Thursday, December 2, 2021

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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.


EPM general manager Jorge Andres Carrillo revealed in a press conference here this morning (October 27) that it’s at least theoretically possible that the current Hidroituango construction contractors might continue their work well into 2022.

But that possibility of a temporary contract extension into 2022 remains to be confirmed, pending results of a follow-up meeting with the CCC Hidroituango consortium next week, Carrillo explained.

The driving factor is the expectation that Colombia’s Comptroller-General eventually will confirm its proposed COP$4.3 trillion (US$1.15 billion) fine against the construction contractors, part of a group of 26 individuals, companies and politicians named in the Comptroller’s lawsuit.

If the Comptroller confirms its charges, then the current contractors must abandon the Hidroituango project, under Colombian law.

However, the Comptroller’s expected final ruling is currently blocked by a 29th Circuit Court decision in Bogota, which arose from a counter-claim brought by one of the 26 defendants. That defendant is María Eugenia Ramos Villa, a former official in the administration of prior Antioquia Governor Sergio Fajardo.

Fajardo, along with the construction contractors and other former politicians, faces the same Comptroller allegations of “gross negligence” that supposedly caused a costly diversion-tunnel collapse at Hidroituango in 2018.

If however the Comptroller succeeds in overturning the 29th Circuit Court ruling before the December 31, 2021 expiration of the current Hidroituango construction contracts, then EPM will have to rush to seek replacement contractors -- with potentially enormous costs from resulting construction delays.

Such delays potentially could wind-up costing EPM hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, if expected counter-suits by the sacked contractors eventually prosper in some future court proceedings.

Since EPM has long expected that the Comptroller’s proposed fines eventually would be confirmed, Carrillo revealed that EPM has been working for more than one-year on a “plan B” to find replacement contractors.

So far, seven potential companies have shown relatively keen interest in bidding, but signing contracts with any such replacements will take many months, via a complex public-bidding process, he clarified.

Meanwhile, in a filing with Colombia’s Superfinanciera oversight agency this morning, EPM revealed details of last night’s (October 26) meeting with the CCC Hidroituango Consortium, where the parties explored alternative schemes that potentially could reduce construction delays from an eventual switch of contractors.

However, in that meeting, the Consortium flatly rejected the idea of assigning their existing contracts to some new contractors.

Instead, EPM and the Consortium will try to come-up with some interim scheme whereby the contractors supposedly would continue building Hidroituango for some months in 2022 while (somehow) also cooperating with EPM’s replacement contractors – that is, assuming that the Comptroller’s final ruling will indeed be adverse to the existing contractors, and that this ruling isn’t quickly overturned by some other court proceeding.

On another front, the majority owners of the Hidroituango project – that is, the Antioquia departmental government and its development agency, IDEA – unveiled an October 26 letter to EPM, demanding that EPM pay any and all costs of switching contractors.

This could wind up costing EPM hundreds of millions of dollars on top of all the other potential costs of switching contractors, including the possibility of insurance claim denials and possible loss of US$450 million in finance from the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB).

What’s more, continuing delays in finishing the Hidroituango project theoretically could provoke an eventual, catastrophic event at the dam, since the spillway – currently handling the entire Cauca River flow – wasn’t designed specifically to handle such massive flows indefinitely, according to the departmental government’s complaint.

Despite all these threats, Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero this morning stated in a separate press conference that while EPM will continue to seek new contractors and pursue claims against Hidroituango project insurer Mapfre, the insurance policy wouldn’t cover costs for some unplanned diversion tunnels, some costly reinforcement works, portions of four-years of lost power sales, nor about US$200 million in deductibles.

As a result, the Mayor will continue with its parallel US$2.35 billion lawsuit against the contractors, in a separate proceeding to the Comptroller claims, he said.


Medellin-based Conconcreto President Juan Luis Aristizábal – head of one of the three principal contractors for the US$5 billion “Hidroituango” hydroelectric project here in Antioquia -- today contradicted disturbing damage claims being made by Colombia’s Comptroller General as well as Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero.

In a wide-ranging interview with El Colombiano -- Medellin’s biggest mainstream daily newspaper – Aristizábal points out that neither Conconcreto nor any of the 26 officials, politicians and companies named in the Comptroller’s COP$4.3 trillion (US$1.15 billion) damages claim over supposed “gross negligence” at the Hidroituango project have been given a chance to provide contravening evidence.

What’s even more disturbing is that there are indications that the Comptroller seems headed toward confirming its charges against the contractors in the next few weeks -- without ever hearing evidence from the accused, Aristizábal suggested.

Hence this Kafkaesque scheme – hearing only from the prosecution and almost nothing from the defense – could resemble a banana-republic kangaroo-court procedure, or Soviet communist dictator Josef Stalin’s murderous “show trials” of the 1930s -- rather than what people and companies in real democracies, such as in North America or Europe, deserve and ought to expect.

Even more ironic is that neither the Comptroller nor Medellin Mayor Quintero have any knowledge or experience in civil engineering, let alone hydroelectric dam-building. Yet both somehow are claiming to know the causes of the diversion-tunnel collapse at Hidroituango, which all engineering studies so far haven’t been able to prove conclusively.

If the Comptroller confirms its damage claims, then EPM must -- under Colombian law -- terminate the existing contracts of the affected Hidroituango builders and designers, then find and get-up-to-speed some unknown replacement contractors -- hence delaying the project likely for many months beyond the current June 2022 scheduled start-up of the first power turbines.

Such delays could cost EPM huge fines not only for failure to provide power to the national grid -- as it has legally promised by June 2022 -- but also untold hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues from lost power sales because of inevitable delays from training new contractors.

Then there’s an enormously costly US$450 million loan pre-payment obligation to the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) if the project fails to come on-line by June 2022.

What’s more, these fines and costs would come in addition to possibly hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars in counter-claims that probably will be brought by contractors, along with civil torts brought against EPM by lawyers representing persons temporarily displaced downstream of Hidroituango as a result of the 2018 tunnel-collapse incident.

And as a final wound, Hidroituango project insurer Mapfre possibly could cancel all further insurance payments beyond the US$350 million already paid to EPM, and – potentially – demand repayment of what it has already paid, citing the Comptroller’s finding of “gross negligence” and Mayor Quintero’s repeated, unsubstantiated claims of “corruption” and mismanagement.

Following a pattern, Mayor Quintero continues making wild, unsubstantiated claims against the Hidroituango contractors, former EPM officials and former Antioquia elected officials.

The latest pot-shot claim from Quintero – made last week without offering a single shred of evidence -- is that the contractors used substandard construction materials and made reckless design and execution decisions, which supposedly led to the costly 2018 collapse of a diversion tunnel at Hidroituango.

In addition, Quintero now claims that Mapfre and lesser insurers have just decided to exclude insurance payments for diversion tunnels, for some required stabilization works, for much of future lost-power sales and for other Hidroituango project costs that collectively would total roughly US$1 billion.

But if Quintero and the Comptroller are successful in their campaign to blame the main contractors and some former officials and former politicians for the tunnel collapse – resulting in a mandatory switch of contractors, enormously costly delays and inevitable counter-lawsuits – then EPM could lose far more than the US$1 billion that supposedly has been excluded from insurance payments.

To date, Mapfre has not stated publicly what it plans to exclude from insurance payments, nor explain how much it had planned to pay EPM for supposedly covered losses at Hidroituango.

But many leading engineering firms, trade associations, trade unions, public-advocacy organizations -- and now even Colombia President Ivan Duque -- have publicly stated that the correct way forward for recovering Hidroituango damage costs ought to be via negotiations with insurers, rather than blaming contractors.

However, according to Conconcreto President Aristizábal, if blame must be placed on anyone, then the correct target ought to be EPM itself, rather than its contractors, as Aristizábal explained in the El Colombiano interview published today. This would mirror public statements made by some legal experts that Mayor Quintero's US$2.85 billion parallel lawsuit against Hidroituango contractors actually could wind-up as a case of EPM suing itself.

In the interview, Aristizábal pointed out that Conconcreto wasn’t involved in designing nor building the diversion tunnels, which actually were designed and then demanded by EPM, the general contractor for Hidroituango.

“We are not responsible for the design, or the selection of materials, or the decisions that are made around all these activities,” Aristizábal stated in the interview. “We execute the construction, with the designer's guidelines, it is approved by the controller and received by our contractor EPM. All the works that we execute were supervised by the controller, approved by the designer, received by EPM and paid for by them.”

So, if anyone is to blame for the diversion tunnel collapse, then the blame ought to be put on EPM, which specified and approved all design, engineering and execution at Hidroituango, he said.

As a result, the Comptroller “should be investigating EPM. Furthermore, the resources managed by EPM are public resources. We are not fiscal agents because they did not give us an advance and because the money we received from EPM was a payment for services,” Aristizábal concluded, citing the Comptroller's responsibility for investigating public entities.

On another ominous note, Aristizabal pointed-out that Conconcreto’s principal stockholder is France-based Vinci. Hence the eyes of foreign investors are now fixed on the outcome of the current legal claims, which if adverse to some of Antioquia’s biggest and historically prestigious companies could discourage crucial foreign investment that generates tens of thousands of jobs, vital infrastructure development, huge tax revenues and economic progress for all Colombia, Aristizábal added.


Colombia President Ivan Duque today (September 14) signed far-reaching tax and social-benefits legislation that promises to benefit more than 29 million poor- and middle-class Colombians -- while also putting a heavier tax burden on wealthier individuals and corporations.

Not only is the legislation progressive -- contradicting some biased media reports and some blowhards that paint Duque as a “right-wing” President -- but also it’s remarkable that the bill passed both houses of Congress in the final months of a four-year presidential term. Getting anything done legislatively when Colombian presidents are leaving soon is almost unheard-of in Colombian politics.

The new law also “makes Colombia the first country in the hemisphere to carry out a social and fiscal reform in the midst of the pandemic,” according to Duque.

The bill aims to raise COP$15.2 trillion (US$3.97 billion) by raising the corporate income tax rate to 35%, cracking down on tax evasion, cutting non-mandated federal expenses, and continuing the existing financial-transfers tax and the ICA tax.

As for social benefits, the bill gives all students in lower-income strata (1, 2 and 3) free tuition at all public schools; extends the “solidarity income” subsidy for hiring young people; refunds the 19% value-added tax (VAT) to poorer people; extends the “emergency basic income” subsidy -- created at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic -- through 2022, and continues a variety of income subsidies for senior citizens, young people and poor families.

“Thanks to the application of the law, extreme poverty levels will be reduced from 15.1% in 2020 to 6.7% in 2022,” according to Duque. “Moderate poverty levels will also decrease from 42.5% in 2020 to 34.3% in 2022. In total, 4.1 million households will benefit from Solidarity Income, equivalent to 14.3 million people,” he added.

The employment subsidies included in the bill are projected to recover around 1 million jobs and help slash unemployment to levels prior to the pandemic outbreak.

“Every [temporary subsidy measure] that arose in the midst of the [Covid-19] complexities today becomes state policy thanks to the assistance of the political parties, unions, youth, governors and mayors,” Duque added, citing the broad coalitions that backed the new legislation.

“The Formal Employment Support Program [PAEF in Spanish initials] is historic for what it represents. This year, when we see the reactivation [of the national economy], we are not going to put it aside. On the contrary, we know that there are companies that are still affected and there are sectors that are just getting ahead and, therefore, retroactively, from May this year to December this year, the PAEF has also become an effective response to the needs of the Colombian people.

“And new elements are added: support for women, support for the population with disabilities, support, also, for those who were victims of the [‘Paro National’ riots and] blockades, those who wanted to destroy and who, too, were affected in their lives, in their income. They, too, are answered,” Duque added.

“But let it  also be clear: The solution has not been at the cost of taking away competitiveness from the private sector, but of maintaining it -- and I say this because of the following: this reform maintains the 100% VAT discount on capital goods. This reform maintains the elimination of presumptive income [from tax]. Because even with the increase in the nominal [corporate tax] rate [to 35%], it is still a rate substantially lower than the one we had in 2018 and, also, because the ICA tax deduction is left at 50%.

“In other words, the private sector contributes, but maintains the competitiveness gained in these years, to continue making Colombia an attractive place for foreign investment,” Duque concluded.


Medellin’s Mobility Secretariat this afternoon (September 3) finally unveiled its long-awaited rules on the upcoming “pico y placa” driving restrictions that start Monday, September 6.

Under the new rules (see: https://www.medellin.gov.co/irj/go/km/docs/pccdesign/medellin/Temas/NuestroGobierno/Publicaciones/Shared%20Content/Documentos/2021/Decreto-0730-de-2021-Pico-y-Placa.pdf), starting September 6, cars and light trucks (under 3.5 tons) with license plates ending in 0 are banned from circulation from 5 am to 8 pm.

The following day (September 7), cars and light trucks with plates ending in 1 are banned, then cars with plates ending in 2 are banned on September 8, and so-on.

The climbing-numbers rotation starts all over again on Monday, September 20, with the same numerical sequences -- plate numbers variously ending from 0 to 9 -- banned from circulation each corresponding day from Monday through Friday (see chart, above).

For the first two weeks (through September 17), the restrictions are “educational,” but starting September 20, the longstanding, historic “pico y placa” fines begin, according to the Secretariat.

Certain routes that pass through the entire Medellin metro area are exempted from the restrictions, including Autopista Sur, Avenida Regional and the parallel Avenida Occidental (the highways that run alongside Rio Medellin); Avenida 33 from Rio Medellin to its connection at Las Palmas; Avenida Las Palmas; and La Iguaná.

Also exempt are the eastward/westward roads alongside the La Iguaná stream between Avenues 63 and 80, and the east-to-westward segment of highway from the Horacio Toro bridge connection to La Iguana heading westward.

Exempt vehicles include fully electric and hybrid-electric cars; compressed-natural-gas-fueled cars; ambulances; buses; heavy trucks; public service vehicles; fire trucks; wreckers; health/medicines transport vehicles; and all types of emergency vehicles. Food/perishables transport vehicles also can be exempted if properly registered.

Enforcement will be especially strict on 40 heavily-trafficked, inner-city road routes as specified in the new regulation. But rural Medellin’s outlying, rural routes are exempt.

As for motorcycles, their “pico y placa” restrictions start October 4, the new rules show. Motorcycles making home-deliveries will be exempted.

AMVA Cities Follow Medellin's Lead

Hours after Medellin formally announced its pico-y-placa rules, Area Metropolitana del Valle de Aburra (AMVA) -- the coordinating agency for the 10 cities in metro Medellin -- unveiled its parallel guidance for the whole metro area (see: https://www.metropol.gov.co/Paginas/Noticias/pico-y-placa-empezara-a-regir-a-partir-del-6-de-septiembre.aspx).

That regional guidance includes internet links to each of the individual city regulations, which mainly follow the Medellin rules. For example, all 10 cities incorporate the 5 am-to-8 pm daily driving bans on individual vehicles, the same day/plate number rotations, and the same exclusions for certain vehicles (such as electric/hybrid vehicles, natural-gas vehicles, buses, etcetera). 


Area Metropolitana de Valle de Aburrá (AMVA) – the metro Medellin government coordinating agency – announced August 26 that “pico y placa” driving restrictions -- initially targeted for October 4 -- instead will return for all 10 cities in the Medellin metro area starting in September.

“By consensus, the mayors of the metro area decided to apply the ‘pico-y-placa’ measure once every 15 days for all vehicles, including two- and four-stroke motorcycles,” according to AMVA. “The measure will reduce vehicular traffic between 7% and 10%.”

Under the revised scheme, driving restrictions officially start September 6 -- during a two-week "education" phase -- for vehicles with license plates ending in 0. On September 18, as-yet-unspecified fines will start to be imposed on violators.

"The mobility restriction will be between 5:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., Monday through Friday," according to AMVA. 

License-plate rotations will be "one digit every 15 days," presumably meaning that plates ending in 1 would be banned on September 7, ending in 2 on September 8, and so-on. However, AMVA failed to specify explictly the exact day/plate-number rotation sequences.

"Pico y placa" bans also will hit two- and four-stroke motorcycles starting October 4, according to AMVA.

"Each municipality [that is, the 10 cities in the AMVA area] must issue a decree to apply the measures in its territory," but AMVA didn't explain exactly what this means. Presumably, Medellin could have rules or fines differing from Envigado or Bello, for example. 


Colombia Finance Minister José Manuel Restrepo on July 13 unveiled a COP$11 trillion (US$2.9 billion) tax hike on wealthier corporations in order to expand and continue subsidies to especially vulnerable populations economically slammed by the Covid-19 crisis.

The proposal DOES NOT include any new taxes on middle-class people, nor does it boost the existing value-added sales tax (“IVA” in Spanish initials) -- which in any case mainly hits higher-income people rather than the poor. But it will boost the corporate tax rate to 35% and extend financial-sector income-tax surcharges to 2025.

The bill comes on the heels of two months of consultations with representatives of understandably frustrated social groups including poor people, workers, small-business people, students as well as Colombia’s leading business trade associations -- including ANDI (originally founded in Medellin).

It also comes on the heels of financially punishing Wall Street debt-ratings downgrades on government and corporations, which unfortunately cripple the government’s ability to finance subsidies to poor people, the working classes, small business and huge numbers of unemployed young people -- all slammed by the Covid-19 crisis.

Commenting on the new proposal, ANDI President Bruce MacMaster stated: “I must say that the business sector is going to support this effort. And it will do so with a patriotic, supportive, important, developed spirit . . . [We need to] generate economic reactivation, to generate reduction in unemployment, to generate more opportunities for Colombians and to address this [massive fiscal deficit] situation,” he added.

The bill would extend and expand existing Covid-19-triggered subsidy programs including the “Solidarity Income” subsidy (through 2022) and the "Payroll Subsidy" (PAEF) program (through December 2021), according to the Finance Minister.

The Solidarity Income subsidy expansion “would allow more than 731,000 Colombians living in extreme poverty who today do not receive any benefits from the state to start doing so for the first time. With this, the program would reach a total of 3.3 million households,” Minister Restrepo explained.

Cost of the Solidarity Income subsidy would hit COP$2.31 trillion (US$608 million) in 2021 and another COP$6.59 trillion (US$1.7 billion) in 2022, he said.

Meanwhile, extension of the PAEF payroll subsidy for the second semester of 2021 “would support about 459,000 employees through a scheme that encourages the hiring of young people between 18 and 28 years old, along with the rest of the population with incomes of up to three minimum wages,” he added. That cost will total COP$1.06 trillion (US$279 million).

“We will focus the program on small companies and will include individuals with businesses that employ at least two people,” Restrepo explained. As a result, another 55,000 employers are expected to apply for payroll subsidies, corresponding to 400,000 employees.

Meanwhile, the new tax bill would grant free tuition at public universities and trade schools for 695,000 students in the lower-income “1, 2 and 3” strata, along with “incentives and better conditions to users of ‘Icetex’ educational credits,” he said.

“With these measures and the social programs in force, the national government will reach more than 25 million Colombians who will benefit” via subsidies totaling COP$8.8 trillion (US$2.3 billion) in 2021 and another COP$8 trillion (US$2.1 billion) in 2022, he said.

The proposal also contains a government-austerity plan that aims to generate recurring savings of COP$1.9 trillion (US$500 million) between 2022 and 2032, on average. This includes a restriction starting in 2023 on personnel expenses along with reductions in travel expenses, vehicle expenses and mobile-phone expenses, he said.

Transfers of federal revenues to Colombia’s 34 departments also would be trimmed “without affecting those mandated by the Constitution, such as Social Security, public universities” and other legally mandated payments, he said.

Another provision aiming to crack down on tax evaders would boost revenues by some $2.7 trillion (US$710 million), he added. In addition, a new “georeferenced information system” would aim to “detect the real value of declared properties and allow income tax to be invoiced based on information from the electronic invoice and information reported by third parties,” according to the Minister.

Meanwhile, the existing “ICA” tax on corporations would be trimmed by 50%, but an income-tax surcharge on Colombia’s financial sector would be extended until 2025.

Once including all the new tax provisions, austerity measures and anti-evasion efforts, Colombia’s tax revenues would be boosted by COP$15.2 trillion (US$4 billion), the Minister added.


Colombia President Ivan Duque announced June 8 that the dumped body of Colombian police officer Carlos Andrés Rincón has now been recovered, following his kidnapping, torture and murder by protesters participating in the “Comite del Paro” national strikes and roadblocks.

The policeman had been in the vicinity of an illegal road blockade in Cali, where Colombia’s worst protest violence has taken place over the past five weeks – resulting in several deaths and dozens of injuries, along with rioter destruction and burning of buildings, vehicles, offices, businesses, banks, public transport, ambulances and catastrophic blockage of thousands of critical freight shipments and medical supplies needed in much of the nation.

While the “Comite del Paro” has been demanding the elimination of riot-police – claiming that all police have been recklessly attacking “innocent” protesters and ignoring citizen-vigilante justice – the Colombian government is demanding that rioters mounting illegal blockades, murdering and attacking policemen, burning buildings and vehicles and wrecking public transport infrastructure must be prosecuted.

The government is simultaneously moving to investigate, prosecute and imprison some wayward police officers using excessive force or wrongly shooting some protesters.

To address such abuses, a new, “comprehensive transformation strategy” for Colombia’s national police will be contained in a bill to be delivered to Congress on July 20, according to President Duque.

The bill will include a new “Human Rights Directorate” inside the National Police, a new “Disciplinary Statute” including “restructuring of the General Inspectorate, supervision and control of the police service and a new system for receiving, processing and monitoring complaints and reports,” President Duque said.

The bill also calls for further “professionalization and police development with the launch of a Police Standards Center and a new Police University,” according to Duque.

As under current Colombian and international law, the use of force -- even deadly force -- by police is legal only in response to life-threatening violence employed by criminals, guerrillas and violent rioters. Peaceful demonstrations are respected and guaranteed under Colombia’s Constitution.

The bill also will include new funding for aerial surveillance systems and other high technologies, including body cameras incorporated into new police uniforms.

“I have given a clear instruction to Defense Minister Diego Molano to prioritize the processing of the new project on police careers and professionalization. I have also given him an instruction so that, on July 20, we present the bill for a new Police Disciplinary Statute, which modernizes the one that has already existed for 15 years,” President Duque announced.

“This also leads us to strengthen the rules on the use of force. The use of force has been regulated by law and by procedures, but [new rules will] strengthen our norms regarding the use, carrying and employment of less-lethal weapons, and include all standards in the fight against riots and acts of vandalism, strengthened by international cooperation,” he added.

“We want more technology, better technology, so that the police service is also open to any type of scrutiny. We hope to accelerate the application of bodycams, body cameras, in citizen security procedures, so that all traceability remains and, in addition, police honor is clearly identified in the more than 30 million procedures” that Colombia’s national police handle annually.

“I have also instructed to strengthen the existing camera services, and also drones, so that we have monitoring, and also have real-time reading of all police procedures, especially those that have to do with facing riots, with facing acts of vandalism,” President Duque added.


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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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