Yesterday morning, armed men attempted to kill Germán Graciano, the legal representative of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, according to reports from the Peace Community and from Father Javier Giraldo who is currently visiting the community.
According to the Peace Community’s public statement “a group of paramilitaries arrived with the express intention of killing our legal representative”. In the statement they report that four paramilitaries arrived at the storeroom where the community sells its cacao and took out their weapons. Some members of the community managed to take their guns away, however, during the struggle the legal representative and other community members were injured.
Thirty-five year old Graciano has been a direct victim of the violence, with thirteen members of his family killed, including his father and two brothers. In 2015 Graciano was recognised as one of the twenty best leaders in Colombia. Just two weeks ago in another statement the Community had warned about Graciano’s risk situation, as they had found out about a plan to kill him.
The Peace Community was founded twenty years ago, amid violence, forced displacement and killings. The resulting figures after twenty years are chilling, with 320 people killed, 350 death threats, 100 acts of torture, and 50 displacements. There have also been numerous massacres, including on 21 February 2005 which seriously affected the Community. On that day eight people were murdered and dismembered in the villages of Mulatos and La Resbalosa, including three minors and Community leader Luís Eduardo Guerra.
Since the end of 2016 the presence of the Gaitanist Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia – AGC) has been increasing, they have been controlling land by installing camps and informant outposts, and maintaining a continuous presence in several villages in San José de Apartadó. This presence includes systematic practices such as installing checkpoints and making death threats and plans to kill members of the Peace Community and international accompaniment organisations, with the last threat made on 1 August 2017.
According to Father Giraldo “they have openly tried to take control”. “They gather the population together, and tell them that they should give in and pay them protection money (war tax) against cattle, crops and trade. The paramilitaries are trying to take control of the territories that the FARC guerrilla has left during the current demobilisation process”. The Father and the population have on many occasions reported the increasing presence of neo-paramilitaries in the territory, sometimes dressed as civilians and sometimes in military-style uniforms. “They claim to be the authority in the region now, and say that everyone should submit to them”, adds Father Giraldo.
The violence in Urabá is worsening once again. In November and December Mario Castaño and Hernán Bedoya were killed, both land claim leaders in the region. Two PBI brigadistas are currently observing the situation in the area where the events took place.
 Peace Community of San José de Apartadó: Golpe anunciado y tolerado, 29 December 2017
 Ibid. Golpe anunciado y tolerado
 Operazione Colombia: Estos son los 20 mejores líderes de Colombia 2015, 6 October 2015
 El Espectador: Reconocimiento a los 20 mejores líderes de Colombia, 24 September 2015
 Peace Community of San José de Apartadó: En la mira de planes muy perversos, 21 December 2017
 Padre Javier Giraldo, speech, 23 March 2017 in la Holandita, Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
 Peace Community of San José de Apartadó: Cuando ya no denunciemos muertos nos arrancaron todos los demás derechos (Principios del posconflicto), 15 August 2017
 PBI Colombia: Why do they kill leaders before Christmas?, 19 December 2017
*Cover photo: Bianca Bauer