This is good. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez, the same guy who asked the US to do for Colombia what they were planning to do in Iraq, back in January when the war was being planned, wants international observers out of the country. He wants the Colombian police to arrest and deport them. These international observers are a miniscule fraction of what is needed in Colombia to prevent Uribe’s own military and police from torturing and slaughtering their way through Colombian communities. But these tiny efforts leave Uribe in a rage: “I reiterate to the police: if these [foreign human rights observers] continue to obstruct justice, put them in prison. If they have to be deported, deport them.” – Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez, 27 May 2004. Specifically, he is upset about the presence of volunteers in the peace community of San Jose de Apartado, a community that has suffered massacre after massacre at the hands of Uribe’s own paramilitaries.
Here is a report from the Task Force on latin America, and below is a note from the peace community itself about harrassment of the international volunteers there.
Statement of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó again denounces new attacks against it. Today, June 2 at 6 a.m. Army and police troops entered the town center of San José de Apartadó, where the Peace Community lives, together with the state intelligence agencies DAS [Department of Administrative Security, the state police] and SIJIN [judicial police]. Members of these two agencies spoke with representatives of Peace Brigades International (PBI), who were accompanying in San José, and asked for their documents. The PBI representatives presented over their documents in good order, but in spite of that, they were cited for June 3 to verify their information with the DAS in the town of Apartadó.
After that, the DAS and SIJIN agents as well as members of the security forces fanned out through the San José town center with video cameras, filming members of the community, their homes, and the community areas. They asked people of the community, who were then beginning their daily work, for specific community leaders Wilson David and Gildardo Tuberquia directly by name and exactly where they live. They also asked when the community meets and what they do in those meetings. They said that now the security forces will take total control of the town of San José and will put a police station in the town center. Meanwhile, several of them went to San José’s small stores and, although their owners indicated that they would not sell to them as part of an armed group, they did not respect this decision, treated them badly and by pressure forced them to sell their goods because, according to them, “just as you sell to the guerrillas, you also have to sell to us.”
The operations went on until 8:30 a.m., and the Army troops remained surrounding the San José town center, creating a situation of uncertainty for the community.
As a community we have to say that this action by the Colombian state worries us, because it is a result of the statements the president made [see “Urgent Call to Solidarity”]. In the first place, we are concerned regarding the international presence, as President Uribe himself expressed his willingness to deport foreigners who accompany San José, under the pretext that they have obstructed justice, which is totally false. The presence of international organizations fulfills an exclusively humanitarian function and of accompanying the community’s process. We are concerned and alarmed that they want to end our process, which bases its principles on a peaceful resistance independent of any armed group. The presence of the Army and police in the midst of our houses and schools puts us at risk as a civilian population, and for us it is clear that if this presence continues, we would have to withdraw in a new massive and forced displacement, while the San José town center would be inhabited by Colombia’s security forces. We are concerned that the security forces and intelligence agencies inquire [indaguen] about our leaders by name, that they want to know where they live and we wonder why.
For all these reasons, we ask for national and international solidarity, for urgent statements against these actions that appear to condemn us to a new displacement and a humanitarian crisis. We ask for statements against the harassment of our leaders, against the harassment of international group that, with their presence, encourage us to continue forward, as they are witnesses to the transparency of our process and of our daily life. We ask for persuasive statements that support a peaceful experience developed in the midst of war, and that we have maintained for these seven years in refusing to live with any armed group. The security forces have always been around San José; in fact, we have always asked how these attacks on the community can occur if the Army is surrounding the town. For more than two years we have demanded the permanent civilian presence of the state through someone from the offices of the National Ombudsman and the Inspector General. If what they want is to be in our houses and put at risk our children, then as a civilian population we will be obliged to a new displacement and perhaps lose everything that we have built in these years. But we believe that we have to do it, that we have to continue firm in our principles as a peace community, transparent principles for which many friends and family members have died, victims of an inhuman conflict. We reiterate that we continue in our decision to not collaborate with any armed group – guerrillas and paramilitaries-Army – and we demand of all armed groups that they not force the civilian population either to collaborate or live with them. It is a universal right.
PEACE COMMUNITY OF SAN JOSE DE APARTADO
JUNE 2, 2004