San José de Apartado is a Comunidad de Paz in the Department of Antioquía, Colombia, created in 1997 by some 500 people displaced from surrounding villages following a wave of massacres committed mainly by paramilitary groups. It was founded on the premise of neutrality in Colombia’s savage internal conflict. LAB correspondent Gwen Burnyeat lived there and wrote a number of posts for LAB about the community and its place in Colombia’s wider peace process. Two of her posts in particular describe the community: you can read them here and here. Gwen also made a film about the Community, Chocolate of Peace.
You can access the Community’s own website here.
LAB received the following appeal (translated from Spanish by Mike Gatehouse), and dated 29 December.
Urgent. Please share. Paramilitary attack on the San José de Apartadó Peace Community, Colombia
Our Peace Community in San José de Apartadó must denounce to Colombia and to the World the criminal invasion which took place this morning, 29 December 2017, reaching our central settlement of San Josesito. The invaders were a paramilitary patrol which arrived with the explicit intention of assassinating the Legal Representative of our community, Germán Graciano Posso.
In recent weeks and months we have witnessed the progressive intensification of threats and intelligence operations which threatened a severe attack on the Peace Community. The urgent reports and messages we sent out to Colombia and the world failed to produce any reaction or attempt to protect us from the government or state institutions.
First a paramilitary named Arcadio turned up on the pretext of selling a small amount of cacao to the Community. But his real purpose was to verify the presence of Germán, and as soon as he had done so he used his mobile phone to communicate the fact.
A few minutes later, at around 10:15 am, four paramilitaries arrived at the store from which the Community sells cacao. In this group were the paramilitary commander of the area, called Felipe, and also: Ricardo David, well-known in the area and two others who identified themselves as James Cardona Higuia (cc 1038811594) and Humberto Antonio Londoño Üsuga (cc 1028025340).
First they tried to shut various members of the Community who were there into one room, drawing their weapons and threatening to kill them. Several members of the Community responded and forced back the criminals until they managed to strip one of his weapon and restrain and then tie up two others. In the struggle, Germán and other Community members were injured, as were the two paramilitaries who were restrained.
The Community summoned the Defender of the People to hand over the arrested criminals, although when this public statement was drawn up, no official notice of the arrests had been issued.
A few minutes ago we managed to speak to the Vice-President of Colombia, General Óscar Naranjo, who undertook to investigate the role of the security forces in the region which, in our judgement, has been the key factor in ensuring the considerable freedom of movement and action enjoyed by paramilitaries in our area.
As everyone who has previously expressed solidarity with us will know, such attacks are widely trailed and publicised with the complicity of all state institutions.
We take this opportunity to express once more our sincere thanks for the vast network of communities and groups across the World who have responded in a matter of minutes to convey to us their unconditional solidarity.
Comunidad de Paz de San José de Apartadó
LAB has also monitored a Twitter account which gives further details since the above appeal, and shows photographs of the paramilitary suspects being handed over to the Vice-Minister of the Interior (see main image, which shows two paramilitaries being escorted away after being handed over).