By Carlos López, EL COLOMBIANO, October 13, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
The decision by the Antioquia Superior Court is not appealable.
One of the most relevant chapters in the alleged financing of paramilitaries through the “House of Castaño” just took a new step in the legal system. It has to do with the banana company, Chiquita Brands, which had contributed to the financing of “paras” between 1997 and 2004.
The Criminal Decisions branch of the Antioquia Superior Court affirmed a decision allowing the trials of ten officials of Chiquita and its affiliates in this country, Colombia C.I. Banadex and C.I. Banacol.
The Court denied their defense lawyers’ motion to dismiss all charges. According to them, there were sufficient jurisdictional arguments to support dismissal of the charges that they were financing the paramilitaries that were operating in Urabá and in Córdoba, and to close the file.
The names of the officials appear in the 24-page decision by the Superior Court. They are Reinaldo Elías Escobar de La Hoz, Javier Ochoa Velásquez, Victor Manuel Henriquez, Jorge Alberto Cadavid, José Luis Valverde, Victor Julio Buítrago, Faud Alberto Gaicoman, Álvaro Acevedo, John Paul Olivo, and Charles Dennis Keiser.
The Attorney General’s Office charged them three years ago with aggravated criminal conspiracy.
According to the facts alleged, the General Manager, the Legal Counsel, and the Chief of Security (along with other employees) held a meeting in Medellín to arrange with the “House of Castaño” for a discount of three cents on the dollar for each box of bananas for export. The deduction would be made weekly from every merchant. The money was to be turned over to the bank accounts of the then-Convivir, according to the charging documents.
The purpose of the agreement was so that the paramilitaries would fight the guerrillas that were present in Urabá in those years. That was translated, as pointed out in the statements of fact, into a key reinforcement to help the Convivirs consolidate into the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia during nearly a decade.
The defense counsel filed a series of motions claiming a violation of due process, arguing that the facts alleged could not support a finding that a crime was committed, and that the evidence offered by the prosecutors was insufficient.
The Branch 5 Criminal Appeals Court of the Antioquia Specialized Circuit evaluated these motions in May of this year, but they were dismissed, as the Court found no substantial irregularity in the trial court’s decisions.
The dismissal was appealed and finally reached the Antioquia Superior Tribunal, which reviewed the motions and finally affirmed the order issued by the Branch 5 Criminal Appeals Court, denying the motions to dismiss the charges. The charges against the officials for financing the paramilitaries remain open.
Because of this case, the Attorney General’s Office asked in 2018 for an investigation of the governors of Antioquia who were in power during those years, and apparently permitted the organization of the Convivirs. One of those Governors was Álvaro Uribe Vélez, who has said repeatedly that he had not omitted any necessary actions on the case. In fact, he made clear that he had filed more than 90 complaints.