|Drummond's Dark Ties to Uribe|
|Written by Becca Polk|
|Tuesday, 09 November 2010 20:56|
written on November 9th, 2010 by Laura Gonzalez and Becca Polk; edited by Alice Ollstein
Shortly after leaving the Colombian presidency, Alvaro Uribe came to Georgetown University in Washington, DC as a guest lecturer and distinguished scholar. Because of the human rights atrocities committed during his eight years in office, a group of activists, students, lawyers and teachers formed the Adios Uribe Coalition—to protest the academic appointment of Uribe, educate students and the greater DC community about conditions in Colombia, and show support and solidarity for the Colombian people directly affected by U.S. militarization and corporate interests under Uribe.
Last Wednesday, November 3, the Coalition had held a rally on Georgetown’s campus reaching close to 100 people, with informational stations about paramilitaries, forced displacement, false positive scandals and political repression under Uribe’s administration. The rally also featured speakers from Colombia condemning Uribe’s criminal record. During the rally and protest, a Georgetown University law student successfully served Uribe a subpoena as he was exiting his class. Uribe must now testify in the court case against Drummond mining and coal corporation—and speak to his government’s role in the company’s murder of unionists.
It is impossible to understand the Drummond case without examining the connections between Colombia’s abundant natural resources and the U.S government’s connection to corporations with direct influence in the country.
“Colombian people have been the victims of foreign companies, governments and institutions that want to take advantage of country’s mineral and energy resources.” (1) In this article, we will show the links between paramilitaries and corporate interests in exploiting the natural resources of Colombia—only possible with the cooperation of the U.S. and Colombian governments.
Bill Richardson, the Secretary of Energy under Bill Clinton, openly discussed the U.S.’ interests in Colombia: “The United States and its allies will invest millions of dollars in two areas of the Colombian economy, in the areas of mining and energy, and to secure these investments we are tripling military aid to Colombia.” (2) When the Colombian and U.S. governments joined forces to protect foreign investments, anyone or anything working against these interests began to be targeted.
According to a well-known Colombian trade unionist, Francisco Ramirez Cuellar, “[T]his aid to ‘secure investments’ has produced 437 massacres in mining zones in the past eight years, as well as over 6,000 homicides in the regions. In addition, in the last ten years over 2,000 unionists have been assassinated and hundreds illegally detained. Some million Colombians have been displaced, and hundreds have been disappeared.” (3)
Along with the millions invested into military operations such as Plan Colombia, which strategically constructed “three antinarcotics military bases” in important mining and energy regions,4 multinational corporations have worked to manipulate or create investment laws that support their own interests in natural resource exploitation. Who bears the brunt of this top- down policy-making? The workers, union leaders and communities forcibly displaced from their homes so that corporations can begin exploiting the land.
In some instances, laws were changed in order to favor corporate interests. In others, international laws were completely neglected, including the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 169, which states that before corporations can explore or exploit resources, those indigenous to the area must first be consulted. The new mining code established in 2001 contradicts much of the Colombian Constitution and directly harms the Colombian people. For this reason, citizens are using legal action to re-establish the rule of law in Colombia, promoting political social and economic rights for all citizens. Their movement hopes to restore Constitution’s vision of Colombia as an “estado social de derecho” or “social state under the rule of law.” (5)
More than 65% of all current mining concessions in Colombia are in the ancestral Indigenous and Afro-Colombian lands, where communities are torn apart by multinational corporations. These communities continue to be threatened and ignored.
Sintraminercol (Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Empresa Nacional Minera) is a labor organization created in 1991 by workers of Mineralco S.A., the state mining company. This union has given birth to a new type of activism, stressing ties with the community. Says Cuellar, “We began to focus beyond labor rights, to take on the challenge of building a mining sector that would benefit our country’s people as a whole.” (6)
Sintraminercol unionists have been specifically targeted. The actions of corporations and paramilitaries to prevent these activists and workers from securing their rights have been well-documented. As a result, Colombia is the most dangerous place to be a trade union activist in the world. U.S. corporations like Coca-Cola, Chiquita, Drummond and Occidental Oil hire paramilitaries to target trade unionists in order to kill union organizing and negotiating efforts. (7)
Drummond has a history of links with paramilitaries that have murdered union leaders and massacred communities, leading to mass displacement. In 2003, Sintramienergetica sued Garry Drummond and the Colombian managers of the company under the Alien Torts Claim Act for conspiring with paramilitary groups violating ILO agreements, as well as war crimes and crimes against humanity. (8)
In another court case against Drummond, filed in 2009, nearly 500 Colombians are suing the company for paying the paramilitaries who killed their family members.
Former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe was subpoenaed on November 4, 2010 to testify in this case.(9)After Uribe was served at Georgetown University the last week by a Georgetown law student, to testify in the case against the Drummond company, it is not surprising that the company has published a report in order to defend Uribe, arguing that “the improperly served subpoena to President Uribe is simply aiming to generate media attention for the case and harass President Uribe, who knows nothing about the allegations of the lawsuit.” (10)
Why is this company defending Uribe so that he may avoid giving his testimony on November 22 in the court? The answer lies in the connections between Drummond Inc. Company members and Uribe.
Augusto Jiménez, President of Drummond, Ltd. Colombia (11) Mr. Jimenez is responsible for the Colombian operations, a position he has held since 1991. During Álvaro Uribe's time in office, they have been accused of contracting paramilitaries to kill union leaders. Uribe has been called to testify (12) in this case, Terry Collingsworth, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said Uribe will be questioned about the connection between his Army at the time and the AUC, including what knowledge Uribe’s government had about Drummond’s operations.
After implementing their projects in Colombia, Uribe and Jiménez have referenced their “successful business experience,” (13) and have discussed “why Colombia remains a good long-term investment destination, how experts plan to meet the food and energy demands of growing prosperous populations, raising capital in difficult markets, off-shoring and outsourcing options in Colombia, and growing business while maximizing social impact”.
Uribe and Jimenez's friendship is not an “historical” mistake, as an investigation has indicated that they have family ties. In addition, Fabio Echeverri Correa, who was advisor and consultant of the Drummond Coal Co. Inc., was “Advisor to the President of the Republic” of Colombia from 2002 to 2004, too, as his bio shows. (14)
Echeverria and Uribe both came from wealthy families in the department of Antioquia. They came of age at a time when the old cattle ranching aristocracy, with its nostalgic allegiances to pro-Franco movements, was beginning to merge with the new aristocracy of Medellin’s cocaine cartel. There was a natural symbiosis. Live cattle sales, being difficult to trace, were a natural mechanism for money laundering – one that is still being used widely today. And both had a common enemy in the form of Marxist guerillas who tried to extort “revolutionary taxes” from landowners, according to one this research. (15)
Due to these links, it is not surprising that the Drummond Company is using its lawyers to defend Álvaro Uribe: “U.S. coal giant Drummond has rejected the subpoena served to Colombia's former President Alvaro Uribe”. (16)
Uribe's “friends” and “relatives” are working hard to help him hide the suffering of thousands of innocents Colombians.
1. Chompsky, Aviva “Profits of Extermination”
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 November 2010 17:06|
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