COLOMBIA: MASSACRE AT PEACE COMMUNITY
Peasant Pacifist Leader and Family Killed by Army at San Jose de Apartado
by Virginia McGlone
Less than a month away from the eighth anniversary of the founding of the
Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado, in Colombia's violence-torn
Antioquia department, a campaign of intimidation by the Colombian army in
collaboration with paramilitary forces has left several dead at the
village. The community had planned on using the occasion of the March 23
anniversary to officially declare seven more of its outlying settlements as
Peace Zones, or areas of non-cooperation in the war.
In late February, troops began mobilizing to San Jose de Apartado's
outlying settlements, especially Mulatos; several members of these
communities have been detained and interrogated. The communities of Buena
Vista, Alto Bonito and Buenos Aires have come under indiscriminate
bombardment by helicopter, displacing some 200 peasants. Finally, one the
founders and leaders of the Peace Community has been massacred together
with his family and close friends.
Luis Eduardo Guerra, 35, was murdered on Feb. 21 by what area witness
testimony confirms to have been an operative of the 11th Brigade of the
Colombian army. Luis Eduardo's remains were found together with those of
his son Deiner Andres Guerra Tuberquia, 11, and his companion Beyanira
Areiza Guzman, 17. The bodies were found naked and partly mutilated, with
signs of torture and beatings; Deiner's head was found several meters from
his body. They were apparently detained while working their cocoa fields
near Mulatos, and taken to the nearby settlement of La Resbalosa, where
they were slain and left in a shallow grave.
Members of the community of Mulatos searching for Guerra also found the
bodies of Alfonso Bolivar Tuberquia, 30, close friend of Guerra and member
of the Peace Community council in Mulatos; his wife Sandra Milena Munoz
Pozo, 24; and their children Santiago Tuberquia Munoz, 2, and Natalia
Andrea Tuberquia Munoz, 6. This family was also found with signs of torture
and partly mutilated.
The process of corroborating these events was a slow one due to negligence
on the part of the national prosecutor's office (Fiscalia) commission that
was sent to investigate the matter. After receiving the information from
the Peace Community counsel, it took until Feb. 26 for the bodies to be
officially processed, and another two days before they were returned to
The world peace and human rights community have hailed San Jose de Apartado
as a key player in the process towards peace in a country that has known
almost half a century of war. In recent years, rights observers stationed
at the village from Peace Brigades International and Fellowship of
Reconciliation have helped restrain armed attacks on the community. The new
killings represent a significant escalation.
The Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado is demanding that the
government punish those responsible for the massacre of Luis Eduardo
Guerra, his family and his friends, and all human rights violations that
have taken place in the area over the last eight years.
The Peace Community is also demanding that their initiative to declare
themselves conscientious objectors as a whole community-a stance they call
"active neutrality"-be respected as a constitutional right.
Luis Eduardo Guerra was a primary voice of these demands and initiatives,
having been appointed by his community as interlocutor with the state and
the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which recently issued orders to
the Colombian government to protect residents and leaders of the Peace
Guerra had taken his community's message to NGOs and forums in countries
like Germany, Spain, Italy and the United States, but always kept the focus
on the struggle in his jungle village. As he told one international