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Editorial 26

Written by May 06 2022 0

A sometimes-popular belief that just legalizing cocaine would eliminate Colombia’s bloody wars among violent gangs (and their left-wing or right-wing extremist allies) – while providing a policy alternative to the Colombian government’s flawed attempts to corral the trade -- is pure nonsense, according to a remarkable Brookings Institution publication quoting Colombian experts.

“Legalizing Drugs and Illegal Economies is No Panacea for Latin America and the Rest of the World” is the title of the report, by Colombian drug-policy experts Vanda Felbab-Brown and Catalina Niño (see: https://www.brookings.edu/on-the-record/legalizing-drugs-and-illegal-economies-is-no-panacea-for-latin-america-and-the-rest-of-the-world/).

Felbab-Brown and Niño -- both experts at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Foundation here in Colombia (FESCOL) -- originally published their findings (in Spanish) in Colombia’s intellectual magazine, “El Malpensante.”

Fortunately, the Washington, DC-based Brookings Institution – one of North America’s leading independent think-tanks – has since translated that report to English, enabling a much-wider global audience to understand why hard-drug legalization in Colombia (or elsewhere) is no panacea.

The experts instead offer alternative -- but not simple -- solutions for Colombia’s (and the world’s) chronic drug-trade problems.

The report is a fair warning to those who look for an “easy way out” to Colombia’s problematic drug wars -- and the massive social violence and population displacements that result.

One such nebulous proposal is the recent “amnesty” scheme that socialist-populist Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro has proposed for Colombia’s drug kingpins and their affiliated corrupt politicians.

Such a scheme would merely institutionalize and further incentivize violent drug gangs and their political pals in Bogota and elsewhere, the report finds.

Below we summarize and highlight the remarkable findings of this report, now freely available on the Brookings Institution web-site:

“Organized crime and illicit economies are enormously varied and diverse, highly dynamic and adaptive and innovative, with innovation often emerging in response to law enforcement actions,” Felbab-Brown explains in the report, presented in question-and-answer format.

“The illicit economies involve a wide scope of commodities and services, with some of the most iconic ones including drug trafficking, human smuggling and trafficking, illegal logging and mining, poaching and wildlife trafficking, smuggling in counterfeiting of goods, cybercrime, gun smuggling and money laundering.

“Illicit economies and organized crime groups pose a wide variety of threats to states and societies, but they also bring various socio-economic and semi-public-goods services to vast segments of marginalized populations around the world.

“Hundreds of millions of people are dependent on illicit economies for basic livelihoods, social mobility, and access to public goods, such as street security [like protection rackets], and thus the sponsors of illicit economies – criminal and militant groups or corrupt states and politicians – derive vast political capital from sponsoring them,” she explains.

While mass imprisonment of ordinary drug users has to date proved ineffective and wasteful, “with the exception of cannabis, I do not support drug legalization,” she explains.

The rationale: “Drugs such as cocaine, heroin, synthetic opioids, and methamphetamine are highly addictive and the substance-use disorder can destroy the lives of users, their families, and communities as much as imprisonment can.

“The United States has been going through the most devastating drug epidemic ever in U.S. history – the opioid epidemic. It started with legal prescription drugs and eventually mutated into heroin and then synthetic opioids,” she explains.

“Those who believe that legalization will solve problems of drug policy should learn from the U.S. disaster, and its equivalent in Canada where extensive harm-reduction approaches almost melted underneath the onslaught of commercialized legal prescription opioids.

“Those very same companies and their international branches that unleashed the opioid epidemic in the United States are actively promoting the same disastrous and nefarious policies abroad, including in Latin America, in places such as Brazil and Mexico.

“On the supply side, I warn of premature and highly counterproductive eradication of drug crops without alternative legal livelihoods being in place. Such policies strengthen the political capital of criminal and militant groups.

“But that doesn’t mean, once again, that I believe drug trafficking should be legalized. Instead, I often urge prioritizing in targeting the non-intensive-labor-side of drug trafficking, such as by targeting trafficking. Creating legal jobs on a sufficient scale should be a critical element of most strategies for dealing with drug economies . . .

“Legalization will merely allow criminals to operate in a newly legal economy, often with the same violent practices as they practiced in the illegal space. Thus, avocado farming in Mexico is dominated by extortion by violent criminal groups, and fights over land and territorial control among them are as much about access to legal economies as to local drug retail markets or drug routes.”

Felbab-Brown then specifically cites historic problems of the war on drug trafficking in Colombia.

“Colombia is unique in the Andean region in how its political leaders and government officials are wedded to the so-called zero-coca policy – namely, that all coca needs to be eliminated in a particular area or community before the community receives any kind of socio-economic, alternative livelihoods, support from the state,” she explains.

“The zero-coca policy was the hallmark of the [former President Alvaro] Uribe administration, and is again a key feature of [current President Ivan] Duque administration – such as in the way the administration ties titles to all coca being eradicated in a community. It was also a policy of prior governments, including that of the [former President Juan Manuel] Santos administration, and goes back to the 1980s. Yet this zero-coca approach in Colombia has failed over and over again, and it will continue to fail.

“Destroying all coca rapidly is easy. Bringing in adequate legal livelihoods is hard and takes many more years than eradicating a particular coca plot, which only takes days.

“I’ve often urged, and want to emphasize again, that Colombia would benefit enormously from moving away from the zero-coca mindset. It should learn from effective strategies in Thailand and policy experimentation in Bolivia — demanding, for example, that in a development area, such as a PDET [‘Programas de Desarrollo con Enfoque Territorial,’ or (in English) Territorial Development Programs], each family eliminates 30% of its coca fields to start with, and once certain development targets are reached, another 20% or 30%, for example, would be eliminated.

“Such a sequenced approach gives both the communities and the state a stake in working toward the establishment of viable legal economies and livelihoods without leaving farmers who agree to eradicating their drug crops high-and-dry and without income, thus making them sour on collaborating with the state. The community could also be informed that once certain development targets are reached and legal income reaches and stays at certain level, all coca will be eradicated, forcibly if necessary.

“Eliminating all coca without alternative livelihoods already being actually in place, not merely promised, also generates violence, alienates local communities from the state, and thrusts them into the hands of violent nonstate actors.

“The right response from the state instead would be to prioritize secure delivery of goods and services to communities selected for legal rural development efforts, and to minimize access by violent trafficking groups.”

While anti-drug policies in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere may change in future, “I am skeptical, however, that in the next 15 years we will see any equivalent effort to legalize cocaine, heroin, or synthetic drugs,” she added.

“A rogue regime like the [President Nicolas] Maduro regime of Venezuela could possibly fantasize about it – but even that is unlikely, given its dependence on Russia and China. China and Russia have emerged as determined drug cops, increasingly active in promoting rigid, doctrinaire, unreconstructed tough-on-drug policies like the United States embraced in the 1980s, not just in regional settings like East or Central Asia but also at global multilateral fora.

“Any Latin American government that would seek to legalize the drug trade beyond cannabis and beyond permitting personal use would end up contending with strong opposition from China and Russia as well as the United States.

“The more likely shock to the drug systems in Latin America, and one that is potentially transformational, is a wholesale switch away from plant-based drugs in the United States -- with the exception of cannabis -- toward synthetic drugs.

“Already, a significant reason why U.S. drug users are still interested in cocaine is that fentanyl is being mixed into cocaine quite frequently. That also means that cocaine users are encountering fentanyl and synthetic drugs.

“Traffickers, and even dealers, prefer highly potent synthetic drugs such as fentanyl that are much superior to cocaine or heroin: Smuggling those drugs is very easy and does not require the same territorial control, nor therefore as much violence or corruption.

“Thus, one can contemplate a world in which the U.S. drug market is predominantly not supplied either by cocaine or drugs from Latin America – with the exception of Mexico, where fentanyl smuggling is already strongly established and production can easily develop.

“In such a world, Latin America, particularly the Andes, would lose a lot of relevance to the U.S. in terms of anti-coca and cocaine policies.

“Latin America itself could easily become the principal consumer of cocaine produced there, surpassing the market in Europe.

“Pressures to reduce its supply and production may start coming strongly from within Latin America, with countries such as Brazil and Argentina demanding that the Andean countries crack down on production.

“Alternatively, or simultaneously, new cocaine markets in East Asia, such as in China -- the development of which Latin American criminal groups are actively promoting -- could reinforce China’s embrace of a new role for itself as an international drug cop.

“And if Latin American countries allow themselves to be entrapped in China’s debt diplomacy, particularly as a result of seeking Chinese financial flows with bad terms as a result of Covid, then China would have high influence in demanding doctrinaire drug policies,” Felbab-Brown explains.

“Latin America may thus finally see the de-narcoticization of U.S. policy toward Latin America, for which the region so often asks.

“But such a de-narcoticization of U.S. policy toward Latin America could also come with an undesirable reduction of U.S. interest in and resources for economic and rural development, law enforcement institutions, and rule of law.

“The United States should avoid such a flip: Even if Latin America stops being a large source of illegal drugs for the United States, the United States should still strongly want to promote multifaceted policies to reduce violence and all kinds of criminality in the region, and to foster effective law enforcement and public safety, equitable development, and expansion of justice and rule of law to all citizens of Latin America,” she concluded.

Written by March 27 2022 0

Socialist-populist Colombian presidential candidate and former M-19 guerrilla Gustavo Petro last week released a 54-page campaign platform and governance program that points to:

 Confiscation of the private pensions of 18 million people here and forcing them into a grossly underfunded government system;
 Confiscation of Colombia’s flawed-but-improving private health system, replacing it with a politically-hacked, underfunded state-run system that Colombia had already suffered-under prior to a 1993 reform law;
 Confiscation and redistribution to his political pals whatever private farm lands that he-alone determines to be “unproductive;”
 “Unemployment elimination” not by incentivizing more jobs-creating investment, promoting better, 21st-century education and ensuring reasonable labor rules, but instead by promising to give political-hack government jobs to anyone lazy or brainless enough to want one, as in socialist Venezuela; and
 Accelerating the abolition of the Colombian government’s number-one source of income: its multi-billion-dollar-profits-producing oil-and-gas industry.

While leading Colombian economists now sarcastically term the Petro political program as “delirious,” it could just-as-well remind people of The Beatles’ sardonic 1968 pop hit, “Back in the USSR.”

It also could call- to-mind the hysterically ironic 1972 Democratic political campaign of one-time U.S. Vice-Presidential candidate and silver-spoon blue-blood Sargent Shriver, who famously paraded into several of Detroit’s ubiquitous blue-collar bars, yelling, “beer for everyone, Courvoisier for me.”

Or Poland’s famous labor-union leader and future democratic President Lech Wałęsa, who not only led the fight to free Poland from Soviet slavery but issued probably the all-time-greatest quip about Petro-style socialism: “It’s a system where the workers pretend to work, and the State pretends to pay them.”

Petro – currently a Colombian Senator, a former Bogota Mayor, and a man who apparently has never worked in any regular job in his life – lives in luxury in Bogota, sends his kids to private schools overseas, and this month flatly refused (like his political pals in socialist Venezuela) to condemn former KGB man and Russian president-for-life Vladimir Putin, who hides his billion-dollar collections of yachts and mansions all over Russia and Europe in cahoots with oligarch pals, while thousands of working-class, cannon-fodder Russian soldiers die in a grotesque “patriotic” invasion that’s killing and wounding thousands of Ukrainian innocents, leveling their cities and sending more-than-4-million fleeing to exile.

Ironically, this is the same Petro who not only claims that Colombia doesn’t have a democracy, but who also attacked freely elected former Colombian President and current Liberal Party leader Cesar Gaviria as supporting “fascism” – all because Gaviria publicly repudiated the “neoliberal” insult hurled against him by Petro’s running-mate, Francia Marquez.

Which begs the question: Who’s calling the pot black?

Written by January 23 2022 0

A stunning final report from Finland-based hydroelectric-project engineering consultant Pöyry finds that the current contractors building the US$5 billion Hidroituango hydroelectric project in Antioquia should continue to finish the project as quickly as possible, rather than be replaced.

Contractor continuation is the safest and fastest route to avoid a possibly catastrophic collapse of the dam, the report concludes.

The current situation -- where 100% of Cauca River flow goes over Hidroituango’s engineered spillway rather than through still-under-construction power turbines -- eventually could cause catastrophic erosion at the base of the dam, as years-long 100% spillway evacuation was never part of the engineering design, the report finds.

The Pöyry report -- contracted by Hidroituango project manager EPM but until now kept secret – not only fails to support conspiracy narratives pushed by Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero, who chairs EPM’s Board of Directors.

Instead, the Pöyry report –just unveiled by investigative journalists at IFM Noticias (see: https://ifmnoticias.com/aparecio-el-informe-poyry/) – completely contradicts Quintero’s frantic push to replace the current Hidroituango contractors with some new contractors, who (unlike the current contractors) presumably would become politically beholden to Quintero.

The 427-page report not only reveals details of undiscovered, dangerous geological faults in and around the Hidroituango project – faults that unfortunately triggered an enormously costly 2018 collapse of a crucial diversion tunnel – but also recommends crucial measures to avoid a potentially catastrophic dam collapse.

According to the report, any change of the current project consultants and main contractors would cause a “delay in the definition of mitigation measures and in the execution of stabilization works.

“Changing the main actors in this project should be avoided. It would mean significant delays -- minimum one year -- and reduce the traceability in the recovery of the project. In addition, it will increase the overall cost of the project,” the Pöyry report finds.

“Hiring a new contractor for a project the size of Hidroituango will take several months just to define the terms and conditions. Even more so given that there are still parts of the project where it has not been possible to access or define the repair engineering.

“Considering additionally the history and background of the [2018 diversion-tunnel collapse] contingency, it will be a challenge to find a company or a consortium that accepts these conditions without limitations. All guarantees and global responsibility for the proper execution of the works will be lost.

“On the engineering side of the project, it should be estimated that a new consultant would take months to verify all the information provided and generated by the consultancy before it can develop new engineering with solutions for the completion of the project,” the report adds.

“From the point of view of the project and the main interest in advancing as quickly as possible in starting up the first generation units, a change of the main contractor and the consultancy is not recommended and puts at risk the progress of the works currently accumulated. Additionally, there will be a risk that there will be no immediate attention to emergencies on the ground once the current contractor is demobilized.

“Mitigating this risk requires, above all, the following measures:

“Maintain the level of the reservoir at a maximum level of 408 meters above sea level, in order to:

“(i) Allow time to inspect, frequently enough, the landfill along its length and carry out the necessary maintenance and repair work. During the inspection and execution of maintenance and repair work, the spillway gates will be closed, and a temporary increase in the level of the reservoir would be admissible.

“(ii) Improve the stability of the dam, duly considering that to date a hydraulic effect remains to be clarified that indicates the possible existence of a percolation path not captured by the geophysical exploration.

“(iii) Maintain a wide, free edge in case of tsunamis caused by landslides of the slopes along the reservoir or the right abutment of the dam.

“(iv) Increase the retention volume during flood peaks, at least until a sufficient number of generation units are available to contribute to flood evacuation.

“(v) Implement an intermediate discharge independent of the main intakes on the right bank with sufficient capacity to lower the reservoir level below 380 meters above sea level.

“Based on the analysis carried out by Pöyry, this report concludes that the only feasible and reliable way to ensure the total safety of the project works, thus avoiding major environmental and social disasters in the short, medium and long term, is to complete and operate the project safely, as soon as possible,” the report concludes.

Written by January 10 2022 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grupo Argos Public Response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proantioquia Response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grupo Sura Response

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

“Grupo Sura press release
“09 January 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grupo Nutresa Response

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

"Gropo Nutresa Press Release
"10 January 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by May 30 2021 0

The latest, just-released EcoAnalytica/Guarumo national poll of voting-age Colombians shows that people here are overwhelmingly fed-up with the month-long series of strikes, road blockades, violence, arson attacks, attempted (and actual) murders and attacks on police, and economic devastation seemingly ignored or in some cases even promoted by some members of the “Comite del Paro” group.

The “Comite del Paro” leaders and supporters include certain left-wing politicians, some left-wing labor unions, some student groups and huge numbers of unemployed people – all motivated by the inevitable economic and social problems arising from 15 continuing months of the Covid-19 pandemic, rather than by a proposed tax-reform bill since withdrawn.

In total, 67% of those polled this month by EcoAnalytica/Guarumo said they are totally opposed to road blockades that have included violent attacks on drivers of trucks, buses, ambulances, oxygen-and-medical-supplies transports, police vehicles and private cars, resulting in untold numbers of deaths and suffering from delayed or cancelled deliveries of critical supplies at hospitals, clinics and distribution centers.

Simultaneously, hundreds of thousands of farm animals along with hundreds of thousands of tons of produce have perished because of the blockades, while hundreds of thousands of businesses likewise have shut their doors and laid-off millions of people because of the blockades, arson attacks and violent protests. Tax revenues that support Colombia's massive subsidies to the poor and working-class populations hit by economic devastation caused by Covid-19 also have plummeted during the strikes.

Another 56% of those polled said the strikes should stop NOW, even while 71% suspect that the national government and the “Comite del Paro” inevitably will sign some sort of deal that would end the month-long chaos and violence.

While 58% oppose the use of the Colombian Army to control the violence and vandalism, fully 67% oppose the dismantling of Colombia’s “ESMAD” riot police responsible for breaking-up violent demonstrations, according to the poll.

One-third of those polled suspect that foreign agents hostile to Colombia’s democracy (such as the narco-communist government of Venezuela) are partly to blame for promoting violence, while 25% see violent criminal groups involved and another 15% see local guerrilla infiltrations into otherwise peaceful protest marches.

Among those polled, youth unemployment is the most-cited reason for the protest marches, as unemployment has soared during the Covid-19 crisis – ironically exacerbated by the road blockades, vandalism, violent marches and burning of private and public buildings and vehicles during the protests.

No Candidate Stands Out for 2022 Elections

While the survey shows that Colombia President Ivan Duque has seen his popularity dip to just 29% during the recent rioting and strikes, one of the key promoters of the strikes and chaos – perennial left-wing demagogue and failed presidential candidate Gustavo Petro, now a Colombian senator – won only 20.8% of those polled who would vote for him in the 2022 presidential elections. In other words, 80% of Colombians DO NOT favor Petro and his demagogic populist/socialist agenda.

Meanwhile, Petro’s chief campaign spokesperson María Antonia Pardo last week provoked even more national disgust with the former guerrilla by claiming that violent protesters who blocked ambulance transport of a mother and her critically ill baby to a hospital in Bogota weren’t responsible for ensuring the baby’s death. The baby “would have died anyway” from prenatal complications, according to the public statement given by Petro’s campaign aide.

In contrast to the feeble support for Petro, fully 36% of those polled haven’t declared in favor of any presidential candidate so far, while those that won at least some favorability in the poll – former Medellin Mayors Sergio Fajardo and Federico Gutierrez – together nabbed a collective 18% preference among those polled.

Meanwhile, according to Colombian Defense Ministry statistics analyzing the riots and demonstrations since the start on April 28 to May 24, a total of 2,426 blockades had been erected on Colombian highways, accompanied by 1,897 protest marches.

Seventeen civilians have died during the protests and 1,062 have reported injuries, according to the Ministry. Meanwhile, two Colombian policemen have died at the hands of violent protesters, while 1,083 police have suffered injuries (or were nearly killed) by protester bullets, bombs, Molotov cocktails, bricks, rocks, pipes and other armaments, according to the Ministry.

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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.

Contact US

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Medellin Herald: Find news, information, reviews and opinion on business, events, conferences, congresses, education, real estate, investing, retiring and more.
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  •  www.medellinherald.com 
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  • Medellin, Antioquia, Colombia

Medellín Photo Galery

Medellin, contrasting colors and styles by Gabriel Buitrago

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