CSN-MADISON, MAY 15, 2002
The following message was sent to us by Friends of Reconciliation. We in Madison and this area are a sister community to San Jose de Apartado. Would you please take the time to send this to your
Representative to ask her/him to sign onto this dear colleague letter? For many of you who were in Washington, D.C. a few short weeks ago, this could be an excellent follow-up of that visit.
Thanks for all that you do.
Sister Marge Eilerman
The situation in the peace community of San José de Apartadó in Northern Colombia has deteriorated drastically in recent weeks. But there is something very concrete that you can do
to help. Paramilitary killings and threats against public transport drivers who work on the road between Apartadó and San José have imposed what amounts to an economic blockade on the
community. Although some supplies have been delivered to the Peace Community with the accompaniment of national government officials, the road remains dangerous for public
service drivers, their passengers, teachers and health workers.
On May 4, a group of about 200 armed men believed to be paramilitary troops invaded the hamlet of La Unión, most of whose residents had fled that morning. The armed men
ransacked homes and stole food, clothes and 12 mules and other animals. The 17th Army Brigade, responsible for the region, did not intervene although it was alerted about the incursion
hours before the armed men left the community at 3:15.
In response to the continued blockade, threats and attacks against the Peace Community, Congressman Sam Farr is sponsoring a "Dear Colleague" letter to Colombian President Andres
Pastrana in support of the Peace Community and its demands for safety and recognition. The letter is circulating in Congress as of today. The closing date for signatures on the letter is
Friday, May 17.
To gather as many signatures as possible, your support is essential. Please call your representative's Washington office, ask for the staffperson who deals with Colombia, and say you
would like the Congressperson to sign a Dear Colleague letter sponsored by Rep. Farr in support of a Colombian peace community. Explain why this space for peace is so important,
and that there are U.S. citizens doing human rights observation there. If you get voicemail, ask the aide to call you back. If you don't hear back in a couple days, call again. Be polite,
clear and firm.
The text of the letter is included below. We also include a list of Representatives who signed a letter supporting San Jose de Apartado in 2001; if your Rep is listed, point out to the aide
you speak with that s/he signed a similar letter before. To reach the DC office, call the congressional switchboard at 202/224-3121. If you do not know who your representative is,
please see http://www.house.gov/writerep
If your Representative is interested in signing onto this important letter, please ask them to contact Ned Steiner (5-2861, firstname.lastname@example.org
<mailto:email@example.com>) in Congressman Farr's office.
Many of you may have seen news reports that on May 2, fighting between the FARC guerrilla and paramilitary troops caused the death of 117 civilians, among them 40 children, who
had sought refuge in the church in the town of Bojayá in the Colombian state of Chocó. The church was hit by a gas cylinder filled with explosives that was launched by the guerrillas
attempting to hit paramilitary troops close by. The community has now asked all armed groups to leave just as they had before declared their autonomy each time a new armed group
arrived in their community. As the fighting continues, many people are fleeing to the near-by town Vigía del Fuerte and there are great humanitarian needs for the refugees. On May 5, it
was reported from Vigía del Fuerte that State-lead military operations are impeding the search for missing people, looking for the wounded and the displaced, funerals for the casualties
and the arrival of humanitarian commissions providing medical assistance. For more information and how you can help please go to www.forusa.org/colombia.
Thank you very much for your continued support for the Peace Community and its commitment to resisting the war and building a life in peace and dignity for its members. *************************************************************
President Andres Pastrana Arango
Republica de Colombia
Santafe de Bogota, Colombia
Dear President Pastrana
We write to you to bring your attention to the humanitarian crisis facing the civilian population of the Peace Community San Jose de Apartadó and its outlying settlements.
Since the beginning of April, the Peace Community has been under siege from an economic blockade imposed by paramilitary forces, which is not allowing any normal food
shipments to enter or leave the community.
We urge the appropriate authorities of your government to dismantle the paramilitary checkpoint on the road between San Jose and Apartadó, ensure the continued safety of
the road, and fully investigate recent threats and attacks on the Peace Community. The members of this community have explicitly committed themselves to peace and
nonviolence, refusing to provide support for any armed group, including both the insurgent and paramilitary organizations. They wish to remain neutral in order to live their lives
On March 31, Gilma Rosa Graciano, a member of the Peace Community, was found murdered in Nueva Colonia, near the town of Turbo. She was abducted the day before by
armed men identified as members of the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), while traveling on the road between the nearby city of Apartadó and San
Jose. Paramilitary troops had established a checkpoint only four minutes away from an official military checkpoint. Since then, three public transport drivers, Reynel de Jesus
Alvarez, Osiel Monoya and Gonzalo Trejo have been killed, reportedly by paramilitaries. The first two in the same place as Ms. Graciano, while Mr. Trejo was killed outside of
his home in Apartadó.
These murders and continuing threats against drivers who take supplies to and from the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartadó have established an economic blockade
of the community and provoked a humanitarian crisis. After 13 days with no shipments of food, the Community began to suffer from hunger. Not even the national or the
international Red Cross brought humanitarian supplies up the road because of the threats and killings of drivers. The community's banana crop, on which it depends for
survival, is also at risk, while persons who are sick can only reach medical help by riding mules or oxen on the dangerous road.
Although some food has been delivered since, accompanied by national government officials, the road to San José de Apartadó remains dangerous. Military personnel
reportedly filmed and registered names of residents who assisted the unloading and delivering of the supplies.
On May 4, a group of approximately 200 armed men, believed to be paramilitary troops invaded the hamlet of La Unión, most of whose residents had fled that morning. The
armed men ransacked homes and stole food, clothes and 12 mules and other animals. The 17th Army Brigade, responsible for the region, did not intervene although it was
alerted about the incursion hours before the armed men left the community at 3:15.
These attacks against the community and the legitimate economic activities that sustain it are occurring in the wake of the Peace Community's fifth anniversary
commemoration, during which it reiterated its commitment to non-violence and neutrality.
The Peace Community San Jose de Apartadó and its settlements, including the village of La Union, receive the permanent accompaniment of international organizations.
These include Peace Brigades International (PBI), as well as the U.S. Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), which currently has two US citizens in La Union. We support the
work of these two respected organizations as well as the Peace Community in its effort to build a non-violent alternative to the conflict.
We ask that your government respond to our above request, and to the peace community's petition for a meeting with Vice President Dr. Gustavo Bell Lemus to discuss their
needs and concerns. We thank you for your attention to this serious and important matter, and thank you in advance for informing us of the concrete measures you have taken
to prevent further attacks on members of the community of San Jose de Apartadó.
Representatives who signed the letter in 2001: James P. McGovern (D-MA)
Janice D. Schakowsky (D-IL)
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
Henry Waxman (D-CA)
John Joseph Moakley (D-MA)
Benjamin Gilman (R-NY)
Pete Stark (D-CA)
James A. Leach (R-IA)
Nita Lowey (D-NY)
Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ)
William D. Delahunt (D-MA)
Christopher Shays (R-CT)
Ed Pastor (D-AZ)
Connie Morella (R-MD)
Sam Farr (D-CA)
Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
Lane Evans (D-IL)
Jim McDermott (D-WA)
Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Lloyd Doggett (D-TX)
Lynn Woolsey (D-CA)
Tom Sawyer (D-OH)
Bernard Sanders (I-VT)
Maurice D. Hinchey (D-NY)
Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH)
George Miller (D-CA)
Cynthia McKinney (D-GA)
Peter DeFazio (D-OR)
Joseph Crowley (D-NY)
John Tierney (D-MA)
Robert E. Andrews (D-NJ)
Jim Oberstar (D-MN)
Michael E. Capuano (D-MA)
John Olver (D-MA)
Michael Honda (D-CA)
Jose E. Serrano (D-NY)
Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD)