Thursday, August 18, 2022

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Roberto Peckham

Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero claimed in a shocking interview for the January 8 edition of Colombia’s leading weekly Semana news-magazine that Medellin’s leading businesses are in fact run by mafia gangsters who supposedly are out to “get” him.

Facing a recall petition for mismanaging the city, for publicly slandering its most successful and civic-minded companies, for potentially wrecking public utility EPM’s finances via demagogic claims that undercut and threatened more than US$1 billion in Hidroituango insurance claims, and for stuffing city agencies and commissions with political hacks -- including many family members -- Quintero has now decided to strike back with claims strikingly similar to the hysterical narratives pushed by former U.S. President Donald Trump.

In the Semana interview, Quintero not only accuses Medellin’s top “Grupo Empresarial Antioquia” (GEA) companies --Grupo Argos, Grupo Sura and Grupo Nutresa -- of being mafiosos, but he also attacks other non-GEA companies including the principal contractors of the US$5 billion Hidroituango hydroelectric dam, former Medellin Mayor and current Colombian presidential candidate Sergio Fajardo, and all supporters of former Colombia President Alvaro Uribe, the founder of the centrist Centro Democratico Party.

Semana editor Vicky Davila was so shocked by Quintero’s allegations that she asked Quintero if he actually realized what he was saying.

“Forgive me, but you are talking about the GEA, Uribismo, Fajardismo, you are not talking about a gang of drug traffickers, nor of a cartel. They are businessmen and politicians. Why do you take them to the point of being mafias?” Davila asked.

To which Quintero responded: “They are associated to achieve their objectives and many are not honest objectives. Tell me how can it be considered honest that those responsible for Hidroituango did not pay? These companies and these politicians came together to make this happen. So they behave like cartels and you have to tell the cartels what they are exactly.

“Here are what they are, some cartels, some mafias, where the GEA, Uribismo, Fajardismo were together, and they all had an agreement to [work together] and then someone independent arrived [that is, Mayor Quintero], put his finger on the problem and that has hurt them a lot.”

Grupo Argos Public Response

In response to Mayor Quintero’s accusations, Grupo Argos issued the following press release:

“January 9, 2022
“Position of Grupo Argos regarding the statements of Daniel Quintero.
“In relation to the statements of Daniel Quintero, Mayor of Medellin, published in Semana magazine on January 8, 2022, Grupo Argos states the following:

“1. We reject the claims that Grupo Argos or its subsidiaries are mafia organizations, comparing them with Pablo Escobar and drug trafficking.

“2. We reject the assertion that suggests that Grupo Argos' shareholding structure is irregular and prohibited in Colombia, which is totally false.

“3. Our organizations [including GEA companies] have never had control of EPM as indicated by Daniel Quintero. EPM is a public-capital company of the municipality of Medellin and no official of Grupo Argos or of its subsidiaries is or has been a member of its Board of Directors.

“4. The statements of Daniel Quintero given to Semana magazine in the course of a takeover bid for shares of Grupo Sura and Grupo Nutresa [by Semana owner Jaime Gilinski and Gilinski's JGDB Holding SAS investment group], which have their shares listed in the public stock market, may negatively affect the perception of national and international investors, being false and misleading.

“5. The company [Grupo Argos] will analyze legal actions for insult, slander, economic panic and any other that may arise.

“Grupo Argos and its more than 13,000 collaborators carry out their business activity within an ethical and transparent framework of action, oriented by the higher purpose of positively transforming people's lives through their investments,” the Argos press release concludes.

Proantioquia Response

Meanwhile, Antioquia’s leading public-private-academic-social-welfare civic-promotion organization Proantioquia issued the following press release in response to Quintero’s allegations:

“January 9, 2022.
“A single truth will not be built from a thousand lies. Proantioquia's pronouncement on the declarations of Mayor Daniel Quintero.

“Medellin and Antioquia have reached important levels of development, well-being and progress due to the joint historical work between government, business, academia and the social sector. Respect for differences has been based on argumentation, constructive dialogue, respect and seeking truth.

“Spreading a narrative with falsehoods and deceptions with the sole purpose of benefiting one's own agenda and not for the common good is very dangerous because it destroys social capital and fractures the necessary trust in which progress, democracy and the entire society lose.

“Antioquian companies have worked with commitment for the region and the country, concerned about solving social challenges, promoting entrepreneurship, and supporting youth, culture and peace. [Grupo Empresarial Antioquia companies] today generate more than 100,000 direct jobs and hundreds of thousands more indirect jobs, which translate into opportunities and progress for Antioquian and Colombian families. Comparing these companies to a mafia cartel shows lack of respect to their employees, shareholders, suppliers and clients, in addition to lacking any purpose.

“This lie hurts the city, the dignity of Medellin, ignores the historic horrors we suffered and what we managed to overcome through the sum of efforts, capabilities, leadership, resources, kindness and solidarity. With teamwork, with respect and trust, we managed to overcome the uncertain and fearful episodes of the violent past. This has been due to the commitment of the institutions, the business community, the NGOs [non-governmental organizations] and the public that we have recovered from adversity and we continue to move forward.

“We still face immense challenges to restore and build the splendor of Medellin and Antioquia, but these challenges must be faced with dignity, recognizing our progress and working to continue advancing.

“Citizens must have a critical attitude about what they hear, understand reality based on facts, figures, actions and look closely at the history of the city. Accomplishments speak for themselves. We must avoid the contagion of a narrative using disqualifying phrases and straying far from the truth. Many times those who designate themselves as saviors are really destroyers of democracy and public trust.

“Companies such as Grupo Sura, Grupo Nutresa and Grupo Argos have the highest business, environmental, social, labor and cultural standards. Antioquia is proud of them and of many others who contribute, day by day, to achieve what we are, and who will also be the foundations of the future.

“We join the voices of those who raise the urgent need to rescue trust, to appeal to the civic spirit and the collective construction of social capital. A single truth cannot be built from a thousand lies."

[Signed]
Miguel Escobar Penagos, Vice President of the Board of Directors, Proantiquia
Maria Bibiana Botero Carrera, Executive President, Proantioquia

Grupo Sura Response

In a similar vein, Grupo Sura issued the following response to Quintero’s attacks:

“Grupo Sura press release
“09 January 2022

“Faced with the statements given by the Mayor of Medellin, Daniel Quintero Calle, to Semana magazine on January 8, 2022, Grupo de Inversiones Suramericana (Grupo Sura) expresses its position:

“1. We categorically reject the declarations of the Mayor of Medellin by means of which he attacks in an unscrupulous, tendentious and false manner the companies related to Grupo Sura and especially its investors, shareholders, clients, suppliers, advisers and collaborators.

“2. The statements of Daniel Quintero, in which he equates our company and the companies with which we share philosophical and patrimonial ties with ‘mafia practices,’ in addition to being lies, are irresponsible with all the investors and in particular with the citizens of Medellin, and with the thousands of employees of these companies, throughout the nation and the Latin American territory.

“3. The so-called ‘Grupo Empresarial Antioqueño’ or ‘GEA’ as referred to by Mayor Quintero is not a business group as that term is defined in Article 28 of the 1995 law. The ownership structure of Grupo Sura and others companies referred to by Mayor Quintero is perfectly legal. The Mayor's accusations -- according to which the shareholding model of said companies are [supposedly] irregular or prohibited -- are false.

“4. It is extremely serious that a public official uses his position to lie and attack without any basis people and entities that by constitutional mandate he must protect, with dishonorable charges and the false claim of incurring in illegalities, aggravated by in this case the person who holds the position of Mayor. Systematically, the Mayor has been false, disorienting public opinion and has affected democratic institutions by deepening mistrust in public administration with accusations that have no basis in reality.

“5. Grupo Sura reiterates that it has never had institutional representation on the EPM board of directors or in any other public entity. Those who have participated there in the past have done so exclusively as private persons.

“6. Grupo Sura is respectful of the democratic institutions for which it has always maintained total independence: We have never had our own candidates, much less have acted as a political party, nor have we hindered the work of any Mayor of the city. Grupo Sura has not promoted or promoted the recall of the Mayor as he claims. Transparency and adherence to the principles of Grupo Sura have been evident in the actions and historical commitment to the development of Medellin and Colombia.

“7. The Mayor's statements lead to a dangerous distortion in the confidence of the public securities market and the perceptions of national and foreign investors, all of which causes not only concern but also damage to the company. However, despite the attack suffered at the request of the Mayor of Medellin, Grupo Sura insists on continuing to respect and defend democratic principles.”

Grupo Nutresa Response

One day later, food-and-nutrition giant Grupo Nutresa issued its own response to Mayor Quintero's allegations.  Here is their full press release:

"Gropo Nutresa Press Release
"10 January 2022

"Faced with the statements of the Mayor of Medellin Daniel Quintero Calle, an interview published by Semana on January 8, 2022, Grupo Nutresa SA has the following response:

"1. Grupo Nutresa categorically rejects the lying and irresponsible allegations that is a mafioso and dishonest organization. These statements, totally false, are an offense to our investors, employees, suppliers and clients, and they ignore the enormous effort, for more than 100 years, to do business and generate development in all the regions where we operate.

"2. Grupo Nutresa's ownership structure is completely legal. Suggesting otherwise is ignoring the truth.

"3. Grupo Nutresa has never taken-over or controlled Empresas Publicas de Medellin [EPM]. We do not receive any type of income from EPM; no person of ours has participated in representation of Grupo Nutresa on the EPM board of directors, and no EPM employee has obtained any position there at the request of Grupo Nutresa. Grupo Nutresa's relationship with EPM is solely that of the customer-supplier type. EPM provides electric energy, natural gas, water and sewerage services.

"4. The statements of Mayor Quintero are missing the truth. The statements constitute a malicious attack that could deteriorate the reputation and trust not only of this organization and its investments, but also of the Colombian stock market, a fact that could generate serious economic impacts.

"5. We respect democracy and believe in the importance of preserving and strengthening the institutions for the progress of the country. We see participation in the construction of the public welfare as a responsibility with criteria of transparency, efficiency and always seeking the common good. We have not led or financed the revocation process underway against the Mayor of Medellin.

"Solutions to the biggest problems of the city and the country do not begin with the destruction of social capital and the attack on business activity. The challenges are great and require everyone's input.

"Every day more than 45,000 Grupo Nutresa employees work with integrity to make the organization's purpose come true: to build a better world where development is for everyone," the statement concludes.


Colombia Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez announced January 5 the addition of US$397 million in financing deals supporting the US$627 million “Puerto Antioquia” ocean freight project near Turbo, Antioquia.

Part of the new funds will come via the privately held Financiera de Desarrollo Nacional (FDN) group, which just confirmed a US$103.7 million loan package involving JP Morgan including a loan guarantee from the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).

Another part of the new funding comes from the Inter-American Development Bank Group with US$200 million, plus US$30 million from Colombia’s Bancoldex import-export promotion agency and US$60 million from the Davivienda bank group here, according to FDN.

The JP Morgan loan carries a 16-years payback term with a four-year grace period, according to FDN. “The loan will be amortized in 47 quarterly installments from the expiration of the grace period,” according to FDN, whose shareholders include Grupo Bicentenario, IFC, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and CAF.

According to FDN, “the port is expected to start operating in 2025 and reduce logistics costs by improving competitiveness and allowing the development of small and medium-sized producers, which have been restricted, in part, by limited access to ports, and competition by the quotas offered in the boats that transport agricultural products.”

The new port also will “promote the creation of 11,600 new companies and US$24.4 million per year in tax payments,” according to FDN.

The total estimated capital cost of US$672.4 million includes debt finance (59.6% of the total, or US$393.7 million), with the remaining 40.4% (equivalent to US$280 million) in capital finance to be provided by the project partners.

“When compared with the other alternative ports in the Caribbean for cargo transportation, Puerto Antioquia represents a cost savings of 44% and 41% in distance for Medellín, 37% in costs and 33% in distance from the coffee region, ands 17% in costs and 25% in distance from Bogotá,” according to FDN.

The port will enjoy new highway connections via the under-construction Mar 1, Mar 2 and Toyo Tunnel highway projects in Antioquia, due for completion over the next two-to-four years.

The annual capacity of Puerto Antioquia will enable shipping of 600,000 twenty-foot-container-equivalent units in dry and refrigerated containers, 3 million tons of bulk cargo and 1.15 million tons of general cargo, according to FDN.

The private-sector capital sponsors of the project include global shipping giant CMA Terminals (22% share); Pio S.A.S. (11.1%); Eiffage Infrastructures S.A.S (22%); Termotécnica Coindustrial (5.17%); banana exporter Uniban (15.51%); Agrícola Santamaría (5.69%); Banafrut (4.14%); CI Tropical (6.21%); and Unión Para la Infraestructura (8.21%), the latter of which is backed by Credicorp Capital Asset Management and Sura Asset Management, according to FDN.


Medellin-based electric power giant EPM announced last night (December 23) that in addition to the US$983.4 million (COP$3.84 trillion) that project insurer Mapfre is paying for Hidroituango hydroelectric-project damages, Medellin-based insurance giant Sura just paid an additional US$100.6 million for “civil director” claims also arising from a 2018 diversion-tunnel collapse at Hidroituango.

In addition, lesser insurers Axa and SBS likewise just contributed US$5.3 million and US$500,000 toward the “civil director” insurance claims, according to EPM -- bringing the grand total of all insurance payoffs for Hidroituango to US$1.1 billion (COP$4.3 trillion).

As a result of these final payoffs, from now on EPM will self-insure against possible future damages at Hidroituango, according to the company.

EPM Forfeits Favorable US$450 Million IDB Loan

Meanwhile, on another front, EPM announced December 23 that it has now paid-off and forfeited a favorable US$450 million loan from the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) for Hidroituango financing – as demanded by IDB as a result of an earlier Colombian Controller-General claim against 28 contractors, politicians, officials and insurers accused of “gross negligence” that supposedly contributed to a diversion-tunnel collapse at Hidroituango.

Colombia’s undemocratic system of Controller-General prosecutions and persecutions against companies and individuals utterly lacks the normal due-process guarantees given to all citizens and companies in democratic nations such as in North America and Europe.

Without constitutional guarantees of the right to bring a proper legal defense against prosecution -- along with an independent judiciary that ought to adjudicate such Controller-General claims – more companies will think twice about investing in Colombia, as the three major Hidroituango contractors have publicly warned here.

Such lack of reasonable, constitutional legal guarantees for all defendants could cost Colombia tens of billions of dollars in investments in urgently needed infrastructure projects, while simultaneously hobbling jobs growth, tax revenues and economic/social progress -- as many private companies, labor unions, trade associations, independent news organizations and civic-minded politicians have publicly warned here.


Medellin-based electric power giant EPM announced this afternoon (December 16) that it just finalized an agreement with the existing, principal constructors of the US$5 billion Hidroituango hydroelectric plant -- hence enabling continued construction through November 2022.

The deal includes an eight-months extension seen required to finish current installations that would guarantee start-up of the first power turbine in July 2022, and then start-up of a second turbine in November 2022 -- plus three months for training a new set of contractors expected during a hand-over period.

The 11-months contract extension deal comes on the heels of a December 10 agreement between Colombia’s Controller-General, EPM and Hidroituango project insurer Mapfre, which guarantees that Mapfre will pay US$983.4 million (COP$3.84 trillion) supposedly to cover Hidroituango damages, or else 90% of the projected cost to finish construction.

The other 10% supposedly would be covered by parallel policies with three lesser insurers to the project, including Medellin-based insurance giant Sura.

Still unresolved is a parallel COP$9.9 trillion (US$2.4 billion) damages lawsuit EPM earlier brought separately against the Hidroituango construction contractors, designers and consultants, a claim that -- if eventually upheld by some future court ruling -- would be cut by about half because of the Mapfre and other insurer payments.

According to Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero (who chairs the EPM board of directors) that “other half” of damages claims – totaling roughly US$1 billion – supposedly would cover insurance deductibles and the cost of nearly four years of lost power sales, all caused by the 2018 collapse of a diversion tunnel at Hidroituango, setting-back completion by four years.

In a December 16 press release following EPM’s announcement of the Hidroituango contract extension, the “CCC Ituango Consortium” – including the three major contractors (Camargo Correa, Conconcreto and Coninsa Ramon H) – confirmed that they are almost certain to be excluded from the upcoming public bidding round to replace the existing EPM construction contract.

However, thanks to the Mapfre insurance payment, the three contractors wouldn’t be barred from participating in any other future local or national Colombian construction contracts, according to the CCC Ituango statement.

“The agreement between the CCC Ituango Consortium and EPM was achieved after the evaluation of the mitigation of the risks derived from the fiscal responsibility ruling issued by the Controller-General, which according to the statements of the Controller General of the Republic Carlos Felipe Córdoba, on the occasion of the agreement between EPM and Mapfre Seguros Generales de Colombia for the payment of compensation under the ‘All Risk Construction policy,’ at the moment the [insurance payment] resources enter [EPM’s coffers], any disability, any sanction, any effect due to rulings of the Comptroller General of the Republic” are nullified.

“We are grateful for the participation of President Iván Duque and of all the people who made possible the payment commitment of the insurers for the loss that occurred in the project.

“EPM’s decision to continue with the CCC Ituango Consortium [for the next 11 months] is a sign of confidence in our execution capacity and the quality of our services, and with this extension we reaffirm our commitment to execute as many works as possible in the defined period by EPM, so that the project objectives can be achieved,” according to the CCC Ituango Consortium statement.

However, thanks to certain questionable public accusations and political demagoguery employed by Medellin Mayor Quintero (and to a lesser extent by Controller-General Carlos Felipe Cordoba) in describing supposed construction/design errors, supposed “substandard materials” and non-specific allegations of “corruption,” the current contractors have suffered damage to their professional reputations – and Colombia has become a question-mark for foreign investors viewing the total lack of legal due-process in the prosecution and persecution against the contractors (at least to date), all despite what the contractors claim was the result of an undiscovered geological fault alongside the collapsed diversion tunnel -- and not any errors, substandard materials nor “corruption.”

Meanwhile, EPM, its electricity ratepayers, Medellin’s citizens (the actual owners of EPM) and the Colombian and international business sectors now can only hope that whatever future Hidroituango replacement contractors somehow (perhaps miraculously) will get up-to-speed inside the designated three-months hand-over period and complete the Hidroituango project on-time (by 2025, when all eight power turbines are supposed to be running), on-budget and on-quality.

But if Hidroituango isn’t well on-its-way to completion by 2025, then Medellin Mayor Quintero – who will have already left office by then (his term ends January 1, 2024) -- could see his political legacy sour thanks to his frenzied push to terminate the existing contractors, a decision that now puts Hidroituango’s timely completion at risk.


Colombia President Ivan Duque announced last night (December 6) that starting December 14, most international travelers 18-years-and-older to Colombia must present proof of COMPLETE vaccinations against Covid-19 – in part to help thwart the latest threat from the Omicron variant.

Following that announcement, Colombia Health Minister Fernando Ruiz announced this morning (December 7) that anyone failing to show proof of full vaccinations must in the alternative present proof of a negative result from the highly accurate PCR test within 72 hours of boarding a flight to Colombia.

According to a separate December 6 announcement from Colombia’s Transport Ministry, Colombia expects to receive more than 1.2 million international passengers during the holiday season (from December 1 to January 10).

Meanwhile, all international or domestic travelers must fill-out the “CheckMig” application, and be in the airport three hours before any international flight or two hours before an in-country flight, according to the Ministry.

Colombian nationals and permanent residents must show that they have completed their Covid vaccinations at least 14 days prior to their flight, or else show a negative PCR test result within 72 hours of the flight.  Non-resident tourists to Colombia must have at least one shot and a negative PCR test result within 72 hours of the flight.

Once arriving here in Colombia, starting December 14, a new Ministry regulation requires all persons 18 years and older to show proof of COMPLETE vaccination in order to enter certain commercial or public spaces where “mass gatherings” occur. That includes bars, restaurants, cinemas, discoteques, concerts, casinos, sports events, amusement parks, museums and fairs, according to the Health Ministry.

Starting December 28, the same proof of complete vaccination applies to those 12 years and older, according to the Ministry.

Meanwhile, Colombia is fast approaching 60 million total vaccinations against Covid-19, with some 59.5 million already expected to have been vaccinated by the end of today (December 7), according to the Ministry. That means 70% of Colombians have gotten at least one shot -- far better than most other nations, and even matching that of the "advanced" United States.


Sinpro – the trade union representing most employees of Medellin-based utility giant EPM – and Cámara Colombiana de Infraestructura Seccional Antioquia (CCI-SA) announced December 5 that they have filed a lawsuit in a Cundinamarca Administrative Tribunal seeking to stop Colombia’s Controller-General from enforcing a COP$4.3 trillion (US$1.08 billion) fine that inevitably would delay construction of the US$5 billion Hidroituango hydroelectric project.

The EPM trade union and CCI-SA (which represents Antioquia’s infrastructure companies) say in their lawsuit that the Controller’s decision – if upheld by Colombia’s Council of State – will result in terminating the existing Hidroituango construction contracts, causing construction delays of at least another six to 12 months -- costing EPM an estimated COP$5.5 trillion (US$1.38 billion) in lost power sales and possibly threatening Hidroituango's very existence.

That COP$5.5 trillion loss would come in addition to the new loss of what had been favorable Hidroituango financing terms, as the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) just cancelled a US$450 million loan because of the Controller’s decision.

On a related front, former Antioquia Governor Sergio Fajardo just filed a separate lawsuit suit before an Interamerican Commission on Human Rights tribunal to overturn the Controller’s decision, claiming that the decision arose from the Controller’s own political corruption conspiracies.

Meanwhile, Sinpro and CCI-SA are asking the Cundinamarca court to suspend the Controller’s action until Hidroituango reaches full power capacity, now expected in 2025.

They also ask the court to block any move by the Controller that could result in future payments from project insurer Mapfre being given to the city of Medellin (currently directed by Hidroituango political critic Mayor Daniel Quintero) rather than to EPM for Hidroituango construction costs.


Colombia President Ivan Duque on December 4 officially inaugurated the long-awaited “Vias del Nus” highway connecting Medellin northward to Atlantic freight ports.

The new, 157.4-kilometers-long highway includes a four-lane, twin-tube tunnel that breaks through the historically problematic “La Quiebra” mountain, which until now has snagged road transport to and from Medellin and Colombia’s main northern ports.

Connecting to the “Magdalena 2” project at Alto de Dolores (Antioquia) and a brand-new bridge over the Magdalena River, the new, COP$1.2 trillion (US$302 million) “Vias del Nus” corridor slashes about two hours from travel times and avoids a twisting, complicated climb over “La Quiebra” at Cisneros, Antioquia.

The project “directly benefits about 3.3 million inhabitants of Medellín, Bello, Copacabana, Girardota, Barbosa, Donmatías, Santo Domingo, Santa Rosa de Osos, Cisneros, San Roque and Maceo,” while simultaneously improving crucial freight transport, as noted by Colombia’s Transport Ministry.

The project is so monumental that Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary-General Luis Almagro accompanied President Duque at the December 4 dedication ceremony.

“Today Colombia shows that large projects may take 100 years to ponder, but in this government we execute them on time, and we are going to give Antioquia the largest investment in fourth-generation highways, the largest investment in tertiary roads and the largest number of new kilometers” of new and upgraded highways, bridges and tunnels, President Duque bragged.

Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura (ANI) president Manuel Felipe Gutiérrez added that the Vias del Nus project also features 17 new pairs of bridges, notably including the curved, 220-meters-long “El Cariaño” bridge built in successive cantilevers -- an especially challenging engineering feat.


Centrist politician Sergio Fajardo – a former Antioquia Governor, former Medellin Mayor and now candidate for Colombia’s Presidency – this morning (November 30) publicly accused Colombia Controller-General Carlos Felipe Córdoba of shocking political manipulation and corruption in the Hidroituango hydroelectric-project damages case.

“Until today I have kept my defense in reserve, because I considered that it was the best way to protect [Colombia’s political] institutions,” Fajardo stated in his Bogota press conference.

However, the Controller-General, certain powerful Colombian politicians and former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria together “are playing a nefarious game” by using the Hidroituango case to block Fajardo’s presidential candidacy, according to Fajardo.

“That is corruption and dishonesty,” he charged.

“In one way or another, the [Inter-American Commission on Human Rights] judges now have to review the manifest illegalities and inconsistencies” in the Hidroituango case, he said, citing his new complaint being brought before the Commission.

“Despite all my attempts to maintain this [Colombia presidential candidacy] process in the legal field, it has been the Controller himself who has taken it upon himself to bring it to the political arena.

“A few months ago, the journalist María Jimena Duzán confirmed to me that since 2016 there has been a coordinated, planned attack. She told me, ‘they want to screw Fajardo,’ and this is associated with the Toga Cartel [a popularized name for certain corrupt Colombian justices].

“Carlos Felipe Córdoba is not a Controller, he is a political record. He was the right hand of [former Colombia Vice-President and former Presidential candidate] Germán Vargas Lleras in the last elections and has the support of his fellow countryman from Pereira, [former Colombia President and Liberal Party Leader] César Gaviria Trujillo.

“His obedience was already put to the test in 2017 when, as an auditor, he presented false and illegal reports, without having any competence, pretending to show that in my [former Antioquia] governorship I had paid favors to donors of my campaign with contracts. Every [charge] fell apart and Mr. Córdoba never responded for his slander.

“He is the same politician who was a militant of the Uribista youth, Vargas Lleras's private secretary, and who appointed the prosecutor's wife as delegate comptroller.

“Apart from these political backdrops, the [Hidroituango damages-claims] process has been plagued with unusual irregularities that I am highlighting today before public opinion.

“First, Juan Carlos Calderón España, under the guise of a ‘citizen overseer,’ allowed the Controller General to initiate an exceptional control in the Hidroituango case. The supposed citizen and overseer concerned about the public interest is a personal friend of Carlos Felipe Córdoba and a month before requesting exceptional control over Hidroituango, he declared in the Council of State in favor of his appointment as Controller.

“And, oh surprise, in the same month he released his book, "The Overseer, Social Control, Media and Democracy," with a foreword by guess who: the same Controller he defended in the Council of State. Added to this are family contacts in the Controller's Office, and other evidence that was erased but that we rescued. All these are pieces of the puzzle that they have been putting together for years to eliminate us legally and politically.

“Second, the Controller's Office changed the initial accusation against me. After an alleged and arduous investigation in which he invested time and resources, I was accused of only one conduct: not exercising control [over Hidroituango]. I provided clear and compelling evidence. This is where the case should have gone. However, the surprise was greater when all that investigation did not matter, they quickly changed the document and I ended up being charged with several different behaviors.

“They reproach my government for having agreed with the construction of a third [Hidroituango diversion] tunnel. But the Controller's Office lies when it says that the EPM advisory board contraindicated it. The Controller's Office refused to read the documents in full, refused to listen to the advisory board.

“For those lies, the person who convicted me, Juliana Velasco Gregory, is being investigated by the Judicial Discipline Commission. Other issues such as the lack of fines [imposed upon] EPM or the impossible guarantees of [construction project] acceleration or change of designs by the Board of Directors are tricks in the motivation of a conviction against me.

“Third, Córdoba appointed those who should decide [culpability] in the second instance. Here another key name appears in this whole mess: Cristian Castro, Anticorruption Delegate Controller.

“Castro was appointed [prosecution coordinator], but after a press article exposing his political ties, he was removed from the case and even went on vacation. What impartiality can a person have who is César Gaviria's minion, was secretary general of the Liberal Party in Pereira, is the political godson of Carlos Humberto Isaza, who was the Director of the Public Function of Cesar Gaviria and is today a contractor of the Comptroller's Office?

“And as if that were not enough, just a couple of days ago, a day after the second instance ruling was known, Castro shared on his personal Instagram account a meme attacking me directly using Yanfri, the boy who became famous in [social-media] networks for his walk.

“Textually the meme says: ‘Hey Yanfri, why are you walking like this all beautiful, hombe? The Controller's Office confirms that Fajardo is responsible for the detriment of COP$4.3 trillion in HidroItuango.’

“As I have repeated on several occasions, the [political opponents] no longer even hide. They do not care about the [Hidroituango] project, nor [admit] that there is insurance [covering the Hidroituango damages], nor the risk for the Ituango community [living downstream of the Hidroituango dam].

“They needed to blame me, they fear a change of power to a government in which hiring [political hacks] is not a booty.

“Colombia has to change. The supervision, control and inspection has to shine for everyone. Today the credibility of these institutions is on the floor. Justly.

“The capacity to investigate is low, the [investigation process] times are not reasonable, the impartiality is in doubt. The investigations are selective, and they become torture for millions of Colombians -- and that must change.

“I reiterate, there are many good people in the Prosecutor's Office, the Attorney General's Office, the Controller's Office, the control and surveillance entities, but the scaffolding today favors power and money. And that has to change.

“I believe in an independent justice where the force of reason prevails, and not the force of power and arbitrariness. I believe in sober justice. I reject these characters who debase public service.

“It is infamous to be singled out by a prosecutor who believes that he could have predicted the volatility of the dollar [in a separate, earlier case brought against Fajardo over an alleged exchange-rate error in calculating the cost of a public contract] , by a Controller who has spent years trying to convict me in any way.

“I am going to give this fight because I have the peace of mind that 22 years of public life give me, by acting correctly. I know very well who I face in this unequal struggle, but there is no alternative: that's how we started and that's how we continue.

“I would like to close by saying what I have repeated for many years: truth and decency always come out ahead, even if they sometimes take time.”


Colombia’s Controller-General (Contraloria General de la Nacion, CGR) announced this morning (November 26) finalization of CGR’s earlier-proposed COP$4.3 trillion (US$1.07 billion) fine against 28 individuals, politicians, insurers and companies that allegedly are responsible for the 2018 collapse of a diversion tunnel at the US$5 billion “Hidroituango” hydroelectric project in Antioquia.

The CGR’s final decision ironically came just hours after Hidroituango developer EPM publicly announced a tentative deal with its current construction contractors to continue building the project for at least another eight to 12 months -- all in order to ensure start-up of the first two generating units (out of a total eight) as planned and expected for late 2022.

However, the CGR fine presumably would require the contractors to abandon the project -- pending final confirmation by Colombia’s Council of State – potentially causing chaos and enormously costly delays in finalizing construction, which is already way-over the initial budget (roughly estimated at US$3 billion) and almost four years behind its initially scheduled start-up.

EPM’s latest forecast indicates that all eight generating units won’t be operating until 2025, with gradual, additional generating-unit start-ups in 2023 and 2024.

The CGR’s now-finalized charges of “gross negligence” hit construction companies Camargo Correa SA, Constructora Conconcreto and Coninsa Ramon H SA, as well as project designers and consultants including Integral SA, Ferrovial Agroman Chile, Sainc Ingenieros, Ingetec and Sedic.

Also hit by the charges are former Antioquia Governors Sergio Fajardo and Luis Alfredo Ramos, former Medellin Mayor Fabio Alonso Salazar, and several former EPM executives and former Hidroituango project board members.

Acquitted of a previous CGR charge of culpability is current (and former) Antioquia Governor Anibal Gaviria. However, the CGR now reinstates previously exempted culpability charges against project insurers Mapfre and Suramericana.

Given the latest addition of those two companies, the CGR charges now hit 28 different persons and companies.

While the CGR announcement doesn’t explicitly say how the total US$1.07 billion fine would be split among the parties, if it were to be portioned equally, then (theoretically, at least) every person and company each would be responsible for about US$38 million.

Meanwhile, EPM on November 25 had announced a “comprehensive preliminary agreement with the representatives of the CCCI [construction-contractor] consortium in charge of the main works in the Hidroituango hydroelectric project,” according to its press bulletin.

“This comprehensive pre-agreement will allow the contract, which expires on December 31 [2021], to be extended by eight more months from January 1, 2022, plus three months” to help guide new construction contractors during a contract hand-over period.

“The extension of the contract between EPM and the construction consortium CCCI would make it possible to guarantee the continuity of the works in the future hydroelectric plant and comply with the schedules foreseen for the start of the commercial operation of the first two power generation units in the second half of 2022. Both EPM and the CCCI consortium will carry out additional internal procedures that are necessary before signing the [final contract-extension] agreement,” according to EPM.


Colombia’s Health Ministry and President Ivan Duque jointly announced November 19 that starting December 1, 2021, people over 18 years old must show proof of COMPLETE Covid-19 vaccination in order to enter most places of mass gatherings.

The upcoming mandate -- a stricter version that replaces the existing mandate, which today only requires partial (one-shot) vaccinations -- specifically hits bars, cinemas, discotheques, dance venues, concerts, casinos, bingo halls, leisure activities, sports venues, amusement and theme parks, museums and fairs, according to the Ministry.

Also hit by the new mandate: hotel mass events (such as conferences), but not individual hotel-room stays. As a result, proof-of-vaccination “must be requested for private events, receptions or similar” but “not required for [individual] hosting services,” according to the rule.

To help explain the new rules, the Ministry posted this internet question-and-answer document (in Spanish), see: https://twitter.com/hashtag/CertificadoDigitalDeVacunaci%C3%B3n?src=hashtag_click.

Since last year, Colombia started issuing a standard “MiVacuna” proof-of-vaccination card to all receiving Covid-19 shots here.

However, people from other countries visiting Colombia and attending now-restricted mass events can likewise show other Covid-19 vaccination cards or electronic documents as issued by their home countries, according to the Ministry.

Commercial and public places hit by the new rule must request proof-of-vaccinations “as a requirement of entry to face-to-face events of a public or private nature that involve massive attendance,” according to the Ministry.

“The Ministry of Health in coordination with the Ministry of the Interior may extend this measure to other activities or sectors, in accordance with the evolution of the pandemic against Covid-19 and the progress of the national vaccination plan,” according to the document.

While children ages zero to 12 are exempted, those older than 12 also must show proof of vaccination starting November 30, 2021, according to the Ministry.

Either paper or digital proof-of-vaccination cards will be accepted.

Houses of religious worship won’t be hit by the mandate for ordinary services, but will be hit for weddings, funeral services or similar mass events, according to the document.

As for shopping centers, proof-of-vaccination “will only be requested in spaces where public or private events are held, as in the cinema area, or at theme parks,” according to the Ministry.

As for residential complexes, routine entries aren’t hit by the mandate, but “meetings that are held in the social or communal rooms of the residential complexes” are hit. “Likewise, in any event that takes place in the common areas such as social gatherings or celebration of novenas,” such residential complexes must require proofs-of-vaccinations.


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About Medellin Herald

Medellin Herald is a locally produced, English-language news and advisory service uniquely focused upon a more-mature audience of visitors, investors, conference and trade-show attendees, property buyers, expats, retirees, volunteers and nature lovers.

U.S. native Roberto Peckham, who founded Medellin Herald in 2015, has been residing in metro Medellin since 2005 and has traveled regularly and extensively throughout Colombia since 1981.

Medellin Herald welcomes your editorial contributions, comments and story-idea suggestions. Send us a message using the "contact" section.

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