Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, April 21, 2024

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Throughout the 27 years of the life of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, we have identified as our worst victimizers, working together with the institutions of the Colombian government, the paramilitary organizations that act as groups of armed civilians that enjoy the full support, acquiescence, and tolerance of the government, and of the political elites that sustain them. That is evidenced, without leaving any doubt whatever, when you see the absolute impunity for all of their crimes.

That paramilitarism has assumed different names, but as the 21st century advances, it has been taking the initials of the “Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia—AGC”, initials interchangeable with “Clan del Golfo”, “Los Úsuga” or “Los Urabeños”. In a communication on March 30, 2024, they announced that they have changed their name to “Gaitanista Army of Colombia”. The text of the communication could not be more saturated with falsehoods in their attempt to sell the country and the world a deadly poison with the label of a healthful remedy.

The communication begins by weighing its size, making use of statistics about their “demobilization”, diffused between 2003 and 2006, referring to quantities of more than 30,000 people. People in Colombia who are even halfway informed know that all of that has been proved to be false; that it’s precisely because of those collections of deceptions that ex-President Uribe’s High Commissioner for Peace, Luis Carlos Restrepo, continues to be a fugitive from justice; that many adolescents and children from the neighborhoods drowning in misery were recruited to “demobilize” without ever having been paramilitaries, but were forced to fill out a high percentage of the “quota” received from the government for the phony demobilization of a few bosses of the so-called “self-defense forces” in the midst of grand extortionate feasts. Statute 782, designed by ex-President Uribe, served to keep the paramilitaries from facing justice. The National Directors of the prosecutors never registered their aliases, the unique identity by which they were known during their illegal militancy. And so they were able to pass directly from their criminal practices to the pseudo-legal organizations that Uribe had prepared for them to enter a new phase of paramilitarism, legal according to him: the networks of informants and those willing to cooperate, companies protected while they appropriated land, like the palm plantations, the coca crops, that once again were using weapons with false legalization.

Supporting themselves on the continuation of the social conflict, the promises not kept, and the lies of the officials, the Communication tries to justify its armed persistence and its warlike legitimacy, using in the filthiest way the memory of the social leader with deep popular roots, Jorge Eliécer Gaitán. And the worst thing is that they say they are taking up Gaitán’s clamor “for the moral restoration of the Republic.” That a slogan of so much moral power is taken into the hands of a group of such criminals constitutes an offense that has no name, because it goes beyond ignominious. Defining their most recent stage, they dared to present themselves as “an army that fights for the social vindication and dignity of our people.” They want to appear to be fighters for the oppressed classes, supposedly rising up “against the persecution and extermination to which all who believed in the promise of peace from the assassination of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán have been subjected to this day .” But those of us who have been exposed to their presence in the countryside, we can’t fail to identify them as those who carried out the persecution and extermination against the poor and those who don’t conform.

Finally, the Communication tries to erase their identity as paramilitaries and neo-paramilitaries. They don’t have any arguments to be able to blot out the sun with their hands. It looks as if their history has been captured in all the signs of paramilitarism, and citing some arrests or some extraditions by previous administrations isn’t going to do any good to prove that they didn’t always act in unison with the repressive bodies of the government and the establishment.

In their reference to the Urabá region, where they are governing right now without any opposition, it’s impossible to accept that an armed organization whose economic base is sustained by the huge arsenals of the drug traffickers, which permit them to hand out bribes with monstrous “tips” to officials, the Armed Forces, demobilized individuals, community action leaders, and private informants known as “puntos” who irrigate the whole geography of the towns (veredas), their effort to identify themselves as a force that’s fighting for the oppressed classes of the people. Their economic, political, and military power permits them to exercise territorial control down to the millimeter; requiring submission because of the terror their interests can inflict, going so far as to shed the blood of those who disobey their orders, as we just now experienced dramatically in our Peace Community. Ever since the Armed Forces were drastically censured by the international community, they stopped accompanying them on their criminal patrols in daylight time, but their covered-up coordination with them was not modified. The tolerance for their crimes is projected in the absolute impunity of their violence. Therefore, whether they are AGC or EGC, they maintain control, which includes the most shocking slavery against the campesino population in the service of a cattle ranching, extractive, anti-agriculture, anti-ecology economy.

Ultimately, this communication presupposes that the people it’s intended for have already been made stupid by the mass disinformation media, and so will not perceive that they are being obliged to believe that white is black and black is white. We are making a record before the country and the world of the events we have experienced in recent weeks.

On Monday, March 11, 2024, there was a meeting in the Mayor’s Office in Apartadó where some institutions and Community Action Boards in the District (corregimiento) of San José de Apartadó had been called together. One of the controversial subjects centered on the highway that some of the community boards have wanted to install forcibly in the Las Delicias farm, which belongs to the Peace Community, in the town of La Esperanza. We have refused this project repeatedly for very basic reasons: it threatens to transform and degrade a very valuable environmental zone; there has not been any democratic planning process, and there has been evasion of all the procedures required by law for the approval of public works of that kind; those that are promoting it are major interests and they announce that it’s being built by military equipment and the fuel is to be provided by the population; its purpose has been planned to be for the introduction of machinery to be used for mining projects by foreign capitalists that follow a development model that is anti-agriculture, anti-ecology, anti-community, and anti-national. Some of the statements made at that meeting confirm our fears and then some.

  • Citizen LUÍS SUAREZ of the Commons Party in Mutatá, said “I’ve been at that property. I went there with some friends to look at those ideas a little bit. Nobody has built any roads; they have built the roads themselves on their own. I think I was there a year ago visiting a friend, went to an assembly, a meeting, and they said they were going to charge every farm a quota to build their road (. . .)
  • In the statement made by a spokesman for the town of La Unión, he complained that our Peace Community is denouncing the domination by the paramilitaries of many community action boards, including the one at La Unión. However, our Community was mystified that he didn’t admit that ADOLFO GUZMAN, for example, is a well-known paramilitary and functions as Vice President of the Community Action Board in La Unión; and neither did he refer to events that really can’t be hidden, like the gathering of paramilitaries in the center of La Unión on January 6 of this year where all of the residents around there were forced to participate; nor did he refer to the death threats they have been making to anybody that talks to our Community about the paramilitary goings on in that town.
  • In his statement, FREDY VIDAL, a member of the COOPERATIVA CACAO VIVE (CACAO LIVES COOPERATIVE), pressed to have something positive about this area come out of the meeting, asserting that “we don’t want any more bloodshed”, which recognizes that there are armed actors all over around here, but sensing that there are going to be more violent solutions pretty soon, he said, “we don’t want this to turn into an escalation and start killing each other, because that’s what’s going to happen right away if we don’t go with the solution that we have here (. . .)
  • In his statement, the Commander of the 17th Brigade, Colonel Héctor Alexander Juzga León, reconfirmed the behaviors that are unacceptable for the Army. When it was his turn, he said, “You know very well that two or three soldiers are going around all of these towns, on all of the trails, where the Clan del Golfo is also present, as you all know.” Of course we know it because we’ve experienced it, we’ve suffered it, we see the proof of that every day, live and in person, and we’ve complained about it to national authorities for decades and also to international tribunals, but absolutely nothing has ever happened. With the Colonel’s confession, we can do nothing less than condemn the criminal connivance between soldiers and paramilitaries once again with all of our energy.
  • In another part of his statement, Colonel Juzga said, “We have no connection, no nexus, no connivance of any kind with the organized armed group, the Clan del Golfo; we continue to develop our operations in all of the area, as we have been doing.” It seems incredible that a commander of a military unit that has been dragging a criminal history behind it for several decades, perpetrating crimes against humanity, war crimes, and a continuing genocide, can go so far as to deny all of that with such bald-faced cynicism. Is the Colonel perhaps unaware that those crimes were not confessed, were not punished, and those who committed them were not discharged from the Army? That attitude is equivalent to identifying himself with the guilty parties and taking responsibility for them. It’s terrifying to realize how it’s been possible that high-ranking members of the Armed Forces are trained in such appalling, illegitimate, and illegal denialism. The Constitutional Court itself has reproached the Army repeatedly for refusing to provide the names, ranks, serial numbers, and chain of command of those who were present at the dates, times, and locations of the crimes. How does the Colonel explain the ongoing contempt for the Constitutional Court? Is it possible they were never taught that the Constitutional Court is the supreme law of the land?  
  • At another point in his statement Colonel Juzga said, “There is a court decision holding that those accusations against my Brigade, against my soldiers, should not have been made unless there was a criminal charge, and if there is one, it should be brought to the Attorney General of the Republic, because there you can obtain the names and all of that.” (. . .)

Very likely, the Colonel is referring to the civil rights action that the 17th Brigade itself filed against our Peace Community on September 24, 2018, demanding that we be required to retract complaints we made in eight different messages of historical record in that year, and demanded that we renounce that kind of complaint because it affects their right to the soldiers’ “good name”.  Although the Judge of the Second Municipal General Jurisdiction Court in Apartadó, MARIELA GOMEZ CARVAJAL, accepted the civil rights action and the incident of contempt filed by the same Brigade a few days later, even ordering the arrest of the Community’s Legal Representative, when her decision was reviewed by the Judge of the Second Civil Branch, WILLIAM GONZALEZ DE LA HOZ, he ordered that the whole case be dismissed, and the case was then reviewed by the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court issued Decision T-342 on August 21, 2020. The Justice who wrote the opinion, LUIS GUILLERMO GUERRERO, tried to deal with the traditional jurisprudence on the right to honor and also the right to free expression, leading to obvious contradictions and using unconcealable prejudices, decided in favor of a right to military honor. The decision was the object of so much international controversy and division among the Justices of the Court themselves, that in December 2020, a motion to dismiss was filed, which was adopted by several of the Justices and the case was settled by Order 25 of 2021. That conclusion rejected the dismissal, but the disagreement among the Justices and the quantity of documents by jurists and international entities that made pronouncements in favor of the Peace Community kept the Court from taking any action restricting the Community’s right to free expression and complaint. The most forceful argument was made by Justice JORGE ENRIQUE IBANEZ NAJAR, who had been the author of the first decision on review by the Constitutional Court, undoing the effect of the civil action by the military, demonstrating that to obtain the protection of a right to honor, it’s necessary to have had previously irreproachable conduct, but what the 17th Brigade had was more than ten national and international findings of crimes against humanity and connivance with the paramilitaries; therefore their claims were not legitimate.

  • In another part of his presentation, Colonel Juzga stated: “We have the capacity in our Engineers’ Batallion to fix the roads; we have some machinery; it’s simply to come up with an agreement with the Mayor’s Office, the Municipality, the Department, the Office of the Governor of Antioquia and the Engineering Command for us to do this. First, if all those entities say yes, sure, we’ll send the machinery, you find a cash cow and buy the gas, and the women cook some sancocho and have some lunch for the soldiers and the campesinos that are going to do the work, and if there’s agreement in the region, there’s going to be a road. I propose that, please, let’s keep that possibility in mind. Mayor, let’s reach that agreement if you can, you won’t have to pay the work force (. . .) we have the machinery for the project that you’re planning (. . .)

Those words confirm that the Brigade has been implicated in the illegal construction of roads, evading all licenses, democratic consultation with the inhabitants, environmental studies, and articulation between roads and socio-economic development plans. The Colonel’s story makes it clear that they have made deals between the military and citizens groups. What kind of groups? The commentaries refer to the paramilitary organizations that dominate this area, and it’s a domination that they support with weapons in the trajectory of terror and death that inundates the history of this region.

On Wednesday, March 13, 2024, an international delegation made up of officials from the Mayor’s Office in Apartadó (Secretaries of Government and Municipal Planning), Inspector General’s Office, Corpurabá, an Inspector of Police, Comisaria de Familia (responsible for the human rights of police families) a delegate from the UIAP (Unit for Implementation of the Peace Agreement), United Nations Mission 2, and the National Land Agency, was received by a delegation from our Peace Community. It took place at the farm, Las Delicias, which belongs to our Community, and is located in the town of La Esperanza. All the participants walked around on the service road that crosses the Community’s property where, among other things, they were shown the physical damage caused by the violent attacks that have been taking place on our communitarian property. The delegation then listened to the attackers, separately. Three proposals and a decision by the Police Inspector came out of that meeting: one was to fix the status of the service road, a decision that the Community believes to be the correct one.

On Thursday, March 18, 2024, President Gustavo Petro referred publicly to the necessity for our Peace Community to receive a public apology for all the atrocities perpetrated by government institutions, and to have our victims honored by monuments constructed in their memory. Our Community believes that such recognition is needed, but that it must be accompanied by measures that guarantee our permanence as a Peace Community in this territory, because right now we are being besieged by processes that are trying to take away our property that has been legitimately and legally acquired in these decades, and also besieged by criminal organizations that continue to insist on destroying the lives of our members, guaranteeing that their crimes will have impunity against all evidence.

On Friday, March 29, 2024, our Peace Community was informed of a plan orchestrated by the paramilitaries to barge into our settlement at San Josecito, but to leave the impression that it was an isolated incident or done by common criminals.

On Wednesday, April 3, 2024, two paramilitaries intercepted a member of our Community to warn him to stop working on a little piece of land belonging to another member of the Community in the town of Las Nieves, adding that, “I’ll say this once, but not twice,” and this was all being coordinated by the President of the Community Action Board of Las Nieves.

On Thursday, April 4, 2024, we could perceive the presence of paramilitary “puntos” (informants) at the place known as La Ye, in the town of La Resbalosa, a place they frequent without being hindered by anyone.

On that same Thursday, April 4, 2024, on social networks and local radio, Mister César Jaramillo, who has been instigating all of the violence against our Community, once again accused the Peace Community of being responsible for the two murders. Besides accusing Diego Ceballos, the husband of our murdered comrade Nalleli Sepúlveda, of being the one who actually killed her, a version that could only be sustained by lying with the wicked purpose of a cover-up. His evil plan and his hatred of our Community, was publicly manifested and placed in evidence in all the audios he has circulated on social media, and is not only claimed by him, but also by other figures taking advantage of their social position to spread the libel in order to do damage to our communitarian way of life.

On Sunday, April 7, 2024, a member of our Community was warned by a well-known paramilitary to stop doing farm work on the Community’s parcel in the town of La Resbalosa. He was warned that if he didn’t obey, he would have to take the consequences.

On Wednesday, April 10, 2024, at 8:00 in the morning, in the Luis Eduardo Guerra Peace Village, three well-known paramilitaries, one of them known as “Refercho”, went into the parcel, asking unnecessary questions. On that same day, in the town of La Resbalosa, we could see the presence of paramilitary “puntos” (informants) going freely all over the area.

On Thursday, April 11, 2024, at 7:00 p.m., a well-known paramilitary came up to the Luis Eduardo Guerra Peace Village, and in a very aggressive way. When he was surprised by members of our Community and our international accompaniment that were all present, he fled the scene.

On Friday, April 12, 2024, we learned of threats made against people that live in this region; they were accused of furnishing our Community with information that they are managing internally. The threats indicated that if they found out who was giving our Community information, those people would be running the same risk as the two that were murdered recently in our Community.

On Sunday, April 14, 2024, we were informed that two paramilitaries woke up in the community residence at the farm known as Japón y Soledad, which belongs to our Community. It’s located in the town of Las Nieves in the District of San José de Apartadó. The paramilitaries were taking advantage of the fact that the residence had been unoccupied.

Recently, soldiers who are part of the Colombian Army have been present in the towns of La Unión and El Porvenir, among other towns in the District of San José de Apartadó, and they were saying to the residents “that Peace Community is really a f—– up, they’re killing each other,” taking up and spreading the false version of the crime, saying that Nallely and Edinson had been killed by the Community itself.

On Tuesday, April 16, 2024, well-known paramilitaries intercepted a group of campesinos, warning them not to do any farm work on the parcel in Las Nieves, warning that this won’t be announced again, but will be followed up by consequences. That same plan of keeping our Peace Community from working on our farms in that town was confirmed by a member of the Community Action Board. He warned that they had found out that the paramilitaries had already warned families of the Peace Community not to do any farm work on the parcel that belonged to a member of the Peace Community, adding that, with the support of the paramilitaries, they were going to bring their farm work to a halt, whatever the cost.

On Wednesday, April 17, 2024, a resident of the town of La Unión had a phone conversation with Mr. César Jaramillo, whose phone is 3104738130. The call was focused on how to grab away from the Community the La Unión communitarian property (Agricultural Center) in the town of La Unión. This will be another front for repression against our Peace Community.

On Thursday, April 18, 2024, during the morning, the lifeless body of a young man was found. He had been killed near the road that leads from Apartadó to the urban center of San José de Apartadó at the point where the town of La Balsa is located.

On Saturday, April 20, 2024, paramilitaries in the town of Las Nieves barged onto private property. There are several “paracos” camped on the parcel, and they won’t permit the residents to do any farm work. This is the third consecutive threat against our attempts to work our land.

Once again, we thank all the people and communities from the farthest areas of our country and the world who have accompanied us spiritually in these months of intense pain and suffering that have led to enlarging the enormous ranks of our martyrs. In spite of all the concentrated and coordinated attacks that have been manifested intermittently against our way of life, we stay firm in fidelity to our principles and values.

Peace Community of San José de Apartadó

April 21, 2024

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