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Medellin and Antioquia governments announced December 30 that a total quarantine will be imposed here from 8 pm Thursday December 31 to 6 am Sunday January 3 because of surging cases of Covid-19.

Acting Governor Luis Fernando Suárez Vélez pointed out that Antioquia is suffering about 2,000 new cases daily of Covid-19, flooding hospitals to dangerous levels of crowding.

Department-wide, Antioquia hospital beds are now almost 83% full, while Medellin is at 87%, Valle de Aburrá at 86% and the “Oriente” (eastern Medellin suburbs) at an astounding 96.7%, he said.

The total quarantine applies to all-but-essential workers and emergency situations. Residents can order food, medicine and grocery deliveries, or make emergency trips to hospitals, but restaurants, bars, pharmacies and grocery stores won’t allow personal shoppers.

More Vaccines Coming

Meanwhile, Colombia Health Minister Fernando Ruiz announced today (December 31) that the nation just inked a deal with pharmaceutical giant Janssen for 9 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine, on top of earlier deals with other companies for 40 million doses.

“This vaccine will be approved in the coming months by the FDA [U.S. Food & Drug Administration],” Ruiz announced.

The Janssen vaccine, unlike the Pfizer double-dose vaccine, requires only a single dose.

“The reality is that everything will be known with the analysis and data from phase 3 trials, which we are waiting for,” Ruiz said, adding that “this has been one of the lowest-cost vaccines acquired” by the Ministry to date.

People previously infected by Covid-19 and now recovered won’t be in the first phase of vaccinations, nor will people under-16 years old nor pregnant women, he said.

Military personnel, school teachers and people with comorbidities will be in the phase-2 schedule of vaccinations, he added.

Persons seeking vaccinations through their private doctors rather than through the government-funded, nationwide free vaccination program “must register on the [Covid-19 vaccination] platform to have a correct handling of the information and avoiding, for example, a double vaccination,” he added.

“Private individuals will be able to sell [vaccinations]. Surely in the second half of 2021 the countries that bought more than their population requires will be selling. We will have a second wave of vaccine developments, taking into account that there are currently more than 100 developments, and that will lead to lower the price and expand offers privately,” Ruiz explained.


Medellin-based electric power giant EPM announced December 22 that it reached agreements with all current construction, supervisory and consultancy companies to continue construction of the estimated US$5 billion, 2.4-gigawatt Hidroituango hydroelectric dam in Antioquia.

The contract renewals run through December 31, 2021, but could be extended until the entire project is completed, likely in 2024.

EPM general manager Álvaro Guillermo Rendón López added that “some clauses were included that will allow the contract to be extended -- once future validations are completed -- until the end of the project.”

CCC Ituango construction consortium leader Juan Luis Aristizábal Vélez -- president of construction giant Conconcreto -- added that “the signing of this contract is a sign of commitment to the project,” as it avoids costly problems that would arise if some new contractor were forced to take-over the project.

The three new contract extensions include:

1. Consulting via Consorcio Generación Ituango, which includes Integral Ingeniería de Supervisión S.A.S. and Integral Ingeniería de Consulta S.A.

2. Auditing services for civil works and electromechanical equipment, via Ingetec-Sedic Consortium.

3. Continuing construction of the dam works, power plant and associated projects via the CCC Ituango Consortium, which includes Camargo Corrêa Infra S.A, Constructora Conconcreto S.A. and Coninsa-Ramón H. S.A..

During 2021, “extension of these contracts will be sought to the extent that EPM has the assigned budgetary resources and all technical and legal requirements are met,” according to EPM.

“The three main contractors have expressed their desire and commitment to continue advancing in the development of the project and take it until commissioning,” with the first portion of power generation scheduled to start in 2022 and the final set of generation units starting-up in 2024.

EPM’s biggest trade union Sinpro praised the new agreement that extends the existing contracts -- even in the face of EPM's questionable “conciliation” lawsuit against the current contractors as pushed by Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero and EPM’s new general manager this year.

That lawsuit could have prompted the current contractors to abandon the project, adding even more delays that could have resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars of lost power sales and regulatory power-provision penalties, Sinpro explained.

Meanwhile, “conciliation” lawsuit talks continue, with hopes that all parties soon come to a friendly agreement that would resolve confusing, contradictory claims about responsibilities for an earlier tunnel collapse at the project. EPM claims that financial damages resulting from the tunnel collapse total COP$9.9 trillion (US$2.8 billion). 

However, lacking a reasonable, fair settlement of such claims among all responsible parties (including EPM itself, which shares at least some blame), EPM's lawsuit potentially could endanger hundreds of millions of dollars of existing Hidroituango insurance payments -- and trigger counter-suits that potentially could cost EPM billions of dollars, according to Sinpro.


Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero announced December 19 that 338 vaccination teams throughout the city are gearing-up to administer 800,000 Covid-19 vaccinations starting in February.

“Those people who are part of the population that will be vaccinated in the first stage will receive information and instructions through the ‘Medellín Me Cuida’ [application],” according to the Mayor’s Office.

The vaccination plan “appropriately prioritizes people who are in the front line of health care, those over 80 years old, those over 60 years old and those with comorbidities,” according to the Office.

Paired with the 338 vaccination teams, “there will also be vaccination centers in each commune and logistics centers with super freezers for vaccines,” according to the Office.

Thanks to the “Medellín Me Cuida” application, “there is information on more than 3 million citizens and the location of those people over 80 who will be vaccinated in the initial stage is known,” according to the Office.

Highest-priority people “together with their families will receive text messages during the first days of January with relevant instructions related to the place of vaccination in your neighborhood and the corresponding registry,” according to the Office.


Colombia President Ivan Duque announced last night (December 18) in a nationally televised address that Colombia now has guaranteed supplies of 40 million Covid-19 vaccine doses in deals with Pfizer, AstraZeneca and the Covax multinational consortium.

As a result, “in the first weeks of 2021 we are advancing the process of mass vaccination,” Duque revealed.

“The agreement with the pharmaceutical company Pfizer for the acquisition of 10 million doses has been closed. The agreement with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for the acquisition of 10 million doses has also been closed. And we have also closed our agreement through the Covax platform, to acquire 20 million doses.

“This initially gives us 40 million doses, to make available in our country a vaccine dispersal process that provides broad coverage in the Colombian population,” he added.

The complete plan includes vaccination prioritization of vulnerable populations including health-care workers and people over 60 years old. It also includes a logistics plan, criteria developed by a technical committee and cold-vaccine chains-of-custody all the way through the supply chain.

Finally, President Duque warned that, even with the vaccinations starting in early 2021, "we must bear in mind that this does not mean that the pandemic is gone."

Health Ministry’s Five-Stage Plan

During the same broadcast, Health Minister Fernando Ruiz Gómez explained the free-vaccination rollout scheme for 20 million people here (two doses per person).

The government signed the contract with AstraZeneca on December 16 for 10 million doses, and on December 17 with Pfizer, likewise for 10 million doses, he said.

In addition, since October 30, the multilateral agreement with the Covax mechanism was signed for 20 million doses, for a total of 40 million that will arrive in Colombia during 2021.

“We will be doing the entire [vaccination] enlistment process during January,” Minister Ruiz explained.

“We will be starting mass vaccination in February and if, as in other countries, we have access to trial vaccines, we will also be starting trial vaccination processes in January,” he added.

The first-phase rollout aims to “reduce mortality and the incidence of severe cases of Covid-19, as well as to protect health workers; while the second phase is to reduce the contagion to generate herd immunity,” he said.

Colombia’s total population in 2021 is projected at 51 million inhabitants. “In order to generate herd immunity, according to scientific evidence, it is necessary to vaccinate 70% of the population, which is equivalent to 35.7 million Colombians,” he said.

Since data gathering started in February, a cumulative total of 1.5 million Colombians have contracted Covid-19, he said.

Those previously infected people “will not be included in the initial phase of the vaccination program. In other words, the total number of people to be vaccinated to promote herd immunity is 34.2 million, a figure that may change according to the evolution of the pandemic,” according to the Ministry.

“At this moment, with the vaccines already acquired, which represent [vaccinations for] 20 million people, we can say that we have already acquired 58.4% of the vaccines for phase 1 and the beginning of phase 2,” Ruiz said.

As a result, the Colombian government “is already in negotiations to complete the number needed to vaccinate the more than 34 million people,” according to the Ministry.

Minors 16 years and younger “will not be subject to immunization in the first instance until there is scientific evidence that guarantees safety in that population,” according to the Ministry.

Those with pre-existing health problems (11 million Colombians) including hypertensive diseases, diabetes, kidney failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, HIV, cancer , tuberculosis, hepatitis-C and obesity will be in the first-priority vaccination group .

In addition, 7.6 million people aged 60 and over, plus 1.2 million health workers, are also in the first-priority group for vaccination.

Here is the full five-phase vaccination schedule:

Phase 1:

—Stage 1 (1.69 million people): First-line health and support workers, as well as those over 80, who represent the greatest risk.

—Stage 2 (7. million people): populations from 60 to 79 years old and second- and third-line health workers.

—Stage 3 (2.9 million people): populations aged 16 to 59 with comorbidities, as well as elementary and high school teachers.

Phase 2

—Stage 4 (4.9 million people): institutional caregivers, populations in occupations with higher-risk situations.

—Stage 5 (17.5 million people): populations between 16 and 59 years and free of comorbidities.

The vaccinations requiring special cold-storage will be shipped to Colombia via air to a special Ministry warehouse. From there, the vaccines will be shipped to 30 regional and district warehouses and then to hospitals, clinics and other vaccination points, Ruiz said.

“In the case of vaccines that require deep freezing, this is a new challenge for the world; however, Colombia has already been working on the requirements for two months with the company Pfizer,” according to the Ministry.

“We are in continuous contact with the laboratories to establish how we can set up the process. At first it seemed very complex, but we already have the design from the engineering and medical part as well,” Ruiz revealed.

Colombia will have Pfizer vaccines made via direct purchase, as well as Moderna vaccines through the Covax mechanism, according to the Ministry.

For the ultra-cold requirements of the Pfizer vaccine, “we are in the process of acquiring 44 freezers that will be available in January” Ruiz said.

“We will have databases that will include the identification of people according to their health conditions, and we will have a mechanism so that they can register if necessary if they meet the criteria of over 60 years or with comorbidity,” Ruiz said.

Each person will be given a specific time and date for vaccination at clinics and hospitals “where the vaccination procedure will be explained, an informed consent will be issued since vaccination is voluntary, and a card will be delivered with date for the second dose,” according to the Ministry.

Colombia already has installed capacity of 7,920 vaccinators, capable of applying 277,200 vaccines per day.

“This allows us to have the peace of mind that there is sufficient capacity to carry out vaccination at the national level,” the Minister added.


Colombia’s highway infrastructure agency Invias announced December 17 that it is gradually reopening two-way traffic on the Medellin-Bogota highway at kilometer 46, blocked by a recent landslide. 

“So far, 3,500 cubic meters of material have been removed and progress is being made in the controlled unloading of 40,000 cubic meters of loose material for safe removal,” according to Invias.

To remove the landslide and enable a temporary traffic bypass, Invias is using 14 earth-moving machines and also buiding a temporary dike to halt further landslides in the area, according to the agency.

Invias Director Juan Esteban Romero Toro added that "if weather and security conditions allow, we will keep mobility enabled in the corridor through a variant” built 15 meters distant from the adjacent landslide area.

The new variant “will allow the passage to be maintained in a bidirectional manner 24 hours a day, guaranteeing the safety of users,” according to Invias.

Highway users can dial the “#767” information number for updated information on the state of highway reconstruction work, according to the agency.


Medellin-based textile giant Coltejer revealed in a December 17 filing with Colombia’s Superfinanciera oversight agency that it now plans to abandon its foundational factory in the southern Medellin suburb of Itagüí.

When this abandonment is complete, all remaining textile operations will shift to Rionegro, Antioquia, according to the company, founded in 1907 by pioneering industrialist Alejandro Echavarría Isaza, his son Gabriel and five nephews.

Echavarría not only became Medellin’s most famous industrialist of the era, but also a crucial social benefactor with the founding of the Hospital San Vicente de Paúl complexes.

Echavarría later bought Medellin’s most famous castle-style residence, “El Castillo,” today a museum and event center owned by the city of Medellin.

Coltejer faced the first of many future financial crises in 1974 when world-wide textile manufacturers went overboard on production, resulting in below-cost contraband trade to Colombia. Such contraband has continued ever since, causing huge financial losses to Colombia’s textile producers generally and Coltejer specifically.

In 1978, Medellin-based industrial giant Carlos Ardila Lulle bought the majority of shares in the company, but he couldn’t reverse its fortunes. Then, in 2008, Mexican textile giant Grupo Kaltex became the majority shareholder, trying to find financial synergies.

According to yesterday’s filing with Superfinanciera, Coltejer’s board of directors have finally given-up on the historic Itagüí plant, selling it to real-estate developer Acierto Inmobiliario SA. As a result, Coltejer now plans to move its remaining operations to the Rionegro plant -- tied to modifying certain outstanding credit arrangements with Grupo MCM Colombia S.A.S.

The credit rearrangement deal is tied to “canceling some guarantees that were in favor of [MCM] in order to replace them with properties located in the municipality of Rionegro. Mr. Rafael Kalach [president of Kaltex] abstained from voting on this proposition,” according to Coltejer’s filing.

“In accordance with the negotiation of a part of Coltejer’s land in Itagüí, the industrial operations of the plant [in Itagüí] will be discontinued, leaving the Rionegro plant in operation,” according to Coltejer.

Lands occupied by Coltejer’s factory complexes in Itagüí – now scheduled for non-industrial redevelopment -- are valued at COP$178 billion (US$52 million), according to the filing.


Global mining giant AngloGold Ashanti Colombia announced December 16 that it has launched initial recycling of mine tailings near Jericó, southwest Antioquia, into a cement-like product suitable for buildings, prefab homes, roads, ceramics, paints, outdoor furniture and soil amendments.

The announcement comes on the heels of new demands from Colombia’s environmental licensing agency (ANLA) and Antioquia’s Mining Secretariat for more information on how AngloGold Ashanti aims to avoid environmental impacts from its proposed “Quebradona” copper-gold mine near Jericó.

To date, AngloGold has already fabricated outdoor furniture, chairs, drinking fountains and flower pots – all made from tailings -- for three schools in Jericó.

“In order to help close the cycle of waste produced by mining activity and thus advance in the generation of a true circular economy, ‘Minera de Cobre Quebradona’ will implement different alternatives to give a new use to dry tailings,” according to AngloGold.

“We are testing the dry tailings in different applications,” explained Andrés Felipe López Bermúdez, Manager of Innovation at the Quebradona project. “The inert tailings -- which are almost dry -- are very fine sands, which have a thousand possibilities in terms of construction. Soon we will do the first test of tailings for paving tertiary roads. We have a possibility of paving 1,800 kilometers of tertiary roads in the southwest [Antioquia], where the tailings of Quebradona can serve this purpose and enhance the competitiveness of farmers so that they can move their products with less travel times,” López added.

On a related front, AngloGold announced December 15 that it is generating additional data for ANLA regarding “monitoring of surface water quality, hydrobiological and isotopic parameters in the tributaries of the upper, middle and lower parts of the La Palma and La Guamo streams that are in the [rural districts of] La Hermosa, Palocabildo, Vallecitos and La Soledad,” near the Quebradona mining site.

As for the Secretariat of Mines of Antioquia, “as part of the mining licensing process, an alignment and understanding meeting was held between the technicians of the Secretariat and Minera de Cobre Quebradona staff to clarify and respond to a large part of the [additional environmental data] requirements,” according to the Secretariat.

The additional data will include updates and revisions to maps and geological studies in specific mining areas, according to the Secretariat.

Mayor of Jericó Supports Project

While various environmental advocacy groups and some nearby residents have raised fears and objections to the proposed underground mine, Carlos Augusto Giraldo, former two-time Mayor of Jericó, argued in a December 7 column in Jericho newspaper Al Poniente that AngloGold has proven to be an environmentally and socially responsible miner.

“In the framework of the ANLA’s recent visit to Jericó, some opponents of the Quebradona project affirmed on social networks and in the media that the vast majority of Jericoanos had come out to protest against it,” Giraldo stated.

“The reality is that of the almost 100 people who took to the streets, only a few, less than 10, were from the municipality. The rest came from other places in buses and collective taxis.

“This is a clear example that what happens in Jericó is different from what some people think and declare from Medellín, from Bogotá, from far away Miami or from those who sign applications on the internet from other municipalities, or even from outside the country.

“The mining company’s workers are not at some desk processing a license. They are usually here in Jericó, they get involved with the people, they listen to the questions and they respond with transparency.

“It is true that, in recent years, thanks to the work carried out to promote tourism and other agricultural activities, the municipality has developed new sources of resources and employment.

“But if we Jericoanos have something clear, it is that there is still a long way to go in terms of education, health and well-being. For this reason, a large part understands that all [mining] activities can be carried out with responsibility and oversight by the state and citizens.

“Some data about what Jericó is experiencing: according to the DNP [Colombia’s national development planning department], the net coverage of education here is 77.7%, compared to 84.5% in Antioquia. In secondary education, aimed at 10th and 11th grade youth, the net coverage is 52.2%.

“Likewise, a study carried out by the ECSIM Foundation indicated that one out of every five inter-municipal trips made from the [southwestern Antioquia] province of Cartama to Medellín is for health reasons due to the lack of the required health-care services here.

“Although Jericó does better than some of its neighbors in DANE’s [Colombia’s economic statistics agency] multidimensional poverty indicators, there are areas of the municipality that register percentages of up to 100%.

“In this context, Minera de Cobre Quebradona has understood that its role as a catalyst for the economy must positively impact other social aspects, for which it has worked using institutional channels to support local entities.

“What happens in Jericó, as referenced by the National Consulting Center in a study published in May, is that the majority of people here support the project, not for one reason, but for the multiple reasons mentioned above.

“My invitation to the opponents is to listen to the people, understand their fears and provide solutions, as the mining company has done in recent years. It is also important that opponents resolve their technical or social doubts about the project by asking questions, but not by accusing and even less, by assuming [negative outcomes].

“As Colombian author Héctor Abad Gómez has said, ‘the courage to admit that one does not know, that one doubts, that one is not sure, although difficult to practice, is an indispensable value in today’s world,’” Giraldo added.


Medellin’s Environment Secretary Diana María Montoya Velilla announced December 12 the first-ever confirmed sighting of a Southern Beardless Tyrannulet (Camptostoma obsoletum, see photo, above), making it the ninth recording of previously unrecorded bird species here this year.

The bird, locally known as “mosquerito silbón,” was sighted in the Cerro Nutibara park, not far from the city center.

The Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, “a species never before registered in our city,” is native to Central and South America, usually found in semi-open areas and forest edges, according to the Environment Secretary.

“These findings are the result of protection and conservation efforts in this area, with which we guarantee ideal conditions for the fauna and flora that live here,” Montoya said.

“Among the ecosystem benefits offered by Cerro Nutibara is a barrier to urban expansion, support for ecological connectivity, climate regulation and soil protection,” she added.

The “mosquerito silbón" measures 10 centimeters in height, has grayish and opaque-yellow feathers and a disheveled forelock. It feeds mainly on flying insects and some fruits, “contributing to the biological control of insect populations and the dispersal of seeds for botanical renewal,” according to the Environment Secretary.

During 2020, 22 new species of wildlife have been reported in Medellín, of which nine are birds, “this being the year in which more wildlife has been recorded in the strategic ecosystems of the city,” the Secretary added.


“Colombia El Pais de los Extremos” (Colombia the Nation of Extremes) is Ecuadorian diplomat-scholar Eduardo Durán-Cousín’s new, 783-pages-long history and analysis of more than 500 years of Colombia’s cultural, social, economic and political triumphs and tragedies.

For any foreigner sufficiently fluent in Spanish and trying to understand why Colombia in several key ways is more like -- but simultaneously also more un-like -- the United States than any other Latin American country, “Colombia El Pais de los Extremos” (La Carreta Editores, published in Medellin, September 2020) can be useful, as it’s the most recent scholarly work here -- widely reviewed in the Colombia mainstream media (and now, here, in Medellin Herald).

The book’s early chapters recount the European-biased observations of Spanish explorers, priests and conquerors about the existing and highly diverse aboriginal peoples here -- some of them relatively peaceful, pastoral, even submissive tribes, others (especially in Antioquia) more interested in trade and commerce, while still other tribes – and later-on, through their inter-mingled Spanish/native descendants -- practicing unimaginable savagery, conquests and even cannibalism.

The book’s most controversial (and racist) speculations about Colombia’s pre-and-post-Spanish-conquest-peoples include sections positing the notion that DNA and customs of the most savage tribes here later infected and subconsciously provoked incredibly bloody savagery by many current and past guerrillas, political armies and gangster groups here. One can only wonder what was in the pipe, smoking, when these paragraphs were written, given the horrific history of the entire human race (Nazis and Auschwitz, for example?)

But leaving aside dubious speculations about the origins of Colombian savagery, more important and more revealing is Durán-Cousín’s recounting of the central importance of the people of Medellin and Antioquia for dominating national (and even international) industry and commerce, even with the physical shifting or duplication of some local, foundational factories and some national administrative offices from Medellin to demographically bigger Bogota in recent decades.

As Durán-Cousín writes in the book’s first words about Antioquia, “the proverbial entrepreneurial spirt of Colombians, facilitated by the chronic absence of a strong central government, began in Antioquia and from there, by example and by migration of Antioquian people, irradiated throughout the country” -- a phenomenon especially apparent in the second half of the 20th Century.

Even more remarkably, in the latter part of the 19th Century, Medellin not only became the most important industrial city in Colombia, but also the most important manufacturing center in all of northern South America, Durán-Cousín points out, citing numerous sources.

Citing (for example) noted Colombian economic historian Salomon Kalmanovitz, Durán-Cousín recounts several crucial factors explaining why the “paisas” (the people of Antioquia) have dominated Colombian commerce and industry.

First came profitable gold mining here, then banking, then coffee exporting, then the rise of supporting industries (textiles, foundries, manufactures) --all crucially undergirded by the entrepreneurial, industrious customs of a particular sub-group of mainly Spanish descendants, many of them with Jewish cultural roots (although most forcibly converted to Catholicism during and after the mass expulsions and persecutions by the Spanish Inquisition starting 500 years ago and continuing for centuries afterward).

Notable also is that such historic discrimination and persecution continued in Colombia even right up until the early 19th Century in the Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena -- distant from the relatively safe, remote mountains of Antioquia, where if one so desired, one’s past could be more easily hidden, ignored, downplayed, low-keyed or forgotten, which helped to open doors to new freedom and opportunity (as some of Colombia’s greatest novelists likewise have illustrated).

What’s more, a peculiar flavor of Catholicism --mainly practiced here in Antioquia-- is much more inclined to accept financial success as not inconsistent with spiritual salvation, Durán-Cousín notes.

As such, one can see parallels to the North American historical experience -- where countless industrious people escaping European persecutions and prejudices likewise found freedom, opportunity and prosperity in the New World.

However, Antioquia -- with few exceptions -- mostly avoided the poisonous, debilitating, dehumanizing and lethargy-inspiring crime of African slavery that has scarred, wrecked and ruined so much of an otherwise “freedom-loving” USA – even right up to today. A shameful history linked to a hypocritical kind of “Christian” prosperity where even slavery got trumped-up Biblical excuses and exemptions.

In contrast, the growth of a huge middle class of Antioquian entrepreneurs here – NOT employing slavery – came via the coffee boom of the 19th and 20th centuries, starting in Antioquia and expanding to neighboring departments.

This self-sufficient, entrepreneurial idiosyncrasy is at the core of what makes a “paisa,” Durán-Cousín notes – and this resonates among vast portions of the North American population as well.

But while one can find correlations between many paisas and many North Americans, contradictions also exist, although some of these have been overcome through time, the book shows.

For example: U.S.-Colombian relations were strained with the secession more than 100 years ago of the former Panama province from the nation of Colombia. But the book notes that Panamanians overwhelmingly favored that separation, for both economic and political reasons, starting with the historical negligence of Colombia’s central government toward outlying provinces.

But ever since the Colombia Congress in 1923 ratified the Urrutia-Thompson Treaty that required the U.S. government to compensate Colombia for the Panamanian secession, Colombia has maintained particularly strong political, economic and military-aid ties with the U.S., much to the consternation of pro-Soviet, pro-communist and other left-wing politicians.

However, despite these cold-war and post-cold-war era political conflicts, as well as the “La Violencia” civil war of 1948 to 1958 and the subsequent FARC, ELN and M-19 guerrilla terrorism, Colombia’s other, prior, centuries-long political struggles – triggering frequent, bloody civil wars --weren’t fought along class lines (peasant versus landlord, worker versus capitalist), Durán-Cousín notes.

Rather, these wars were mainly between the “elites-dominated” Conservative and Liberal Parties -- conflicts that came to an end following the brief military government of General Rojas Pinilla at the end of the “La Violencia” conflict of the 1950s, the book notes.

Then, in 1991, Colombia enacted a new, modernized, liberal Constitution, which triggered the decline of the old Liberal and Conservative Parties and gave rise to a multiplicity of new parties of various ideological stripes and of “charismatic” leaders.

In some respects, today’s non-violent political battles in Colombia are similar to the non-violent political battles between Democrat and Republican Parties in the U.S., at least following the end of the U.S. Civil War of 1860-1865.

Unfortunately, like so many other Latin American historic and sociological treatises, Durán-Cousín’s “Colombia El Pais de los Extremos” book falls into a familiar trap of lamenting the absence here of a strong, unified, class-based social-democratic “left” party that would compete for votes with a more traditional, capitalist-oriented conservative party.

Supposedly, a strong social-democrat party here arguably would have provided an alternative to the violent communist guerrilla movements, which (falsely) were claimed to have arisen because of “oppression” and “lack of democracy” in Colombia. In fact, Colombia’s democracy is more than 200 years old, and left-wing currents (and several coalition governments) have long been a part of the Liberal Party, although centrist and rightist factions frequently dominated among the Liberals. Social-democrat factions also have existed in the Conservative Party and in its various coalition governments, the book shows.

On the other hand, Durán-Cousín correctly observes that Colombia’s relatively violent political history has mainly been a competition between some well-off elites, supported by the majority of poorer populations, with the poor used as cannon-fodder in the many civil wars.

Yet history shows that the same cynicism is just as true of the FARC and other communist, extreme leftist, narco-communist and paramilitary gangsters here, all of whom have sought to overthrow or manipulate the existing capitalist elites and replace them or sabotage them with crypto-capitalists -- communist and narco-gangster dictatorial power -- rather than bring about any real “social justice.”

In his proposed recipes for reform, Durán-Cousín also unfortunately repeats the old canard that what Colombia really needs is “land reform” that supposedly would end the injustice of relatively few big landholders “misusing” their landholdings and preventing poor peasants from getting a bigger piece of the land pie.

First problem with this argument: agricultural producers need profitable products from land, not just bigger areas of land.

Second problem: Splitting up big haciendas into smaller parcels -- supposedly to benefit hundreds of thousands or millions of mainly rural residents – wouldn’t automatically yield profits from that land -- and may do the opposite, by imposing smallholder inefficiencies.

Which is why coca and cocaine have conquered vast acreages among Colombia’s small farmers (not the big haciendas), as “white powder” is far more profitable than “land reform.” And which explains why thousands of FARC militants since have abandoned the 2015 “peace treaty” and gone back to cocaine trafficking, murder and extorsion -- as these are more profitable than conventional subsistence farming or the fantastical idea of “land reform.”

Correctly, Durán-Cousín laments the historic fragmentation of Colombia -- caused by weak central government, a mountainous, isolated terrain and very poor roads compared to its neighbors -- which helps explain the historic rise of warlord guerrilla armies and violent political competitions.

But he gets the solution wrong, by proposing the elevation of a stronger, unified left-wing party to counter the power of the existing conservative “elites” and thus supposedly expanding social justice, peacefully.

Ironically, the one Colombian President who did more than all others in the entire history of the country to boost social progress, economic progress, reduce isolation and diminish narco-terrorist violence wasn’t a “left” or “right” President.

Just the opposite.

Instead, this uniting President was Alvaro Uribe Velez, a thoroughly centrist politician -- a rather steelier version of incoming centrist U.S. President Joe Biden -- who won the hearts and minds of a huge majority of all Colombian social classes and regions, twice.

The only Colombian President in history who spent his weekends during his two terms traveling to every small town and village in every corner of the country, listening to ordinary people (not elites), promoting and elevating Colombia as one nation, one people, one democracy, seeking greater economic, political and social progress. And suffering numerous assassination attempts in the process.

The only President who virtually destroyed the FARC militarily and potentially paved the way for a future “peace” agreement that some day might actually achieve real, laudable goals, rather than the current “peace” mess that hasn’t stopped guerrilla violence, corruption or massive narco-trafficking.

Likewise, the only President who without fear welcomes face-to-face debate with Colombia’s leftist extremists -- including angry students and demagogic politicians.

The one politician who put country above class or ideology, at the risk of his own life. But also the one that Durán-Cousín terms in the book as a “clientelist” politician, like something in the mode of a “caudillo.”

Erroneous again.

Uribe -- unlike typical banana-republic strongmen, or hate-spewing, demagogic, reactionary hucksters like outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump – is a through-and-through democrat, unafraid of losing any election and unflinching in the face of continuing persecutions by corrupt judges, ideological extremists and jealous political rivals of various stripes.

Which is exactly what Colombia has always needed -- not “land reform,” or demagogues, or a “stronger left-wing party” as Durán-Cousín suggests. Instead, what Colombia needs is more centrists, more moderates, more unifiers, more reformers, more investors, more middle-class people, more kind, decent and ethical people, more educated people, more entrepreneurial people and more democrats (with a small “d”).


Colombia’s Comptroller-General (Contraloria General de la Republica, CGR) Carlos Felipe Córdoba on December 3 announced long-expected mismanagement charges against 28 individuals and companies including contractors, former EPM board members, former Medellin Mayors and former Antioquia Governors for actions and omissions that contributed US$1.18 billion in losses at the estimated US$5 billion Hidroituango hydroelectric project.

“The CGR technically calculates a loss of profits of COP$1.1 trillion (US$317 million) and a detriment to public assets of COP$2.9 trillion (US$836 million),” according to the watchdog agency.

“Among the 28 defendants are 10 members of the board of directors of Hidroituango, two former managers of EPM, two managers of Hidroituango, one manager of the EPM-Ituango subsidiary, two former mayors of Medellín and two former governors of Antioquia. The rest [of those charged] are contractors,” according to CGR.

Those charged include former Antioquia Governors Sergio Fajardo and Luis Alfredo Ramos; former Medellín Mayors Aníbal Gaviria and Alonso Fabio Salazar; and former EPM general managers Juan Esteban Calle and Federico Restrepo.

Also charged are former EPM board members and Hidroituango officials including Alejandro Antonio Granda, Álvaro Julián Villegas, Sergio Betancur, Álvaro de Jesús Vásquez, Ana Cristina Moreno, Iván Mauricio Pérez, Jesús Arturo Aristizábal, Luis Guillermo Atehortúa, John Alberto Maya, Jorge Mario Gallón, Luis Javier Duque, María Eugenia Ramos and Rafael Andrés Nanclares, according to CGR.

The companies facing charges include Consorcio CCC Ituango (Construccoes e Comercio Camargo Correa, Constructora Conconcreto y Coninsa Ramón H.S.A), plus the Consorcio Túneles Ituango (Ferrovial Agroman Chile y Sainc Ingenieros Constructores), the Consorcio Ingetec-Sedic (Ingetec y Sedic) and the Consorcio Generación Hidroituango (Integral e Integral Ingeniería de Supervisión).

“When issuing this important decision, the Comptroller’s Office considered that the mistakes made in the Hidroituango project had three serious consequences:

“1. The first consequence is that the main objective of the project was not met, which was to generate energy already contracted and agreed for the year 2018, which produced the aforementioned loss of profits totaling COP$1.1 trillion (US$317 million).

“2. The second is that there was a disproportionate increase in Hidroituango’s costs. Initially it was agreed at COP$6 trillion (US$1.7 billion) and, due to failures and improvisations, it ended up costing about COP$13 trillion (US$3.74 billion), due to the destruction of the value of the project as of June 2019.

“3. And the third consequence is the serious [tunnel-collapse] contingency that in April 2018 threatened to cause a public calamity in the project's area of influence and for which resources had to be invested in more works."

In the run-up to the formal charges, CGR assembled a technical team including researchers at Universidad Nacional, finance experts and legal experts, according to the agency.

Since Hidroituango now isn’t expected to start generating electric power until 2022 – instead of the planned December 1, 2018 start-up – the project will have failed to generate 2.87 trillion megawatt-days of power from 2018 to 2038, at a loss of US$13.99 per megawatt-hour.

“The CGR's technical team carefully evaluated -- with all the technological supports -- if there were unjustified increases in investments that affected the net value of the project or if the delay in starting operations generated a loss of profit that was would translate into damage of a fiscal nature,” the agency added.


Page 7 of 69

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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