–by Stewart Vriesinga (Sunday, February 26th, 2012)
Even when you don’t actually see them, the paramilitaries cast a long shadow. When we were traveling this road in North-east Antioquia last week my teammate Gladys and I didn’t actually see any paramilitaries. At least we don’t think we did. We aren’t too sure about the two guys on a motorbike we saw on our way into the region. We, along with about 15 other passengers were traveling in a small jeep when two guys on a motorbike raced ahead of us. When we rounded the next curve they were there waiting for us. The passenger had dismounted and was studying the passengers in our vehicle intently. We didn’t see a gun, but others in the jeep say they did. In any case Gladys and I were not the only ones who felt ill at ease; a local woman traveling with a young child was visibly shaken. Gladys tried to calm her and offered her some water.
At the time of the incident Gladys and I were on our way into the interior of North-east Antioquia at the request of CAHUCOPANA –a local partner and grass-roots human rights organization. They had asked us to accompany some campesinos who wanted to travel into the city of Remedios to denounce some human rights abuses and threats to government authorities. Because of the risks involved they would not make the trip from their homes in the interior to the city of Remedios without international accompaniment. They told us that the risk would be greatest on the return trip back to their homes in the interior; the direction Gladys and I were going at the time of the motorbike incident.
Apart from the punishing jouncing and bouncing four-hour trips in the over-crowded and overloaded jeeps down near impossible roads, the accompaniment went smoothly. Gladys and I had arrived in Remedios on Saturday, entered the zone on Sunday, and by Thursday we were ready to make the twelve-hour trip back from Remedios home to Barrancabermeja. Praise be to God that this time the long shadow cast by the paramilitaries only caused terror but did not result in anyone’s death!