Colombia: San José de Apartadó Peace Community under attack again

The San José de Apartadó Peace Community in Colombia’s northern Urabá region, one of several citizen peace initiatives by local communities demanding their right not to take sides in the war, is once again under threat—seven years after a massacre that forced many residents to flee the village. Several outlying hamlets (veredas) continue to adhere to the Peace Community, and their leaders are now facing escalated harassment. On July 30 and 31, Germán Graciano, a Peace Community leader, received phone calls from men who identified themselves as members of the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a paramilitary group. The callers demanded he agree to collaborate with them, or “purchase coffins for himself and his family.”

On July 24, Gildardo Tuberquia, also a peace community leader, was illegally detained in Las Nieves by members of the Colombian army. The soldiers, who did not wear identification on their uniforms,  insulted him and refused to identify themselves to Gildardo.

On July 4, the home of Reinaldo (Renato) Areiza was burned to the ground in La Esperanza, a settlement of the Peace Community. Renato was a community council member and spokesperson for several years, and recently had been threatened by officers of the 17th Brigade of the Colombian army and by paramilitaries.

The US-based peace group Fellowship of Reconciliation has documented numerous more such recent threats to leaders of the Peace Community. The group is calling for letters to the US embassy in Bogotá to demand guarantees for the safety of Peace Community. (FOR, July 31)