Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó

November 30, 2023

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Once again we raise our voices to reach every corner of the world and to make known to history the activities that are constantly attacking the people of our geographic and social surroundings and of our Peace Community.

Every time we find ourselves entrapped in a world where only power predominates, and nobody cares who is suffering the scourges of extermination they are using to obtain their objectives.

According to the Colombian government itself, they are achieving negotiations with the illegal armed groups, and thus will secure the lives of the people living in the towns (veredas) and districts (corregimientos) of the country. But that’s only news in the communications media; in reality, nothing has changed in the lives of the campesinos that live in the country, because in the areas controlled by the legal or illegal armed actors, life is harder to endure than it has ever been. Likewise, in areas like San José de Apartadó, paramilitarism is what is controlling and is what decides how the campesino may move or work.

In Urabá, the government of change has not arrived yet, and neither has it carried out an exhaustive examination and a purification of the 17th Brigade of the Colombian Army itself.  Within the Brigade and its attached battalions there is a high degree of complicity with the paramilitaries. Proof of this complicity is something that happened recently on September 12, 2023, where soldiers and masked paramilitaries jointly intimidated the civilian population in the town of Manso in the Municipality of Tierralta, Córdoba Department.

Likewise, in the towns of San José de Apartado, there is a large presence of paramilitaries who walk around openly in their camouflage outfits with its AGC insignias, heavily armed, and they also go around under the total protection of the Armed Forces and judicial police. Worse still is the way they control and obligate the civilian population to accept them in their towns and on their private property. Because nobody can say anything or file any complaint for fear of being killed or displaced from the region, which is happening now with some of the people that have had to go a long way away to avoid being killed.

The events that we report today are the following:

On Sunday, September 24, 2023, in the morning, in the town of Mulatos Medio, paramilitary troops were seen crossing the river. The campesinos living around there said they were heavily armed, wearing camouflage and bracelets with the AGC insignia (Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces).

On that same Sunday, September 24, 2023, our Peace Community found out that there had been changes in the paramilitary command staff in the area that includes all the towns of La Resbalosa up to the District (corregimiento) of Frasquillo in the Municipality of Tierralta in Córdoba Department. They say the new commander has announced plans to kill people; note his supposed announcement of social cleansing as a pretext for eliminating from the area anyone who doesn’t submit to their plans.

On Monday, September 25, 2023, our Peace Community learned of a death threat by the paramilitaries that control the area against a person who lives in the District of San José de Apartadó. That person has decided to flee the territory In order to save his life.

On Tuesday, September 26, 2023, around 8:00 p.m., helicopters were heard flying over the towns of La Resbalosa and Mulatos.

On Saturday, October 7, 2023, you could see a strong presence of paramilitary “puntos” (informants) in the school at La Resbalosa. On that same day, without any authorization, some of the paramilitaries entered a piece of land that is the private property of the Peace Community.

On that same Saturday, October 7, 2023, the Peace Community learned of a warning of the strong presence of a group of heavily armed paramilitaries encamped on one of its properties in the town of Mulatos in the District of San José de Apartadó.

On Saturday, November 4, 2023, you could see a strong presence of paramilitaries in camouflage moving around and carrying long guns at the place known as the (Y) in the town of La Resbalosa and then heading toward Mulatos.

On Sunday, November 5, 2023, once again you could see a strong presence of heavily armed paramilitaries between the towns of Mulatos and La Resbalosa.

On that same Sunday, November 5, 2023, in the population center of the town of La Unión in the District of San José de Apartadó, a woman who was part of the paramilitaries arrived, accompanied by another well-known paramilitary. She was carrying large amounts of money with her and she used the money to buy a lot of liquor, which she distributed to the people that were there, ending up drunk herself. A few minutes later, the paramilitary that they call the boss, who had come accompanied by the woman, threatened several of the young campesinos that were there, blaming them for stealing her cell phone that she had lost while she was getting drunk. We found out that this paramilitary had told the high-ranking commanders about the loss of the phone; he used a communications radio, at the same time that Colombian Army soldiers from the 17th Brigade were present at that same place, but they paid to attention to the situation and acted as if they had not seen anything.

On Tuesday, November 7, 2023, as the day passed, there was a lot of movement of paramilitaries carrying communications radios and wearing civilian clothes in the town of Mulatos in the District of San José de Apartadó.

On that same Tuesday, November 7, 2023, two paramilitaries entered one of the parcels that is the private property of the Peace Community.

On Tuesday, November 7, 2023, during the night, shots from a long gun were heard in the area of Baltazar, a place located east of the town of La Resbalosa. Right now, we don’t know the motivation of the shooting or what may have happened to the civilian population.

On Wednesday, November 8, 2023, our Peace Community learned that the paramilitaries had threatened to kill a resident of one of the towns in San José de Apartadó, warning him that he couldn’t come back to the town where he was living, and warning if he failed to obey their orders and returned, they would kill him.

On that same Wednesday, November 8, 2023, in the morning, paramilitaries called together the civilian population of La Resbalosa, ordering them all to go into the school that’s in that town. According to reports, the paramilitary commanders that were there to direct the meeting are from the District of Nuevo Antioquia in the Municipality of Turbo. In the meeting, they announced the rules being imposed by the paramilitaries and that anyone failing to comply must leave or be killed.

This Wednesday, November 8, 2023, at 8:30 p.m., you could hear a troop of the Colombian Army on its way to San José de Apartadó on motorcycles; they seemed to be carrying out some kinds of late-night incursions and nobody knows why. The way they are doing this is very suspicious when you consider that this is a sector controlled by the paramilitaries.

On Thursday, November 9, 2023, in the morning, a paramilitary with two communications radios and a cell phone, burst into our private property La Cabaña in the town of La Resbalosa. Instantly, the internationals that were accompanying us announced their presence as accompaniment to the Peace Community in this area. They requested that the intruder retire from the location, as he had entered the private property of the Peace Community. The paramilitary avoided the request that he leave the Community’s living space. He left a while later, making gestures to show he didn’t care anything about what they said.

On Friday, November 10, 2023, our Peace Community learned of the presence of a group of heavily armed paramilitaries in camouflage at the place best known as la Cañada de Pulgarín (Pulgarin’s Glen) in the town of Mulatos Medio in San José de Apartadó.

On that same Friday, November 10, at 9:00 – 12:00 in the morning, you could see a group of soldiers that had illegally entered our private property, La Holandita, where we have our settlement, San Josecito.

On Saturday, November 11, 2023, a resident of the San José District came up to our Community to let us know that the paramilitaries had taken away parcels of private land (farms) from a number of campesinos from some of the towns in San José de Apartadó and Tierralta, in Córdoba Department. According to this campesino’s complaint, it was because they had refused to obey the orders the paramilitaries had issued, like the order not to open any new areas for planting subsistence crops for their families.

On Monday, November 13, 2023, at about 7:00 p.m., a fellow came into the space of the private property of our Peace Community, in one of the towns in the District of San José de Apartadó, asking where our accompaniment was.

On Tuesday, November 14, 2023, our Community found out about the killing in Murmullo, in Tierralta, of a civilian who was called, familiarly, a paisa (countryman) who was originally from Dabeiba in Antioquia; he had died at the hands of the paramilitaries, who had killed him with several gunshot wounds to his body.

On Friday, November 17, 2023, at 4:10 p.m., five paramilitaries on horseback entered our private property La Cabaña, located in the town of La Resbalosa, where the massacre of February 21, 2005, was perpetrated by paramilitaries and the Colombian Army. One of the paramilitaries was carrying a rifle, while the others carried communications radios and handguns.

On Monday, November 20, our Community was contacted via cell phone by a person who introduced himself as a member of the Policonstructors Associated Labor Cooperative, announcing to us that he had a permit to exploit construction materials from the Apartadó River. He said that if the Community was unwilling to discuss it with them, another company would come and that company would really push us around. That would risk the survival of the ecosystem when confronted by their threats of exploitation and environmental damage.

On Wednesday, November 22, 2023, at 12:30 p.m., a young man was killed near the La Balsa settlement on the road that leads from San José to Apartadó by two subjects who cut his life short with gunfire. Once again, those who reject life destroy it with bullets. This event took place while just a few minutes away, a Police checkpoint had been set up at the point where the road leaves Apartadó and heads for San José. Were they pretending that the Police are in control while the paramilitaries add another victim to their rap sheet of murder? It’s obvious that the paramilitaries are the ones in total control.

In recent weeks the paramilitaries have adjusted their regulations and orders: they’ve imposed a “vacuna” (illegal tax for the war) on the merchants in San José de Apartadó; they’ve given specific orders regarding the commercialization of meat with monitoring and permanent control, and anybody that tries to avoid the subservience will have to take the consequences. Those criminal practices and control by the paramilitaries over commerce and other activities in San José de Apartadó continue in spite of the strong military and police presence, without either police or military doing anything whatsoever to deter these out-of-control paramilitaries, and in spite of a government that calls itself a government of change.

The slaughter of human beings who are at the mercy of the human murder machines; in Israel it cost hundreds of lives of defenseless people torn to pieces, but, at the same time, the limits of savagery have been exceeded in Gaza, with thousands of human lives destroyed, children and women. How far will the barbarity go? Enough already.

Our Peace Community openly condemns every action against the life or physical integrity of any human being. At the same time, we reaffirm all our moral and ethical principles, as we continue building spaces for living in the midst of death.

We thank all the people from different corners of the world who are sustaining us with their moral force.

Peace Community of San José de Apartadó

November 30, 2023 

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