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Paramilitaries

Dear friends,

250 paramilitaries invaded Alto Carnaval, Colombia, under the pretense that the villagers were guerrilla supporters. These paramilitaries are the illegal right wing group fighting the guerrillas, and both the guerrillas and the paramilitaries are on the US government’s list of terrorist groups. The paramilitaries came with two people whom they claimed were guerrilla deserters, and who began pointing out persons whom they said fought with them when they were part of the guerrillas.

The paramilitaries beat one of these persons, tied him up, and said they were going to kill him because he was a guerrilla at one time. Then the village Priest, led by the Spirit, responded on behalf of the accused, “He is no longer a guerrilla, and if you are going kill him, you should kill his accuser because he was part of the guerrillas too at one time." The paramilitaries were taken back so much by this response that they backed off and let him go. Alleluia!

This all happened a few days ago on a Sunday morning when farmers gathered from 34 villages in the community of Alto Carnaval, with outside church leaders, government watch dog agencies, the UN and nongovernmental ( NGOs) development organizations to work on a plan to find alternatives to their dependency on coca, the source of cocaine. In this region the Columbian government claims to be providing security from the guerrillas and paramilitaries.

On Thursday Raphael and I, as a part of CPT security work, accompanied a commission of the organizations mentioned above, plus the media, to meet with leaders from the villages and the Colombian Army, and to recount and document what happened. (See photo.) The villagers confronted the Army head-on with the question, How can you not know anything about 250 paramilitary terrorists invading and staying for two days in an area in which you are supposedly providing security for the farmers?" Underneath this question was the assumption that nobody was able to talk about, which was that the army really knew about the invasion. The army major responded, "But nobody told us." The farmers answered, "But if we tell you, we may lose our necks literally."

This shows the trap the farmers find themselves in, because of the documented, yet under-the-table, relationship between the paramilitaries and the Colombian Army. If they tell the Army about the abusive acts of the paramilitaries, the paramilitaries are likely to come back to do away with whoever tells.

This was a unique opportunity to expose the Army’s blatant shortcomings in providing security, particularly because of the eyewitness of so many prominent leaders from all these organizations. This now documented incident has great potential to help in a good way. This good way, which is in process, is dismantling the paramilitary forces.

God seems to working at peacemaking in many different levels and places in Colombia. The above incident is an example, and there are more examples in the Opon, and at the national level, as the government talks more and more about negotiations with the guerrillas. Alleluia!

Let’s keep praying,

Jim

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