The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó in Colombia’s northwestern Antioquia department reported on Oct. 31 that right-wing paramilitaries were threatening to murder community members. A joint operation of paramilitaries and the army’s 17th Brigade murdered eight people in San José de Apartado on Feb. 21, 2005; retired colonel Guillermo Armando Gordillo confessed this year that his troops participated in the massacre. Peace communities refuse to collaborate with any armed forces, including rebels, paramilitaries and the army.
According to the peace community, paramilitaries stopped three people on Oct. 30 and told them that residents of La Esperanza settlement, part of the peace community, had to leave if they wanted to avoid being massacred; the paramilitaries said they had a list of six people they were going to murder. Similar threats preceded the 2005 massacre, and the military has been pressuring the community recently. On Oct. 28 and 29 army troops spent the day in homes and the school in La Esperanza, keeping children from attending classes; when asked to leave, they called the community a “nest of guerrillas.” Soldiers have also photographed residents and conducted an illegal census.
The US-based Colombia Support Network (CSN) is urging people to contact US Congress
members, US embassy attache Scott Fagan (FaganSR@state.gov), Colombian defense minister Dr. Juan Manuel Santos (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org), and others to demand a stop to the planned massacre and respect for the rights of civilians. (Agencia Bolivariana de Prensa, Nov. 2 from Comunidad de Paz de San José de Apartadó communique, Oct. 31; CSN urgent action, Oct. 31; World War 4 Report, Aug. 2)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 2
See our last post on Colombia, citizen peace initiatives and the struggle in Urabá.
20 years for Apartadó massacre mastermind
An court in Antioquia on March 16 sentenced former army Captain Guillermo Armando Gordillo Sanchez to 20 years for his part in the 2005 San José de Apartadó massacre, in which five adults and three children were brutally murdered. The court found Gordillo guilty of “murder of protected persons,” “acts of barbarity,” and “intent to commit a crime.” The disgraced ex-captain was also ordered to pay a fine of almost $400,000 and was banned from public office for 15 years.
Demobilized paramilitaries from the Heroes de Tolovo Bloc, who are accused of carrying the massacre, identified Gordillo and members of his 17th Brigade as having being involved. Gordillo confessed to his involvement in the gruesome incident while under interrogation. Ten other officials and their subordinates’ cases are currently under investigation. (Colombia Reports, March 16)
However, higher-ranking officers involved in the massacre may escape justice in the case, as they have been extradited to the US to face drug charges.