The San Jose de Apartado Peace Community has reported continued indifference by government officials over the persecution of its members by paramilitaries.
“They try to end us in different ways, today they want to displace us, but our stubbornness for life will not let us give it up,” declared the peace community’s press release Monday.
According to the community, which was established in 1997 in an attempt to resist being drawn into Colombia’s armed conflict, the continued aggression on behalf of paramilitaries is tolerated by local law enforcement and largely ignored by other state institutions.
The peace community reports that on March 23, paramilitaries entered their community threatening one member with guns that if they did not leave, the paramilitaries would carry out assassinations. The report claims that this was something they “already had planned with public forces to clean out the area and exterminate the community.”
On April 1, fighting broke out between the paramilitaries and guerrillas in the village of Altas Arenas resulting in the death of several paramilitaries, according to inhabitants of the area. As community members and other civilians found themselves in danger in the midst of the fighting, several went to the Regional Ombudsman’s Office to request assistance, to which he responded that he could do nothing. Allegedly, the ombudsman told the petitioners to stop bothering him, and then disconnected the phone.
According to the community’s press release, local police forces did nothing as paramilitaries continued to threaten them, accusing them of supporting guerrillas and telling them that they will pay dearly if they did not leave the area on April 2 and 3.
The peace community is located in the Abibe Mountains in the Uraba region in the north of the Antioquia department. Economic interests and the strategic position of this region with regards to drug trafficking routes has made it a target of the armed conflict since the 1970s.
In February 2005, members of the now demobilized AUC in conjunction with the Colombian Army massacred five men and three children in the area.