Top Medellin Industrialists Contradict Medellin Mayor Quintero’s Unproven Claims on EPM
Grupo Argos President Jorge Mario Velásquez and Grupo Nutresa President Carlos Ignacio Gallego Palacio on April 19 both issued extraordinary public statements contradicting Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero’s latest unproven assertions claiming that Medellin’s leading industrialists have been trying to manipulate the naming of the EPM general manager and supposedly rob EPM.
Hours later, Grupo Sura President Gonzalo Perez added his public voice to a growing chorus of business leaders, all denouncing Mayor Quintero’s political fabrications.
Quintero repeated these baseless claims against Medellin’s business sector in the April 17, 2021 edition of Semana magazine, in an interview with Semana editor Vicky Davila.
“Misinformation and lies affect trust, and without trust it is not possible to establish relationships and cooperate,” Nutresa President Gallego stated in reaction to Quintero’s unproven statements in the Semana interview.
Just as he did during his 2019 campaign for Mayor and subsequently in 2020 and 2021, Mayor Quintero has been issuing President-Trump-like conspiracy theories alleging that the local business sector has acted like a “deep state” in robbing, manipulating and mismanaging city-owned EPM.
Ironically, in an historic first, Mayor Quintero this month named no-less-than his fourth EPM general manager of EPM in just 16 months as Mayor — having first hired and then fired (with no explanation) prior GM Álvaro Guillermo Rendón, in February 2021.
That unexplained firing subsequently led to Quintero’s ad-hoc appointment of EPM engineer Monica Ruiz Arbelaez as “acting GM” for just two months, followed by Quintero’s naming of Alejandro Calderón Chatet as “official” GM earlier this month – an appointment that lasted all of 10 days, until Calderón Chatet resigned following a public scandal over falsifying his resume.
Then last week (April 13), Quintero announced the naming of his fourth EPM GM in 16 months — EPM board member Jorge Andrés Carrillo – which raised new questions about the legality of any current EPM board member resigning to become an EPM general manager, as certain Colombian laws seem to prohibit.
No Mayor in Medellin history has ever hired and fired four EPM general managers inside 16 months. But Quintero’s seemingly bizarre hiring-and-firing behavior comes on top of his even more troubling management of legal matters surrounding city-owned EPM, which generates more than 20% of Medellin’s annual revenues.
For example: Wall Street bond rater Fitch last year cut EPM’s bond rating when Quintero prompted EPM’s entire board of directors to resign en-masse, following Quintero’s failure to consult with them on his high-risk, multi-billion-dollar lawsuit against the Hidroituango hydroelectric project contractors– a lawsuit that some top legal experts contend amounts to EPM suing itself.
And now, Quintero is spreading new stories about how Argos, Nutresa and other major Medellin industrial companies — the so-called Grupo Empresarial Antioqueño (GEA) group – supposedly plotted to pressure Quintero to name a “GEA-connected” official as EPM general manager.
In response, Argos Group President Jorge Mario Velásquez issued the following public statement, reproduced here (below) in full:
Grupo Argos Bulletin
Medellín, April 19, 2021
Dear [Argos employee] collaborators,
Faced with the statements made by the mayor of Medellín in different media in which he makes false allegations against Grupo Argos, I want to report the following:
On November 7, 2019, a meeting was held with the elected mayor of Medellín [Daniel Quintero] at the request of an invitation that businessman Fernando Corchuelo extended to his residence. We attended this meeting in the company of David Bojanini, former president of Grupo Sura and Carlos Ignacio Gallego, president of Grupo Nutresa.
In this space they talked about the city, the role of Proantioquia, the history of collaborative and virtuous construction of the university-company-state triad, the educational, health and cultural institutions of Medellín, among others.
Within the framework of this meeting, the mayor apologized for the treatment he had had towards businessmen during the electoral campaign and also asked us that since he had been absent from Medellín for a long time, he was grateful for us to share possible names of people who we consider could accompany him in his administration.
Subsequently, on December 12, 2019, we held a new meeting at the home of Mayor Quintero. David Bojanini, former president of Grupo Sura, Carlos Ignacio Gallego, president of Grupo Nutresa and myself attended this space.
We told him that in response to the request that he had made us to propose names for the EPM management, some ideas could be considered: the first, which embraced his campaign approach of wanting stable leaderships and with a long-term vision in the company, could be the to give continuity to the team led by [former EPM GM] Jorge Londoño de la Cuesta.
We also stated that a person such as Luis Fernando Rico, who had just been president of Isagen, would have all the managerial, technical and human capacities for this purpose.
Finally, we suggested that in any case, hiring a headhunting firm would be ideal for the purpose of finding the ideal candidate and with the required skills to lead [EPM,] the second largest company in the country.
With this clarity of the facts, and describing what really happened, I would like to categorically reject the false statements of the mayor, who affirms that these businessmen went there to name the management of Empresas Públicas de Medellín, insinuating that we have dark interests in it.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Our sole and genuine purpose was to help him, at the express request of Mayor Quintero himself.
As we have stated on several occasions, Grupo Argos does not have, nor has it had any participation in the governing bodies of EPM.
It is no secret to anyone that as entrepreneurs we have maintained a harmonious and respectful relationship with city administrations for decades, always ensuring that the symbiosis and collaborative public-private fabric are preserved, which has allowed Medellín to be the flagship city that it is today and an example where the different actors converse and unite in a transparent way around common purposes of building a better society.
I also reiterate that Grupo Argos, the company in which I am immensely proud to work and preside, has stood out for being an organization recognized worldwide for its evident contribution to the progress and economic and social development of the countries where we are present.
Our higher purpose transcends the generation of economic value and is based on a genuine commitment to simultaneously contribute to building better conditions for all stakeholders, including our fellow citizens.
In the particular case of Medellín, we are proud to have contributed more than COP$12 billion [US$3.3 million] to provide 100 Intensive Care Units to various hospitals in the city, among many other actions carried out during this pandemic, and that you are all aware-of.
Grupo Argos is an organization with 87 years of history. Since its birth in Medellín it has expanded to 17 countries on the continent; always generating decent and quality employment, accompanying the growth of communities, clients and suppliers, and participating in the solution of social problems, through which it has been linked with generous philanthropy actions to support the most vulnerable in the countries where it operates.
These actions have been carried out under the vision of social-conscious capitalism and with the conviction that modern business action balances economic benefit with the development and well-being of its collaborators, suppliers, clients, citizens and the environment in a harmonious and respectful way.
Finally, I would like to invite you [Mayor Quintero] to exercise inspiring, truthful and credible leadership, which is not built on the basis of grievances, and which avoid polarization so that our city can resume the path of growth.
Jorge Mario Velásquez
President, Argos Group