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Peace Village San José de Apartadó/San Josesito in Colombia

Inhabitants Colombia: 42 mio

Inhabitants community San José (in whole): 2,800

Inhabitants peace community San José: (who joined the charter of the peace village) 1,350

Inhabitants San Josesito (the inner core of San José) 400

Inhabitants region Apartadó 100,000


The peace village San José de Apartadó lies in Urabá (Antioquia) in the frontier area to Panama. The land is fertile, agriculturally valuable (bananas, cacao) and rich in mineral resources (oil, ores, carbon, gold); due to because of its geographical position it is strategically important for the communication lines between North and South America (inter- Oceanic canal and Pan-American street).

Because of its richness and its geographical position Antioquia has been hard-fought in a bloody conflict between military, police groups, para military and guerrilla for 40 years. Victim of this conflict is the civil population who is  by armed groups.

The war parties follow  “policy of burned soil” and try to make the hard-fought area uninhabitable. The defenceless farmers of the combat zone are accused of collaboration with the “other side” from all sides and are thereby declared outlaws.


Today, numerous peace initiatives exist in Colombia, amongst them 20 peace communities with about 12,000 inhabitants in war zones. The left the killing spiral thereby becoming targets of the death squats of the different armed conflict parties themselves.

They live in combat areas in permanent state of emergency. Most acutely threatened by elimination is the peace village San José de Apartadó.


Peace village San José

Founded: March, 23, 1997            in attendance of representatives of different Columbian NGOs and a representative of the European Parliament.

                                               Ceremonial adoption of the charter of the peace village.



no cooperation/interaction with armed conflict parties
no information, no support for neither conflict party
peaceful, non-violent resistance
no gunmen in the peace village
no drugs (no cultivation, trade, use in the community)
no alcohol in the peace village
mutual support (production, health)
transparency in the community



First banishment by military and paramilitary:            March, 28, 1997

Since its founding 164 inhabitants of San José have been murdered. There were eleven massacres and numerous selective murders. In each case witnesses who testified were the next victims.

In 2004 alone there were 530 assaults (murders, rapes, robbery of food, robbery of money, threats and wrong accusations).


The last massacre:                                                       February, 21, 2005

8 dead people, amongst them the speaker of San José, Luis Eduardo Guerra, his 17 year old companion, his 11 year old son and two children at the age of 6 and 2 years. All victims were slashed and fragmented cruelly. The children’s extremities and heads were partly missing, likewise the adult’s.


The Committers:

Directly before and directly after the massacre eye witnesses saw soldiers in the uniform of the XVII brigade of the Columbian military close to where the murders happened. Amnesty International, Peace Brigades International, Society for Threatened nations, Doctors without Borders and the Inter-American Court of Justice in Costa Rica rebuked the crime.


The reaction of the government:

The government denies any responsibility. Inspections were adjusted because of testimonies. Allegedly for “protection”, army and police were based in the village. The presence of police and military makes the community a target of the guerrilla groups though and furthermore it breaks the principles of the peace community. The 400 inhabitants of the village core left their village in April under protest and started to build up the provisional peace village “San Josesito” not far from there, where they carry on living the principles of their charter. Within 4 months a complete village developed with more than 40 huts admittedly without energy supply and sanitation, without school, without the shop of the farmers cooperation that supplies them and takes their products, without the possibility to run their means of production like sewing machines, cacao processing and tools to boil down fruits.


The allegations by the village inhabitants were dropped for lack of evidence as it happened with every accusation by the village before. From the experience that witnesses willing to testify died again and again under unexplained circumstances and the perpetrators remained exempt from punishment the peace community adjusted the talks with the government.

The conditions of the village inhabitants for a new uptake of the talks are:

the withdrawal of the soldiers living in their houses
clarification and punishment of the murders


Civil War, Free Trade, Drugs and the Plan Colombia

“Not because there is war are there displaced people, there is war because people shall be displaced.” Hector Mondragon, persecuted Columbian economist.

The Columbian civil war has escalated to a war of the Columbian state against its own population. Any form of political opposition and resistance is fought. The paramilitary units have to be perceived as main actors of the war. Their cooperation with the military is an open secret.

Goals of the war are


-          assurance and economical development of one of the most important geo-strategic areas of World Trade and the enforcement of a free trade zone from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego – the FTAA,


-          access to petroleum and other mineral resources,


-          control of the cocaine trade with which weapons, uprisings and wars by all directions are financed globally,


-          concentration of real estate.


During “La Violencia” from 1948 to 1958 the then-government banished 2 millions of peasants and fought against liberals and communists.



Today farmers are banished and murdered by attacks of the AUC (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia) and by guerrilla organisations like FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) and ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional). Many farmers are forced to “sell” their land while being banished. The concentration of real estate grows: 1984 32% of the registered estate belonged to the Latifundias, in 1988 36%, in 1996 43% and in 1997 45%. (Figures taken from the national land survey office and land registry office)

The WTO politics supported the free trade in Colombia leading to the fact that agricultural products which used to be cultivated and sold by Columbian farmers before will now be imported cheaper whereby the farmers´ life basis is taken away. Meanwhile even café is imported. Ten thousands of farmers can only survive by illegally cultivating cocaine and opium. In Columbia 80 % of the global cocaine is cultivated.

In 1999 the Colombian government and the United States made the “Plan Colombia”. Its official intent: It is to eliminate the guerrilla groups, who finance themselves by drug traffic, and drug cultivation itself. The Plan Colombia, which started under Clinton´s government and was continued by George W. Bush and in which the United States invest 600 billion Dollar per year, comprises firstly military  support by the United States. Secondly chemicals are sprayed widely from planes to destroy cocaine and poppy plantations. As this practice is never exact, countless toxications of farmers and wageworkers, amongst them many children, are documented. Although president Uribe prides himself to have reduced drug cultivation drastically, the cocaine price is as low as never before which is rather a hint for a big bargain.


Result of the 40 years civil war:

3 mio refugees inside of Colombia, most of them in the slums of the big cities

4 mio exile Colombians, 1 mio of them political refugees

3500 “disappeared” persons

3500 persons kidnapped

70,000 murdered in the last 20 years, most of them civilians


President Alvaro Uribe Vélez and the para military

Alvaro Uribe Vélez, born in 1952, has been president of Colombia since August, 7, 2002. His father was murdered by activists of the FARC guerrilla when he tried to escape from a looming kidnapping.

Before that Uribe was Governor of the province Antioquia, to which San José de Apartadó belongs, too. His family is said to have close connections to the paramilitary. Already 10 years ago Uribe built up “private security forces”, called “los convivir”. In several cases witnesses reported about the Uribe family ranch Guacherecas that it is a base camp for para military units. Paramilitary is intrinsically tied to the history of the Columbian oligarchy. They were build up by land owner families as so-called “regime forces” in the fight against the guerrilla groups. Its representatives are in the parliament and in the government. Also, Uribe is called “para military president” by critics.

Uribe is known as a hardliner in the fight against the Columbian guerrilla organisations. His zero tolerance concept is called “Seguridad Democrática”. He started in August 2002, right after his commencement of duties, talks with the para military. His pretended goal to incorporate all 20,000 members of the paramilitary units into civilian life until the end of 2005. Their patronage organisation, Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Militia of Columbia, AUC, founded in 1997 from great land owners) announced after the talks in December 2002 a one-sided truth. But indeed there are still thousands of murders and kidnappings committed by the paramilitary.

Uribe stands for a re-enforced military presence and supports the efforts of the US army to contain the drug trade in Colombia with military methods. Although Uribes domestic course is very contended his political backing within the population is very strong according to opinion polls surveys.

Uribe’s own connection with the rightist extremist paramilitaries, the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), and the connections between the Columbian military and the AUC remain unclear. Because of these connections and the violations of human rights still taking place in Columbia the members of the socialist, the social democratic and the green factions protested during a visit of Uribe in spring 2004: they left the hall in the moment Uribe wanted to start with his speech. At the moment Uribe tries to change the Colombian Constitution to be able to be re-elected in 2006.

(Sources: Wikipedia, Amnesty International and others)


The “Justice and Peace Statute”

The law “Justicia y Paz” (Justice and Peace) the Colombian Parliament passed on June, 21, 2005 is to arrange the present demobilisation of the paramilitary by granting “demobilised” members of illegal groups who are accused of violations of human rights reduced jail sentences or exemption from punishment. While Tony Blair valued this as a “step in the fight against terrorism” in July, human rights groups warn globally that thereby violations of human rights are legalised, that entanglements between government and military remain in darkness and former murderers and torturers get employed in official government programs. Behind the pretended disarmament of the paramilitary is rather the paramilitarization of the society. The paramilitary insists on keeping the seized estates of killed and displaced farmers.


There are strong hints that paramilitary structures remain intact also after the “demobilisation”, that still countless violations of human rights take place and that demobilised para militaries get “recycled”, most of them paid as military informants and that the blending of paramilitary and parts of the official security forces continues. Although all involved persons of the armed conflict systematically broke human rights the paramilitary is responsible for most murders and tortures of civilians.

(Information by Amnesty International)


San José Suspected of Terror

At the same time everything is done to further discredit the inhabitants of San José. In May 2005 president Uribe said on TV that “the people of San José are good people”, but that “some of their leaders cooperate with FARC (biggest guerrilla group) and support them”. He recommends to speak neither of a “Peace Community” nor of “Human Protection Zone” which need special protection according to the Geneva Convention of 1945, where no police or something similar is allowed to be positioned. With this assumption, strictly renounced by the inhabitants of San José and international observers, Uribe takes over the reasoning of the paramilitary. For them the rural population is principally considered to be the base of the guerrilla. This flat terrorism suspicion is fatal for the people of San José as it could be the first step to a political isolation and a banishment or even elimination of its inhabitants.

And more: a video with testimonies of 4 youths was sent from the “Military Intelligence” (Inteligencia Militar) to several embassies, amongst others the US embassy. In the video the young people state that they saw Guerilleros in San José. According to a statement of the “people defender” (defensor del Pueblo), an organ for the control of the state, two of the youths were tortured to extort these testimonies. There is also a video about Gloria Cuartas circulating, recorded illegally in Venezuela by Columbian “Military Intelligence” which shows her with young people who claim the freedom of a Guerillero. Also these pictures are rejected by observers, stating that they were manipulated to discredit Gloria Cuartas.


International observers of human rights organisations acknowledge again and again that there is no connection between San José and the guerrilla groups. In its comment about the fictitious material the Colombian government claims that there was no civil war in Colombia, but terrorists.


The peace village is accompanied and supported by some international and Columbian NGOs and human right activists. The most prominent are Gloria Cuartas and Padre Javier Giraldo.


Gloria Cuartas

In 1996 the UNESCO awarded the social worker Gloria Cuartas as “Mayor of Peace”. As mayor of Apartadó, the city with the highest murder rate worldwide she served involuntarily as “democratic fig leaf” for the government of the contemporary governor Uribe at a time where almost the whole opposition, critic journalists and trade union representatives were threatened and murdered. As General Secretary of the Socialist Political Front and as candidate for the Senate of  the Republic of Colombia today she herself is on one of the first places of the murder list of the death squads and permanently exposed to acute danger of life.


Father Javier Giraldo

The Jesuit priest is the leader of the churchly human rights group “Justice and Peace”. He is a long-time peace activist and was a founding member of Justicia y Paz in 1988. He works tireless as human right activist in Colombia and is author of the book “Colombia: the Genocidal Democracy“ – one of the probably most useful books about the human rights situation in Colombia that was available in the 1990s.


Today Gloria Cuartas and the Jesuit priest Javier Giraldo, like all those who support the peace village, are again and again blamed in public to be guerrilleros of FARC or to cooperate with them. For example anonymous flyers were published where Jesuit priest Javier Giraldo and Gloria Cuartas are blamed to support the guerrilla.


(Collected: Institute for Global Peace Work, Tamera / Portugal)



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