This is the situation in which people live in this community in Colombia. Here is the story of three people from this region where, as in many other parts of the country, they face threats with shocking frequency. In this place, since it was formed, 300 people have been murdered.
Juanjo Andrés Cuervo
“We have received threats every day throughout the last 20 years”, confirms Germán Graciano Posso, who was the victim of an attempted murder by paramilitaries on 29 December.
He is the legal representative of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, a community of over 600 people situaded in the area of Urabá, which was founded in 1997.
Although they declared themselves neutral durting the armed conflict in Colombia, they have been repeatedly slaughtered, as well as being ravaged by mining activity and the drug trafficking that controls the region.
Still, the government is doing nothing to solve the problem. “The paramilitaries are allied with the Brigada 17 (A Regional Army command ), who on the other hand, tell the world that they have nothing to do with these threats”, Germán points out, in one more demonstration of the domination to which they are being submitted.
Because the attack that he suffered had been announced a week before it happened. Despite all these threats and oppression, Germán, who spoke to The Prisma, still has energy to continue the struggle. “We want to record for the world that we are only crying out that they don’t kill us, because we believe in a decent life”, he stated.
Besides declaring themselves neutral in the conflict, the members of the Peace Community also decided not to participate in the governmental elections, which will be held in May.
“The elections are illegal”, emphasizes Germán, “because many of the campaigns have been financed by drug trafficking and the paramilitaries”. For example, he mentions the Colombian politician Álvaro Uribe, “someone with a long history connected with what is happening in Colombia”. And, among other things, that includes “the nomination of allies of the paramilitaies in Congress”, he says.
So, without help from either the government or the police authorities, the members of the Peace Community can only call for help outside the country.
Recently they sent a letter to the Corte Iberoamericana de Derechos Humanos, but they had previously sent others seeking help at the international level. “The Colombian government has sold peace around the world, but if they don’t follow through, they will continue with high levels of corruption”, he concludes.
The women in San José de Apartadó
Besides Germán Graciano Posso, other representatives of the Peace Community were in London, José Roviro López, who was with him on the night of the attack, and Morelis Arteaga Guerra.
Specifically, Morelis explained the importance of the women in the village, where they been working in the fields – “because they have killed so many men”, she emphasized.
In fact, Morelis tells the sad story of what happened in 2005, when they killed one of the leaders in front of his family.
And besides working the fields, she highlights the fact that “there are women leading the community”, especially in education. Everything began due to government interference, when the army and the police installed themselves near the school where the children were studying.
So, considering the danger of exposing their children to an environment with the presence of armed people, the mothers decided to take their children to another school. But the government did not allow this, and required them to attend the school where they had already been placed..
Despite this, and as a kind of solution, they decided to find another way to educate them. “Since 2007, we have been running an autonomous programme”, she says.
In this area, the women take the leading role, since they are used to being teachers. And they don’t just teach them reading and writing, they also take the children to the fields to understand how the machines work. “We teach them based on what we are”, she points out.
Prisoners and killers
For his part, José Roviro López, who suffered the attack together with Germán, began telling how he has experienced this situation all his life.
“I was a boy when the The Peace Community was founded, and I remember, between 2000 and 2002, the paramilitaries used to block our food supplies. Our fathers went to collect food and they killed them, and then the mothers went down and they killed them too”, explains José.
“You feel you are a prisoner on your own land, we are threatened and we have to go out in the street with an escort”, he says.
“We have sent letters to the courts but they don’t do anythng”, José acknowledges, who points the finger at who is responsible for all that is happening: the Colombian State. “The paramilitaries are saying that they are going to burn down our house, they want us to come out to kill us, it’s like going back to 1997”.
A date a long time ago when the community was founded, which has already lost “more than 300 people”, and still is not surrendering.
“We love the land and we want to continue”, he affirms vehemently. “We represent that pride in life”. And although “in Colombia everything remains unpunished”, he emphatically repeats that “the community is strong, and we are staying for the long term”.
(Translated by Graham Douglas – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)