Colombia: peace community faces new threats

The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, located in the Urabá region of northwestern Colombian department of Antioquia, wrote in communiqués dated Sept. 22 and 24 that right-wing paramilitaries were continuing to attack and threaten its members. The community, which for 13 years has rejected the presence of all weapons and armed groups in its territory, charged the authorities with “complacency” regarding the paramilitary activity.

According to the communiqués, a paramilitary known as “Berardo Tuberquia” accosted a peace community member in Dabeiba municipality and asked about various other community members. He said he had a list with the names of San José de Apartadó leaders and members who were going to be killed. That afternoon, two paramilitaries on a motorcycle fired on peace community members José David Graciano and Alonso Valle Guerra as they were walking home after going to a court hearing to deny charges of belonging to a militia. Both escaped, but Valle Guerra was hit in the leg. The peace community reported the incidents to the government’s human rights protection agency, but the agency supported claims by the local military unit that everything was “peaceful” at San José de Apartadó. (Adital, Brazil, Sept. 24; San José de Apartadó communiqués, Sept. 22, Sept. 24)

The new incidents occurred just as a book was coming out about the peace community, Fusil o Toga, Toga y Fusil (“Rifle or Robe, Robe and Rifle,” referring to the use of violence and the court system to repress the community). The author, human rights activist and Jesuit priest Javier Giraldo, said he’d written the work to fight against impunity by documenting abuses against the community, which has been attacked by the military, by rightwing paramilitaries and by leftist rebels. (El Tiempo, Colombia, Sept. 17) On Aug. 6 a judge in Medellín acquitted 10 soldiers of participating in a February 2005 in which eight San José de Apartadó residents, including three children, were killed with machetes. A captain had confessed to his role in the killings; several paramilitary members also confessed and said they had worked together with the military.

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 26.

See our last posts on Colombia and the paramilitary terror.