Twenty-four years ago, the search for a way out of the unending violent conflict in Colombia saw a significant moment of hope. On 23 March 1997, 1,350 displaced farmers gathered in the remote village of San José de Apartadó in the north-western province of Antioquia to join together and form a peace community. After paramilitaries had roamed the region pillaging and massacring, the local community declared itself neutral in the war, rejecting weapons, drugs, alcohol and cooperation with any armed group. With their community, the people of San José have shown other communities in the country how to break the victim-perpetrator cycle and to build communal alternatives of nonviolence, solidarity and autonomy outside of the dominant culture.
The armed groups made the peace community of San José de Apartadó pay a huge price for their radical decision. Since 1997, more than 200 of its members, including most of the community’s leaders, have been killed, largely at the hands of paramilitary and national armed forces. Few of the crimes have ever been prosecuted. The exemplary effect of the community’s model of autonomy and independence has been seen as a grave threat to the powerful multinational interests driving lucrative mining and agricultural projects in the country. As the former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe openly admitted, the peace community is despised because it stands “in the way of development.”
Since the demobilisation of the FARC-Ep guerrilla in 2017, the pressure and threats against the Peace Community have increased as paramilitaries have expanded their influence in
— source commondreams.org | Apr 20, 2021