Five armed suspects who are believed to be paramilitaries attacked German Posso, president of the San Jose de Apartado Community of Peace in Antioquia, Colombia, on Friday. The attack prompted an emergency visit to the town by state officials.
Posso, who had reported several threats to state authorities prior to his attack, suffered from serious wounds during the conflict. The armed men also attacked several community members who came to Posso's rescue. They managed to capture two of the attackers: James Humberto and Antonio Usuga. Both are from neighboring communities.
Members of Community of Peace immediately informed Colombian Vice President Oscar Naranjo of the violent incident. The vice president said he “promised to investigate the enormous complacency by public authorities regarding such paramilitary attacks,” according to community members.
The attack also prompted an emergency visit by Interior Minister Horacio Guerrero, Fredy Largo of the People’s Defense government agency and the town's archbishop. They will form a special commission, headed by Colombia’s Attorney General, to investigate the attack on Posso, a small-scale cocoa farmer.
The mayor of neighboring Apartado, Eliecer Arteaga, told local media that “the people of Community of Peace want the central government to listen to them.” Though people in the area suspect paramilitaries committed the crime against Posso, Arteaga added that they should wait until the investigation is complete before drawing conclusions.
Leaders of the Community of Peace have experienced an uptick of threats and violence over the past year as around 500 members of the Gaitanist Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AGC, paramilitary group have moved into the area, El Espectador reported. AGC members are suspected of raping a minor last January.
Local religious leaders and politicians say the national military has a base located nearby, but is complacent against the AGC, the armed forces branch of Colombia’s most influential and narcotrafficking and criminal organization, the “Gulf Clan.”
Since the Community of Peace was founded in 1997, it has tried to protect its residents from paramilitary violence. Since the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, disarmed and left the region following the peace agreement it signed with President Juan Manuel Santos in 2016, the town has faced growing threats from the AGC.
Violence in the Community of Peace reached such high levels over the past three decades that the Inter-American Human Rights Court has twice required that the Colombian government provide special “preventative protection” to its leaders — first in 2007 and again in 2010.
The two armed men who attacked Posso were taken into custody yesterday and will be taken to Bogota this week for questioning.