Message from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó

January 8, 2024

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Once more we raise our voices to every corner of the world, to call to the attention of humanity and history to the events that are constantly attacking our Peace Community and the population that surrounds us geographically and socially.

It started a year ago when we hoped to find new paths for living and peace in these territories, but what confronted us was the opposite, because the message being sent to the people here is that of a “regime supposedly overcome”. But it’s the same regime that already in the few days of the year 2024, continues to control, to impose rules, to infiltrate into the communities, to force the civilian population to meet with them, threatening and killing, and the government continues to be deaf and blind.

The events that we are recording are the following:

On Saturday, December 2, 2023, during the day, a group of paramilitaries in camouflage was seen crossing the river in the town (vereda) of Mulatos.

On Sunday, December 3, 2023, our Peace Community was informed that in the towns of El Mariano, Buenos Aires, and La Linda, among others, the Colombian Army would be patrolling during the nights, and you couldn’t tell what they were looking for in those towns, because it certainly wasn’t the paramilitaries; they continue to be in control and at peace, because nobody interferes with them.

On Tuesday, December 5, 2023, according to the people that live around there, the paramilitaries were building houses for control in the towns in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó. Everybody traveling on the road can see the house they’re building at the point known as Chontalito.

On Friday, December 8, 2023, during the afternoon, a group of paramilitaries in camouflage uniforms was seen at the point known as “La Cañada de Pulgarín” in the town of Mulatos.

On Tuesday, December 12, 2023, during the day, our Peace Community was informed, by people who are forced to live together with the paramilitaries in the area, that a new decision is being circulated to them for eliminating two members of our Internal Council. One of them is our Legal Representative, Germán Graciano, and the other is the coordinator of our settlement in the town of La Resbalosa. We have to keep in mind that the largest part of the territory at La Resbalosa is the property of the Municipality of Tierralta in Córdoba Department. That’s the place where just recently we discovered a strong unity of action between the Colombian Army and the paramilitaries and on occasion, violent attacks against campesino communities. These events are public knowledge at both national and international levels, and their strategy of joint action has continued to be denounced by rural communities in the Department of Córdoba.

Neither can our Community forget the attack at the end of December in 2017 when five paramilitaries arrived armed and on motorcycles with the decision to eliminate Germán Graciano, our Legal Representative, and José Roviro López, along with other members of our Internal Council. Those two are currently facing death threats. However, two of those paramilitaries were seized and retained by members of our Community and turned over to a delegate from a higher level of the government, while the others fled. They returned to the urban part of San José where they lived together and continue to live together with the Armed Forces of Colombia. We have to recall that in that episode, the collaboration between the Armed Forces and the whole judicial apparatus and the paramilitaries was absolutely evident, and even at the high levels of what’s called “justice”; there has been no investigation of the case. The attackers retained by the Community were released a few hours later with total freedom of action.

On Tuesday December 12, 2023, we learned of the death of the young man, Elmer Emilio Gómez David, who had disappeared a few days earlier and was later found dead with signs of cruel tortures. Gómez David, who came from San José, had been a member of our Peace Community, as was his family who had left our way of life some time ago. Our Peace Community criticizes forcefully the practices that are so brutal and inhumane, practices that belong to people that lack the most elementary human sensibility, and that are happening here in our territory. We send our most profound sentiments of condolence to his family.

On the days between December 18 and December 21, 2023, our Peace Community carried out a humanitarian pilgrimage through several towns in the District of San José de Apartadó, including Mulatos and Resbalosa. We rejected publicly the death threats against the people who live in this region and against members of our Internal Council. During this pilgrimage, we were able to verify the strong presence and territorial control by the paramilitaries in the area, and also the different houses the paramilitaries are building, houses like: the one at the site best known as Chontalito, where the paramilitaries have a control center with a permanent paramilitary presence ever since 2018, just like the control centers in the property that used to belong to Emilio Chanci, Billete Vere and the mansion in the town of Mulatos, a joint control center at the La Resbalosa School. It’s really incredible to see them reach this point of audacity in the persistent tenacity of the regime that was supposedly overcome. The paramilitaries have strangled any possibility of survival of an autonomous civilian population.

On Friday, December 22, 2023, during the day, our Community received information that the paramilitaries were threatening several women in the town of La Unión. What we heard was that they were threatened because they had befriended some members of the Demining Brigade No. 6, which was staying in the town.

On January 4, 2024, our Community was requested urgently by Ovidio Torres Areiza and his family to protect them from imminent threats of death by the paramilitaries. Our Community cannot forget that when, in June of 2006, Ovidio was in a probationary period for entrance into our community, he made a deal with the Army and the paramilitaries to steal the Community’s computer, which he did do on June 30, 2006, coordinating with the paramilitaries Ovidio Cardona Borja and Elkin Tuberquia, to deliver it to the Army. The Army, according to its own witnesses “was disappointed” because they didn’t find anything in it of interest for their purposes. They were trying to find some kind of relationship with the guerrillas.

Although Ovidio admits that he fought along with the paramilitaries for several years, he says he has retired from that and refuses to return, in spite of repeated pressures, which, according to him, might be the cause of the death threats he’s receiving now. According to his version, the decision to kill him is firm and they have even gone after his oldest son, seizing him and torturing him to get him to tell them where his father is, putting the lives of his younger children at high risk.

Our Community, followed one of its basic principles, which is the defense of the life of any human being, even though he may not follow our way of life. We agreed to protect him until he could get to a safe area and request from humanitarian entities the funds necessary to get away from the high risk area, and that’s what he did.

On Saturday, January 6, 2024, during the morning, well-known paramilitaries like alias Javier Resorte (Nelson Montoya) alias El Viejo, (Adolfo Guzmán) alias El Negro or William, among others, gathered together the residents and visitors in the populated center of the town of La Unión in the District of San José de Apartadó. The paramilitaries made all the people turn over their cell phones during the meeting. The order from the paramilitaries was that nobody could refuse to join the community action boards, which reveals that they have been consolidating these boards as a mechanism of control by the paramilitaries, besides imposing the way the civilian population has to behave, and if you refuse, every one of you will have to take the consequences. At the meeting, they attributed to themselves the jurisdiction that belongs to the legal system, trying to arbitrate disputes about land and giving confusing and contradictory instructions. That meeting took place in spite of the fact that the military in the town were close by, which confirms the now routine practice of camouflaging the relationship between the military and the paramilitaries.

On Monday, January 8, 2024, starting very early in the morning, a group of heavily armed soldiers was present in the populated center of La Unión in the District of San José de Apartadó. They were trying to get the civilian population to give them information about the paramilitaries. The military and the Police have more than enough information about the paramilitaries because they live with them. So, they involve the civilian population in a violent conflict in which they have no part.

Our Peace Community openly condemns every action and attack against the life and integrity of any human being, and it will be the responsibility of the Colombian government if anything happens to a member of our Community, or to the residents of this area. The paramilitaries are free and tolerated.

As the Peace Community, we reaffirm our moral and ethical principles to continue building spaces for living in the midst of death.

We thank all the people that have continued to sustain us with their moral force coming from different corners of the world.

Peace Community of San José de Apartadó

January 8, 2024

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