Medellin Mayor Quintero Claims City’s Leading Businesses Are Mafia Gangsters
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.
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.”
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.