By José David Escobar Moreno

El Espectador, December 3, 2019

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Jaime Blanco Maya, the cattleman and former contractor for the multinational, has just been accepted by the Special Justice Court. The half brother of former Controller Edgardo Maya has promised to reveal the alleged financing of the paramilitaries by the company between 1993 and 2002.

The Branch for the Definition of Legal Situations at the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) has just admitted the businessman and cattleman Jaime Blanco Maya.  He is a former contractor for Drummond, the US company. He was sentenced in 2013 to 38 years in prison for the murder of two labor leaders at the company. Blanco Maya, the half brother of former Controller Edgardo Maya and of Ángel El Kiri Maya (sentenced for his connections with the paramilitaries and later murdered) has promised to reveal to the Court the details of one of the most controversial and least investigated chapters of the Colombian conflict: the alleged financing of illegal armed groups by the big companies.

The member of the powerful Maya clan of Valledupar, who was accepted by the JEP last November 26, offered the Court a plan for “truth, reparation, and a guarantee of no repetition that would “make clear the relation (of financing) between the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) and the Drummond corporation between 1993 and 2002, when he played the role of intermediary (. . . ), and also how the labor organizations were victimized”. Blanco Mayo is now in prison for the March 2001 murder of Víctor Orcasita and Valmore Locarno, President and Vice President, respectively, of the National Mine, Petrochemical, Agro-fuel and Energy Workers Union (Sintramienergértica in Spanish)

Even though the plan he presented to the JEP does not contain more details about how he will provide the truth about the conflict, the judicial investigations against him and against the paramilitaries shed some light on what he might reveal. The Attorney General’s Office has said that Blanco Maya had a close relationship with the Northern Bloc of the AUC, commanded by Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, known as Jorge 40, a cattleman of the upper class in Valledupar. He has been in prison in the United States since 2008 for drug trafficking. The investigators pointed out during his trial that the businessman, Maya, ordered the murder of the labor leaders, who were planning a strike at Drummond aimed at forcing a change in the workers’ food service contractor: Industrial Food Services (ISA in Spanish) owned by Blanco Maya.

Regarding the double murder, according to testimony by the paramilitary Alcides Mattos, known as Samario, there were two meetings.  The first was at the end of 2001 near Bosconia (Cesar Province). Jorge 40 and Óscar José Ospino, known as Tolemaida, chief of the Juan Andrés Álvarez front, who perpetrated the crime, were at that meeting. In the second meeting, according to Samario (who was very close to Tolemaida), it was between April and May of that year, and his boss was “congratulated” on the murders of the two labor leaders. He also said that in that meeting “there were people from Drummond”. Samario and Jairo de Jesús Charris, known as  el Viejo Miguel (Old Man Miguel), head of security for ISA, have already been sentenced for the events.

El Viejo Manuel gave a key piece of testimony in the case. He indicated that several days before the murders, Tolemaida was at a meeting at the Drummond headquarters to plan the crime, a meeting that was also attended by Blanco Maya. El Espectador contacted the multinational, and was told that “the company cannot make any comment about a document we have not seen”, referring to the truth plan that Blanco Maya furnished the JEP. Nevertheless, in other opportunities, the coal mine operator insisted that the testimony of Viejo Miguel was totally false,  and that he had tried, according to the company, to extort money by offering testimony against them if they did not pay him.

In the case against Blanco Maya in 2013, a Judge ordered investigation of several of the officials of the US multinational that has been mining coal in Cesar Province for three decades.ð Among them are Gary Drummond, President of the multinational (He died in 2016.); Augusto Jiménez (Drummond President in Colombia from 1990-2012); José Miguel Linares, Executive Vice President at that time and currently President; the current Manager of Community Relations, Alfredo Araújo (captured in 2015, but released); James Atkins, Chief of Security, and Colonel Luis Rodríguez, for their alleged participation in the murders. Sources in the Attorney General’s Office told this newspaper that that agency is working to decide if it will open such an investigation or not.

Blanco Maya was also charged with the murder of his predecessor as food service contractor for the workers at the Drummond Mine. Hugo Guerra and his partner Wilfrido Coronado, were murdered in May of 2000. The former paramilitary chieftain, “El Tigre”, confessed to the authorities that his men committed the crime at the request of Blanco Maya, who wanted to have the contract with the multinational for himself, which did happen later. The two men were found in a common grave in the rural part of the Municipality of Becerril. Maya, who is now in the La Picota prison, was also investigated preliminarily for the murder of the labor leader Gustavo Soler.

This weekend, the Police captured El Tigre, who was also accused of having directed at least 13 massacres, such as the one at El Salado (Bolivar Province) and at Santa Cecilia, in Astrea (Cesar Province). Those left nearly 400 people murdered.  In the same way, El Tigre may be responsible for 491 forced displacements. Besides those events, El Tigre is connected with the disappearance and subsequent murder of the seven detectives from the Technical Investigation Group (CTI in Spanish) in the Attorney General’s Office. Those murders took place between Valledupar and Codazzi in March of 2000, because Carlos Castaño said they were collaborating with the guerrillas. More recently, El Tigre was the one who planned and organized the kidnaping of the business-woman Melisa Martínez, the niece of the Nobel Prize winner, Gabriel García Márquez, seized in August of 2018 in the Zona Bananera (Magdalena Province).

The Alleged Financing

Using his business, ISA, Blanco Maya was the intermediary through which Drummond was financing the paramilitaries. The ex-contractor for the multinational made this confession himself during a civil suit in the United States, in which the victims of the paramilitaries in Cesar Province had requested, without success, that the company be held responsible for the barbarity unleashed by the AUC in Cesar Province during the ‘90’s and early in 2000. According to the businessman, the former paramilitary chieftain El Tigre (captured last weekend) approached him in 1995, proposing that his company be the means by which the mining company’s financing of the paramilitaries could pass through. Blanco Maya said that he referred the proposal to James Atkins, Drummond’s Chief of Security at that time.

After that, according to Blanco Maya, he sent the message to the then head of the company, Gary Drummond. According to the ex-contractor’s version, the Directors loved the proposal, but they asked that he find a way for the money to reach the illegal group without arousing the attention of the US criminal and tax authorities, who usually were very thorough in their investigations into the financing of illegal groups. In that way, Blanco Maya’s company appeared to be a “solution” to the problem of camouflaging the support for the AUC.

Other commitments made to the JEP

In the document Blanco Maya presented to the Special Jurisdiction created in the Peace Agreement with the FARC, he committed to carrying out “Undertakings for Public Pardon”. They will consist of two conferences in El Paso and in Chiriguaná, municipalities in which the La Loma Mine, operated by Drummond, is located. Experts in International Humanitarian Law will attend these pardon activities, he said. He will also produce two publications seeking pardon in El Pilón, the most important newspaper in the Province. He will also build a monument in that area to honor the victims.

One of the reasons that Blanco Maya gave to the JEP for carrying out these activities is that they will focus on destigmatizing organized labor and on education to change the attitudes that fueled those crimes. “During the armed conflict the members of unions were the objects of countless violations of their human rights, not just by the armed actors, but also by the powerful multinationals and trade associations (. . .). They wanted their interests and measureless accumulations of wealth to prevail and to restrict the fundamental right of association,” concluded Blanco Maya.

ð Editor’s Note: At the beginning, the article stated that in the case against alias Viejo Miguel in 2009, the Judge in the case ordered the Directors of Drummond to be investigated. However, that request was made by the 11th Specialized Branch in Bogotá, which sentenced Blanco Maya in 2013.

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