October 2, 2023

Medellin Mayor’s Mishandling of EPM Board Causes Catastrophic Plunge in Public Image

A new survey of voting-age residents here shows that Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero damaged his favorable image in handling the Covid-19 crisis by excluding the Board of Directors of EPM — the city’s biggest money-maker — from a Hidroituango lawsuit decision that could turn catastrophic.

According to the Consultores de Opinion telephonic survey of 487 men and women of all socio-economic strata in Medellin, Mayor Quintero saw his formerly immense popularity — 80% favorability — in June 2020 fall to just 40.9% by late August 2020, while his unfavorability ranking soared from just 17% in June to 55.5% in late August (see chart, above).

According to Consultores de Opinion, the August 27-30 survey has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 2.63% with 95% confidence.

The same survey found that Quintero was overwhelmingly admired for helping to limit the growth of Covid-19 here, with 58% in favor of his novel “4×3” weekly business openings/closings rotation, designed to limit cross-infections.

Mayor Quintero’s over-all handling of the Covid-19 crisis likewise was rated “good” by 39% of voters and “regular” (acceptable) by 43%, with only 10.8% rating his crisis handling as “bad.”

Bottom line: Mayor Quintero apparently has squandered a vastly favorable public image over his handling of the Covid-19 crisis by unilaterally deciding to sue EPM contractors and insurers for Hidroituango project damages — without first consulting the EPM Board on possible, less-risky alternatives — and his earlier failure to consult the Board on radically altering EPM’s business model.

Quintero subsequently tried to explain the resulting mass resignation of the EPM Board by suggesting that those Board members had self-interested ties to companies that historically have done business with EPM – a claim that has only tangential or faulty evidence (see Medellin Herald August 17, 2020, “Alleged Conflicts-of-Interest in Hidroituango Damages-Recovery Scheme Prompts Clash Between Trade Groups, Mayor Quintero, Former Governor Perez, Former VP German Vargas”).

Even Medellin City Council members who likewise favored the Mayor’s idea of bringing a “conciliation” lawsuit against Hidroituango contractors and insurers have publicly condemned Quintero for arrogantly bypassing EPM’s board – a potentially colossal mistake that immediately cost EPM a bond-rating downgrade and widespread alarm among EPM debt holders on Wall Street.

Given the Mayor’s suggestion that the prior EPM Board had conflicts-of-interest that supposedly obviated objective Board consultations over the Hidroituango lawsuit decision, Wall Street analysts are now left puzzling over why the same Mayor accepted that same Board when he took office last January — if Quintero really believed the Board was compromised.

Meanwhile, EPM’s own trade union of professional employees (Sinpro) has publicly suggested that Chinese government-owned hydroelectric dam builder China Three Gorges (CTG) might be maneuvering to take-over the Hidroituango construction-and-operations contract – sidelining the now-sued, existing contractors — with new help from Mayor Quintero.

Coincidentally, the Chinese government’s official People’s Daily newspaper published a fawning report on Mayor Quintero in its August 19, 2020 edition, under the headline: “Daniel Quintero, Mayor of Medellín: ‘We Have Seen in China a Strong Investment Ally.’”

All of which — according to Sinpro — raises a troubling question: Is EPM’s existing Hidroituango insurance policy with Mapfre – which possibly could have paid for reasonably recoverable Hidroituango damages without going to court — being compromised by a high-risk lawsuit, paired with a scheme to replace the old contractors – mainly unfriendly to Quintero — with CTG, the new political “friend” to Quintero?

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