By Ana Cristina Restrepo Jiménez, EL ESPECTADOR, April 5, 2024


(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The social networks and communications media were urging on the “cow” that belonged to Álvaro Uribe and Andrés Julián Rendón, while the campesinos of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó (CPSJA) were traversing the Serranía de Abibe by foot or on the backs of mules.

After six hours of travel, where the thickets drown the cell phone signal, Arley Tuberquia, the leader of the Community, was able to send me some messages: “We’ve arrived at the Las Delicias farm, which is the property of the CPSJA, where the awful events of murder were committed against our sister and brother Nallely Sepúlveda, and Edinson David. We will not give up one centimeter of our territory to the violent.”

Uribe proposes that a million people living in Antioquia donate a million pesos (roughly USD $265.17 at current exchange rates) in order to complete the 4G roads. Having the “cows” do the paving is nothing new for CPSJA: “In 2021, there was an advertisement in the majority of the 32 towns (veredas) in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó. The paramilitaries under the command of alias Cristián called meetings and set a quota for the owners of farms and for people in the countryside that didn’t own property. That money went to construction, not only of the highway that goes up to La Esperanza, but also of another one that started from the urban part of San José and goes toward La Cristalina.” For those who owned no property, the poorest, they had to pay 300,000 pesos (roughly USD $79.55 at current exchange rates). The owners, a million. Or more. “They started opening up these roads with the machinery and operators from the 17th Brigade of the Colombian Army’s Engineers Batallion . . . that was in 2021. The paramilitaries provided the food and the gas,” said Tuberquia.

Why “milk” these “cows”? Apartado has four districts. San José is the last one that still has campesinos. According to cadastral reports, the other three are—almost completely—owned by companies. The geographer, Carlos Montoya, assistant for Antioquia at the Unit for Implementation of the Peace Agreement (UIAP), explains the irregular accumulation of open land: “There are some actors accumulating land here, taking advantage of the context, and building roads illegally so as to get into big time cattle ranching.” In addition, San José de Apartadó is a District for Integrated Management of renewable natural resources. “There are supposed to be forests, the sources that provide the water for the urban part of Apartadó. That exercise of deforestation that they have done to accumulate unused land, which doesn’t belong to campesinos, as we have been able to identify by parcels, has done environmental damage to some 1,600 hectares around here between 2019 and 2023,” added Fontana.

But the “cows” didn’t just pave for other cows. There is a higher interest, says the geographer: “Las Delicias, the most productive farm belonging to the (CPSJA), lies above a coal mining title.” Gloria Cuartas, Director of the UIAP, and former Mayor of Apartadó, has been warning of this situation for 27 years. 27 years!

Every time President Gustavo Petro shakes the cowbell, the “cow” paves the road—of the country’s right wing. Antioquia doesn’t forget the gap: between the mule being chastised over the hills of the Serranía and “cows” and raffles of colts, keeping on preaching their “solidarity” and “love of country”. Meanwhile, after eight hours on the bus from Medellín, like a different country, the campesinos of the CPSJA are requesting the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to visit as soon as possible.

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