(Translated by Lina Herrera,  a CSN volunteer translator)

With this hard or maybe shameful phrase that we used as the headline for today’s bulletin “Frente Obrero”, the Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo sentenced what is going to happen with Empresa Colombiana de Petróleos (Colombian Oil Company) ECOPETROL, if the Colombian society allows the gang, conformed by the President ALVARO URIBE VELEZ, the Secretary of Mines and Energy HERNÁN MARTÍNEZ,  Ecopetrol’s Board of Directors, and their Chairman JAVIER GENARO GUTIERREZ, commit their crime against the public wealth.

In a press conference held in the headquarters of Polo Democrático Alternativo in Barrancabermeja, Senator Robledo, with his traditional brilliance, explained to the media and the community at large the shameless theft the Colombian people will suffer. With a murky negotiation, almost mafia style, they lied and said that now, by selling its shares, the company will truly be in the hands of the Colombian people. A lie among lies. Today is when the company belongs to the Colombian people, from the vainest to the humblest. The company’s profits are distributed as “transfers”, which finally translate into social investment. This represents public education, health, and basic reorganization. On the other hand, the new shareholders are being guaranteed a 42,39%  annual return. This is the conclusive proof that the assets, called Ecopetrol, were sub valued. It would be impossible to reach these levels of profitability any other way, which are rare in legal businesses, not even in the oil business at the current international price.

Senator Robledo explained this sufficiently proven economic theory by using a pedagogical example. He said: “if anyone from you all buys a taxi cab, and, for example, you have to pay ten million pesos (10,000,000) for it, and the taxi produces one million pesos (1,000,000) in profits each month, this means it has a return of 10%. Now, if somebody buys a stolen taxi for five million pesos (5,000,000) and it produces the same profits as the other taxi each month, in this case it would have a return of 20%”.

We then can imagine the magnitude of the theft from the treasury with the SUB VALUATION when those who buy more than one thousand shares for one thousand four hundred pesos (1,400) are being guaranteed a 42,39% return. These buyers would only legitimate privatization, because the aforementioned shares will be in the hands of the oil multinationals in an instant. These multinationals are the engine behind this negotiation, and they are also the biggest beneficiary of the sacrifice imposed on the Colombian people and their sovereignty. They need to thank the local mafias that have been working for them, some assassinating union, social, and popular leaders, like the mafia paid by Chiquita Brands, and others leading and pushing bills and decrees, like the president of the Senate’s V Committee ALVARO ARAUJO NOGUERA, currently detained under charges of paramilitary connections and murder.

As if it was written yesterday, below we have copied the article Senator Robledo wrote exactly a year ago.

Jorge Enrique Robledo
, Bogotá, 24 de agosto de 2006

The Government’s decision to privatize Ecopetrol does not open a new debate. In many ways, it is the same debate fought since the dawn of the XX century, when, among reports of corruption, the oil multinationals obtained the Concesiones Barco y Mares (ship & sea concessions), and the oil fields of the Magdalena Medio and the Catatumbo regions. In 1951 the workers at the Tropical Oil Company and the people of Barrancabermeja, with the support of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán and millions of Democrats, won the conformation of Ecopetrol, after defeating the wishes of the oil companies and their Colombian pawns to perpetuate their benefits. The immense sums of money that Ecopetrol has transferred to the Nation are the same amounts those who lost them have grieved for and never stopped plotting for.
That said, in the privatization debates there are those who come in favor or against, motivated by technical, economic, or political reasons in general. But it is also true that there are others who represent powerful ambitions of private profits. Not acknowledging this truth is cheating oneself and others. On the other hand, the rhetoric of neutrality of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is not able to hide that there the decision power lies with the United States and the other foreign powers, countries where the multinationals rule, the first beneficiaries of privatization in the world. With good reason the revolving doors between the private and public sectors are so disliked, especially their most recent example: the appointment of Hernán Martínez as Secretary of Mines, who was a high executive with ExxonMobil, the world biggest oil company, for 38 years. In which other country would have this happened without causing a scandal?
The position of the Uribismo (political leaders followers of President Uribe Velez) in favor of privatizing the hydrocarbons was established in the Plan de Desarrollo (Development Plan) 2002-2006, when it was defined for the Cartagena Refinery and the fuel imports, businesses in favor of the multinationals which demand the increase of the internal prices of fuels to be equal to the external prices. This favor of privatization became visible in the infamous decision to give ChevronTexaco and Oxy the super businesses of the natural gas of La Guajira region and the oil of the Caño Limón region, which used to go back to Ecopetrol. It also advanced with the creation of the Agencia Nacional de Hidrocarburos (National Hydrocarbons Agency) (ANH), which approved the regressive policy of going back to concession contracts with foreign capitals, used before 1951, which obtained the world’s worst state take, because the income for Colombia, adding up profits plus taxes, decreased to 50.06%, which means that the resources were almost given for free. This favor of privatization has had, as one of its most reprehensible aspects, the fierce attack against Unión Sindical Obrera (Oil Workers Trade Union) (USO), bastion of the oil nationalism.
It is also true that the Uribe administration, in the minutes of the meeting where Ecopetrol’s strike was lifted, promised to not privatize the company.
Ecopetrol is Colombia’s first company in assets, wealth, profits, and transfers of all kind to the State. The company’s profitability is so high someone said that what is going to be privatized is the profit. But the company also suffers because the oil policies are so bad they prohibit the company from investing the resources. Although it may seem a lie, when the oil business is more profitable than ever and Colombia tends to become a fuel importer, which will cause a catastrophe, and the Government milks Ecopetrol to madness, the company has 1,700 million dollars abroad and 2 billion pesos in Global TES Bonds earning low interests, and it does not have debt, despite owning fourteen billion pesos worth of property. How to explain this policy that seems to have been designed by fools? Simple, and there is agreement in this explanation: Ecopetrol cannot invest more because the resolutions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) prevent it, pushing the company’s privatization.
Álvaro Uribe Velez, instead of making the decisions that need to be made for Ecopetrol to do what the company should do, acting independently with the IMF, again submits to the latter and decides the privatization of the company, giving it autonomy but depriving it from its public character, although only 20% is being sold, just as it was done with the enacted Ley 1118 (Law 1118) of September 27, 2006. Besides, the privatization will be, like all other, at a lower price, because otherwise the private sector would not buy it. And selling to the “solidarity sector” is just a smoke screen, because behind that expression are the private pension funds, which control more than 50% of the foreign capital.
For all these reasons, Senator Jorge Robledo, Hugo Serrano, and the Unión Sindical Obrera (Oil Workers Trade Union) will present an appeal at the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic (Contraloría General de la Nación) requesting the cancellation of the sale of Ecopetrol shares. This brave decision needs to be supported from the company and the streets with mobilizations and political struggle.

Redacto Subdirectiva Única Barrancabermeja Agosto 16 de 2007.

Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621

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