San Jose de Apartadó

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San Jose de Apartadó is a small hamlet located 7 miles from Apartadó where peasants from neighboring areas sold avocados, cocoa beans and other products. The town had organized a cooperative called BALSAMAR to market and process the cocoa beans, and the Colombian army believed the town was under the control of FARC guerrillas.

In February 1997, the paramilitaries came in and ordered everyone to leave, shutting down the market, forbidding the selling of food except for small amounts, and accusing the villagers of running a supply post for the guerrillas. To make their point, the paramilitaries dragged out of their homes the 4 elected board members of the cooperative, and killed them, and threw their bodies into a shallow grave.

The community responded. On March 23, on Palm Sunday, after high mass, the inhabitants of San Jose and its rural settlements declared themselves a Comunidad de Paz, or Community of Peace, in front of a delegation which included members of Pax Christi International, the Dutch Parliament, the Diocese of Apartado, Justicia y Paz, CINEP and the Mayor of Apartadó Gloria Cuartas. The idea of a Comunidad de Paz was born from the context of terror and death.

The civilian population committed itself :

This is an alternative of the civilian population to express resistance, autonomy, a dignified life and a peaceful expression of opposition to the status quo. It is a novelty in Colombia because it redefines popular power focusing on exercising fundamental rights as citizens in a democracy and breaks the dynamics of war and injustice, creating a space to survive. Since it declared itself a Comunidad de Paz, San Jose has seen the death of 35 members--33 executed by paramilitaries and 2 executed by FARC guerillas.

CSN asks the world community to support this novel effort for peace in Colombia, by declaring yourself an International Member of the Comunidad de Paz de San Jose de Apartado.

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