Los Angeles Times | 10/6/2009 12:00:00 AM
Murder in Colombia and a U.S. multinational
Oct 6--Did officials of Drummond Co., a U.S. coal operation, play a role in the deaths of at least two men in Colombia?
Under international pressure, President Alvaro Uribe has made strides in addressing the problem. In 2007, the office of the attorney general created a special unit to focus on anti-union crimes, and it is working its way through the backlog of thousands of unsolved cases. More progress has been made in the last two years than in the previous 10, which is encouraging. It is troubling, however, that when a defendant is convicted, it is generally a hit man or low-level thug and almost never the mastermind or shot-caller who ordered a labor leader's murder.
That's why it is significant that a judge in Colombia has asked the attorney general to launch a criminal investigation of top executives at Alabama-based Drummond Co., a multinational coal company. At issue is whether Drummond executives collaborated with the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC in Spanish), a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, to murder union leaders organizing the Drummond coal mine in La Loma in 2001. Relatives of three slain men, Valmore Locarno, Victor Orcasita and Gustavo Soler, sued Drummond in Birmingham and lost -- proof, the company says, of its innocence. But new evidence has emerged: In sworn affidavits, ex-paramilitary soldiers are naming top Drummond executives as having requisitioned and paid for two of the murders. The company says those allegations are false.
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