A Very Paramilitary Christmas
Rural Danger and Political Cynicism in Colombia
By Laura del Castillo Matamoros
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
December 25, 2005
The holiday season has arrived in Colombia with all its joy, kind readers. And nothing could convince me more of this than the most recent paramilitary threats against the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, in the department of Antioquia. The Peace Community is a collective project of the inhabitants of the area, created after 32 local peasant communities were displaced in 1997 by the violence of Colombia’s civil conflict. More specifically, the threat was against San Josecito, a small improvised compound to which many fled from the main town in order to protest the presence of the army and police, who moved into San José after the massacre of last February 21 (see this previous article in Narco News for a fuller explanation of this story).
So, it seems that a communiqué from the people of San José has been released to alert the national and international community of the possible incursion of a group of paramilitaries into that compound between the 24th and 30th of December.
Just observe, kind readers, the good Christmas wishes of peace and prosperity that, according to the alert, a suspected paramilitary operative passed to one of the residents of San José on December 14 at 9:00 am:
“I wanted to warn you because I knew you years ago, that you should tell your family to get out of San Josesito, because at the end of the year we plan to enter and make a massacre. It will be between the 24th and the 31st, or around that time; we’re negotiating with the police and the army so that they won’t be implicated, and we can leave and enter freely. We need to do this massacre quickly because once the demobilization begins it will all be more complicated, so don’t show your face around there.”
This may be more than a mere threat, considering that many threats against the community from different armed groups have been followed through on. Just remember the tragically famous February 21 massacre, or the killing of community leader Arlen Rodrígo Salas this past November.
Not to mention that, as part of this Christmastime paramilitary offensive, 200 members of the Northern Bloc of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUN in its Spanish initials, Colombia’s major paramilitary umbrella organization), under the command of the honorable public figure known as “Jorge 40,” entered the communities of “La Más Verde” and “Nuevo Horizonte,” in the municipality (county) of Curumaní, in the Cesar department, between the 4th and 7th of this month.
You all can imagine that those four days were not exactly ones of peace and love in the two towns: 22 people were murdered, among them a baby only a few days old and a boy of sixteen. Others were spared and merely tortured in the most horrible ways, as if to say that, at least during the holiday season, the “paras,” too, have a bit of heart.
And despite the testimonies of the survivors and the government of Cesar’s own ombudsman’s office, “Jorge 40” has declared himself and his men completely innocent of the crime and repeats verbatim the versions of the events that the authorities – including Governor Hernando Molina Araújo and various local military commanders – have given, saying that there were only seven dead. And that those seven were all “guerrillas and paramilitaries killed in combat.” Such a nice gesture on the part of the regional authorities during this time of the year, when feelings of brotherhood and solidarity reign.
And it is quite a curious thing that this particular holiday spirit has awakened in the
paras just at a time when many members of the international organizations that accompany and protect San José and other threatened communities are traveling home for Christmas; when the Colombian organizations have suspended their activities; and when government workers are unwilling to spoil their vacations to deal with inconveniences in a war zone.
The most pathetically funny part of all this, kind readers, is that while their men continue practicing the elegant sport of peasant hunting, the high paramilitary commanders are asking to be able to participate more and more in politics. Just take a look at this article (in Spanish) in the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, which speaks of the requests from Ernesto Báez, commander-in-chief of the AUC, for seats in Congress – another example of personal growth that the Uribe administration, with its promotion of the paramilitary demobilization process, can show to Colombian society.
And just look how sweet they are: now it turns out that these “good terrorists” want to found a political movement that they will call “The Pacifists.” The name suits them marvelously, as they dream of peace from their own peculiar view of the world… “peace” understood as a political, economic and social system that they manage for their own benefit, with the full support of the law. (Of course, they have really been doing this for quite a while, under the cover of past governments’ double standards in dealing with them.)
And so, in this unique effort in philanthropy, they continue “pacifying” throughout the country… threatening and killing social leaders and human rights activists, killing peasant farmers, torturing, raping, shooting newborn babies, beating children, and et cetera. Of course, they continue doing this, at increasingly greater degrees, despite the famous mobilizations that, for them (despite the frequent lovers’ quarrels between President Uribe and the AUC leadership that have several times disrupted the process), constitute not a commitment to change their ways but rather a legal approval for them to continue their “pacification” work, for which they count on the unconditional support o the military and police of different parts of the country.
To show that I’m not exaggerating, kind readers, when I say that the actions of “The Pacifists” have increased, coincidentally enough during the supposed demobilizations,just read this recent blog entry from analyst Adam Isacson of the Center for International Policy.
At this rate, the “pacifiers” will simply continue carrying out their “heroic acts.” Naturally, they’ll keep laughing at all the demonstrations of outrage from the communities, national and international organizations, as well as some corners of the government.
Even sectors of the U.S. congress have made strong criticisms of the “Justice and Peace” law. But it doesn’t matter to the paras; they keep on laughing, as they laugh while they kill or humiliate any peasant farmer in those parts of the country where the only state presence is the armed forces that treat the inhabitants however they feel like treating them, turning a blind eye toward, when not collaborating directly with, the schizophrenic phenomenon that is the paras.
And the paras have plenty of reasons to be in good spirits. They enjoy the support of the biggest but least wanted murderer and narco in Colombia… the same man that sacrificed his Christmas Eve with his family in order to dine with the “heroes” in the Chocó department, thanking them “in the name of the Colombian people” for having committed all kinds of abuses against the most marginalized communities of that part of the country. Of course, all this was televised for those Colombian zombies living in their urban bubbles, who now count voting for him once again in this year’s presidential elections among their New Year’s resolutions… those same Colombians who surely embraced each other on Christmas Eve, thankful that Colombia is ever closer to achieving peace…
But in San José de Apartadó, Curumani, the south of the country where the Plan Patriota military offensive is being fought, and other conflict zones, the happy nights are fewer every year…
As you can see, kind readers, the holiday season has reached Colombia with all its joy… what a lovely fiesta, no?
Lea Ud. el Artículo en Español
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