Threats from resurgent paramilitary groups continue against the San José de Apartadó Peace Community in Colombia’s conflicted Urabá region. On the morning of Nov. 7 at the San José vereda (hamlet) of Playa Larga, some 50 rifle-wielding paramilitaries in camo gear and characteristic armbands detained resident Jairo Berrio Arango. He was forced to undress as the gunmen held a rifle to his head and threatened to kill him on the spot. When his father arrived on the scene and pleaded with the gunmen, they said they wouldn’t kill him now—but that they had six San José community members targeted for death, and that they should flee immediately to avoid assassination. They said they had the cooperation of the army. Five families have already fled the vereda of Esperanza, where Berrio Arango’s family is from. (San José de Apartadó Peace Community statement, Nov. 8)
On Nov. 1, the Peace Community’s legal representative Jesús Emilio Tuberqua was threatened at gunpoint at an Internet café in the town of Apartadó, the local municipal seat. Three men, including two known paramilitaries, surrounded him at the café, held a pistol to his head and said they were about to kill him. He probably only survived due to the presence of a Portuguese solidarity worker at the café. (San José de Apartadó Peace Community statement, Nov. 1)
Since 1997, San José de Apartadó, in one of several such citizen initiatives in Colombia, has maintained a policy of non-collaboration with any of the armed actors in the country’s war—the army, paras or guerillas. For this stance, the village has been repeatedly targeted for bloody reprisals, chiefly from the paras.
See our last post on Colombia.