By Alfredo Molano Jimeno, EL ESPECTADOR, January 11, 2024    


(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Former President Juan Manuel Santos’ revelation about one of his first acts of government has caused a lot of commotion. He processed Uribe’s diplomatic immunity in the United States when several human rights organizations lined up demanding to see the ex-President prosecuted in United States courts. What Santos had to say, with the calm that characterizes him, was answered with rage by Uribe, and not exactly because it was a lie, as he had said at first, or because he had just heard about it, and hit upon an answer, but rather because it forced him to confess something that this country never knew: that Drummond paid his attorney, just a few months after the end of his Presidency.

Uribe’s confession, interspersed with pompous names to play down its importance, ought to open the door to a broader investigation of his relationship with that company and the influence the coal companies had in the expansion of paramilitarism on the Caribbean coast. The relationship with that company was a close one. In fact, it saved the company thousands of millions of pesos in tax exemptions, in the same way it created agreements between the multinational and the battalions of the Colombian Army to guard the mines. And it was precisely from that relationship among Colombian officials, business owners, and politicians that paramilitarism in Cesar Department was born.

This time Uribe said that Drummond paid his lawyers because the issue was with the company and not with him, and that he was being accused of the murder of “some workers” in 2001, a year before he became President. The detail he didn’t provide was that it was about the murder of three labor leaders at Drummond by the paramilitaries, for which the United States multinational was being investigated. In March 2001, the paramilitaries commanded by Jorge 40 stopped the bus in which Valmore Locarno and Víctor Hugo Orcasita, president and vice president of the union, were traveling. They made them get out of the bus and they killed them. The same thing happened in October of the same year to Gustavo Soler Mora, who took over the presidency of the union after the killing of his comrades.

For these crimes, the ordinary justice system has only convicted the trigger-man, but it has not been permitted to untangle the intertwining that had aimed the bullets. Salvatore Mancuso said, with perfect clarity, in his recent testimony before the JEP, that the northern Bloc was financed by Drummond and other multinational coal companies, and it was those companies that ordered the murders in Cesar, and that they had paid the paramilitaries for the operation. A witness is Jairo de Jesús Charris, a paramilitary who answers to the alias of Miguel. He said, for example, that the murder of Soler had been ordered by Augusto Jiménez Mejía—the former president of Drummond in Colombia–, Gary Drummond himself, and Drummond’s former president, Mike Tracy.

Alias Miguel also revealed the names of the members of the military who took part in the crimes; some of them served as chiefs of security at the company, like Retired Colonel Jorge Garzón, Retired General Rafael Peña Ríos, and Retired Colonel Luis Carlos Rodríguez. And not to talk about the mentions that exist about James Lee Atkins and the politicians that took part in the collusion between the paras and the elite of Cesar. That includes former governor Alfredo Araújo and Jorge Gnecco, faithful representatives of the families that have governed in Cesar, guided by the business relationships with Drummond, and whose imprint the justice system has fallen behind in tracing. Behind the killings and what paramilitarism has meant in the mining corridor is the shadow of the businesses that paid former President Uribe’s lawyers generously, although he will certainly say that “he just found out”.

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