On the 21 February 2005, the fields of Mulatos and La Resbalosa in Antioquia were the scene of a horrific crime which once again targetted the local population. The rural division is an area located around five hours from the Peace Community’s main village, la Holandita. Eight people, of whom four were minors, were killed, dismembered and buried in a mass grave. Among the eight victims, seven were members of the Peace Community: Luis Eduardo Guerra, historical leader and founder of the Community, Bellanira Areiza, his partner and Deiner Andrés Guerra, his 11 year old son; Alfonso Bolívar Tuberquia Graciano, the coordinator of the Humanitarian Zone of La Resbalosa, Sandra Milena Muñoz Posso, his wife and Natalia and Santiago, their two children aged 5 years and 20 months.
The massacre was carried out by a commando of around 60 paramilitaries from the Heroes de Tolová Bloc of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) alongside soldiers attached to the Army’s XVII Brigade. These events, which deeply marked the path of resistance of the Peace Community, exposed the viciousness of a war that, rather than combating those who had taken up arms, was waged against small farmers and peasants who were striving towards peace in the midst of so much violence. The militaristic actions against the Peace Community were not new, nor would they cease after the massacre. According to Brígida González, founder and historical leader of the Community, with that massacre they wanted to reaffirm, “once again, that there should be no social organizations” .
In the wake of the pain of the massacre: Defamation and accusations against the Peace Community
In the months following the massacre, the XVII Brigade and the Ministry of Defence declared that, given the modus operandi employed, there could be no doubt that the massacre had been perpetrated by the FARC-EP4 guerrilla group. Furthermore, on March 20 2005, the then president Álvaro Uribe Vélez made a statement in Apartadó in which he accused the Peace Community of sheltering guerrillas as part of their organizational processes.
In May 2008, the ex-chief of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) in charge of the Bananero units in the region of Urabá-Antioqueño, Hebert Veloza García (alias ‘HH’) claimed to have given money to the then Commander of the Bejarano Muñoz Battalion, attached to the XVII Army Brigade, which was used to pay false witnesses to accuse the FARC-EP of having committed the massacre. This false accusation served a dual purpose. On the one hand, it was an attempt to hide the true identity of the perpetrators of the massacre and their ties with the National Army. On the other hand, the aim was to weaken the resistance project of the Peace Community, by creating the misconception that certain leaders in the Community were collaborating with the FARC-EP.
The constant defamation and hostility of public officials towards the Peace Community was the result of its refusal to have a military presence in its territory, which was part of its strategy of peaceful resistance. As a consequence of these repeated accusations, harassment and attacks, the Peace Community broke off all relations with the State and its institutions. In the words of the emblematic leader, Brígida González: “as the idea was to finish off the Community in one way or another, they did all sorts of things to us. They killed a lot of people, there were many massacres and selective killings, but the 2005 massacre was the last straw that caused us to completely break ties with the State“.
“It’s bad enough that oneself could be singled-out and accused of being a guerilla without reason, but […] one wonders, was 11-year-old Deiner a guerilla? Or was 18-month-old Santiago Tuberquia a guerrilla? Was 5 year-old Natalia a guerrilla fighter? They kill those of us from the Peace Community because we fight and tell the truth, but these kids didn’t even know how to express themselves yet”.
17 years later: Impunity, an absence of contributions towards the truth and lack of reparations to victims
Of the 66 military personnel who were investigated for their possible participation in the massacre, only 6 were convicted and most of the high commanders who were in charge of the operations in San José de Apartadó were cleared. On March 27, 2019, the Supreme Court of Justice determined that the killings were committed by members of the AUC, in coordination with members of the XVII Brigade of the Colombian National Army. However, in 2020 the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), unified all the case proceedings and assumed jurisdiction themselves. The Peace Community doesn’t understand why this case was transferred to the Transitional Justice System. For them, this massacre did not occur within the context of the armed conflict, but in the context of the persecution perpetrated against them specifically for having declared themselves neutral in the face of the armed conflict.
During all these years the Peace Community has not lost hope that one day the truth will be revealed and all of those responsible will be made accountable. However, with each passing year it becomes more complicated and less likely that those responsible will come forward to make the real contributions in terms of truth and reparation that the Community still longs for.
Verdad Abierta: La condena a cuatro militares por la masacre de San José de Apartadó, 14 June, 2012.
Lisperguer via WordPress: Cabos sueltos de la masacre de San José de Apartadó, 1 February, 2012.
 Verdad Abierta: ‘HH’ pagó para acusar a las Farc de masacre de San José de Apartado en 2005, 4 August, 2009.
El Espectador: Masacre de San José de Apartadó, otro caso en manos de la JEP, 26 January 2020.