore, it is a property in Land Restitution proceedings. The document is signed by the leaders and several people from the town, but we never imagined that we would also find the signature of the well-known paramilitary GILDARDO ARIAS, who on several occasions has barged into our property with weapons and a communication radio.
On Tuesday, September 19, 2023, in the afternoon, the Police called together some of the residents of the urban part of San José, to approach the subject of security, because of the events that took place on September 18, 2023 in the Peace Community in San Josecito. The shamelessness of the Armed Forces is now limitless, as they live with the paramilitaries in the same territory, in the parks, in the settlement in the town, and then they wash their hands. How cynical can they be?
We often wonder if it’s worse to keep hoping for a government that, through its administrations would furnish guarantees of our existence as a central obligation to the Rule of Law. But we are seeing that these rights are denied and trampled by interests that put up barriers to justice and right.
We reaffirm our principles and convictions to continue travelling with honor on the path of memory to bring to our present the lives of all those who offered theirs to construct a more just world, while at the same time we thank all those who from many parts of the world sustain us with their affection and solidarity and moral strength.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
September 22, 2023