The San Jose de Apartado Peace Community claims the Colombian government is failing to defend them against ongoing threats and violence on the part of “paramilitaries” and members of the military.
In a petition sent to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos dated February 13, the peace community outlines several acts of aggression against community members that have occurred in 2011 and requests that the president takes measures to prevent further crimes.
“What we are doing with the right to petition is to leave a record with the government of the human rights violations that continue in this area,” Peace Community Leader Arley Puberquia told Colombia Reports.
The petition describes a group of what it calls paramilitaries telling a local family that they would “not rest until the guerrilla community was finished” on January 30. On February 2, David William de Jesus Hernandez was murdered by “man in a dark suit” after apparently being mistaken for a member of the peace community. On the same day, according to the petition, armed men in dark suits went to the home of a community member, demanded to see him, and threatened his family before leaving.
On February 6, the peace community claims that a group of 20 paramilitaries in camouflage clothing carrying large guns arrived to the community and brandishing a list of people that they were planning to assassinate, which included several prominent figures in the community. The group said that the local agriculture is developed for guerrillas and that they planned to “end the guerrilla community.”
“There is absolutely no connection with guerrillas,” affirmed Puberquia, adding that paramilitaries oppose their way of life because they want to exploit the natural resources of the area including water, coal, oil and trees.
They continue their threats because “paramilitaries and the military cannot execute projects that they want to develop in the area. The peace community opposes multinational companies, things that exploit or displace people,” Puberquia told Colombia Reports.
The Peace Community is located in the Abibe Mountains in the Uraba region, which is located in the north of the Antioquia department. Economic interests and the strategic position of this region in terms of trafficking drugs have made it a target of the armed conflict since the 1970s.
In 1997 a small group of farmers established the Peace Community in order to resist aggression from the various actors involved in Colombia’s conflict. The struggle to maintain neutrality in the midst of conflict has provoked violence from all sides; the Peace Community has reported more than 180 community members murdered at the hands of the military, paramilitaries and guerrillas, according to a petition to former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe made in 2009.
Of the 19 petitions made to the former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, according to Puberquia, none received a response from the government. In fact, 20 members of the community were massacred following accusations made by Uribe in 2002 that they were colluding with guerrillas.
“The Colombian government isn’t interested in communitarian processes, social organizations who want to live a life [that is] different and peaceful,” said Puberquia.
According to the community leader, the petition aims to make the government to take actions against local paramilitary groups, in particular the Aguilas Negras gang, and replace corrupt member of the local military and police.
“Our objective is to give a record to the government. Our interest is that they intervene and modify the commanders, colonels, generals of the 17th Police Brigade of Uraba, and that the government revise all of the human rights violations and replace these people,” she told Colombia Reports.