On May 14 at 7 AM, Francisco Puerta, a leader of the Colombian “peace community” of San José de Apartadó, was assassinated by paramilitaries outside the bus terminal in the town of Apartadó, the municipal seat. Two para gunmen approached him in the store where he sitting and fired several times—then calmly walked away and escaped, despite the presence of numerous police in the vicinity.
Puerta was humanitarian coordinator for the vereda (hamlet) of Miramar, one of the outlying communities in the hills around of San José de Apartadó. San José, some 25 miles from Apartadó town, has declared itself as a “peace community,” refusing to collaborate with any armed actors in Colombia’s civil war. Most peace community supporters have been forced by threats and violence from San José over the past two years, and have taken refuge in a small settlement they have established outside the village, called San Josesito.
The killing of Puerta comes after paramilitary gunmen had been spotted on the road to Apartadó in recent days. On May 9, armed men who identified themselves as members of the Aguilas Negras (Black Eagles) paramilitary group, briefly detained three campesino women at Mangolo, a settlement on the road. A merchant from Apartadó who came to San Josesito to sell piglets May 13 warned that paramilitaries were gathering in the town to prepare a new massacre of peace community followers. (San José de Apartadó Peace Commmunity statement, May 14)