Peace Community of San José de Apartadó to march for life and to live on their territory

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Twitter photo: “Today we march for respect for life and to live in our territory.”

On December 23, PBI-Colombia tweeted: “#Today the @cdpsanjose march out of respect for life and to live in their territory in peace. Amid an increase in threats and attacks, the @cdpsanjose expresses its rejection of the murder of Huber Velasquez, a leader close to the CdP. #Urgent guarantees for the defense of #DDHH [human rights].”

The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, which is accompanied by PBI-Colombia, posted earlier this week: “Our Peace Community, which has suffered hundreds of lethal attacks by the military-paramilitary alliance over the last 25 years, wants to express its strongest protest against the execution of HUBER VELÁSQUEZ, who maintained close relations with our Community, always supporting our cocoa marketing.”

The Community links this back to a meeting on November 19 convened by paramilitaries with communal boards: “In this meeting, among other issues, a strict control of wood cutting and crops was announced, explaining that forest conservation has the objective of preserving the paramilitaries’ hideouts.”

They highlight: “[The paramilitaries] also announced that they control the activities of our Peace Community, because according to them we do not stick to their interests.”

Huber Velasquez, who had complained about irregularities and the corruption of the paramilitaries, was murdered on December 17.

Contagio Radio, reporting on his death, noted: “According to the Institute of Studies for Development and Peace, INDEPAZ, just 11 days before the end of the year, there are 165 homicides against defenders who carry out important work within their communities and territories.”

The Peace Community is located more than 700 kilometres northwest of Bogota in the mountainous northern region in the department of Antioquia.

On March 23, 1997, the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado was formed. The farming community declared itself neutral in the armed conflict and rejected the presence of all the armed groups in its territory.

Earlier this year, Yes! magazine reported: “The Peace Community, in addition to suffering [a] new wave of violence [after the peace agreement in 2016], is also under the threat of losing their communal land from a state project of agrarian reform, according to Germán Romero, a lawyer with dhColombia, a nonprofit organization in charge of representing the community in court to seek justice for the violence they have experienced.”

PBI-Colombia began accompanying the Peace Community in 1999.

PBI-Colombia has stated: “PBI will stand by the Community in this dignified struggle until they have security guarantees and the life they long for and deserve.”

“PBI accompanies @cdpsanjose that #today march in defense of life and protest the murder of leader Huber Velásquez. This year closes with more than 160 human rights defenders murdered in Colombia. #Urgent guarantees to defend #DDHH [human rights].”

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