HomeNewsBriefColombia Seeks Probe Into Beverage Giant’s Alleged Paramilitary Links
BRIEF

Colombia Seeks Probe Into Beverage Giant’s Alleged Paramilitary Links

AUC / 13 JUL 2016 BY MICHAEL LOHMULLER EN

A Colombian court is seeking to renew investigations into allegations the country’s iconic beverage company Postobón colluded with paramilitary death squads, refocusing attention on a dark chapter of Colombia’s recent history that remains largely unexplored — the “para-economy.” 

On July 11, the Justice and Peace Court, part of the Superior Tribunal of Bogotá, asked Colombia’s Attorney General’s Office to provide details on the state of investigations into the alleged financing of paramilitaries by Postobón in the 1990s, reported El Espectador.

The court’s request stems from a 434-page verdict sentencing Javier Antonio Quintero Coronel, alias “Pica Pica,” to eight years in prison for crimes committed during his militancy with the Héctor Julio Peinado Becerra (HJPB) paramilitary bloc. The HJPB was part of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia – AUC), a counter-insurgency heavily involved in organized crime that terrorized Colombia in the 1990s and 2000s.

Within the verdict is testimony given in October 2008 by Armando Madriaga Picón — a former local HJPB finance chief — that references payments made by Postobón to distribute beverages, according to Semana.

“Every month the Postobón distributor gave me 15 boxes of soda that I later sold to a warehouse,” Madriaga said. “They ordered the delivery truck to leave them aside, and the warehouse paid me 150,000 pesos (approximately $80 at the time) monthly for these beverages.

“This was ordered by Postobón’s manager during 1999 or 2000. Some of the payments were voluntary, others obligatory.”

Based in part on Madriaga’s testimony, the Superior Tribunal asked the Attorney General’s Office to report on the status of its investigations and if it has been able to determine whether Postobón’s payments to the AUC were made voluntarily.

Madriaga is not the first to implicate Postobón in the illicit financing of Colombia’s paramilitary groups, referred to locally as the “para-economy” scandal.

According to La Silla Vacia, several other former paramilitary members also accused Postobón of making payments to various AUC fronts, including annual payments of 10 million pesos (approximately $4,000 at the time) between 2001 and 2004 for each department along the Caribbean coast. Those making such claims include top AUC commander Salvatore Mancuso.

Postobón has rejected claims of past links to paramilitary organizations, saying it has always conducted business legally and upheld a strict code of conduct based on strong values and principles.

InSight Crime Analysis

Since the AUC finished demobilizing in 2006, a number of scandals have surfaced regarding collusion between the legal world and the paramilitaries. Most prevalent among these is the “para-politics” scandal, which uncovered evidence of the paramilitaries’ links to and collusion with hundreds of top political and military figures in Colombia.

However, investigations into the “para-economy” have been few and far between despite the plethora of testimonies about ties between the AUC and the business sector, including claims businesses paid the paramilitaries to threaten and murder troublesome unionists and workers. What investigations there have been have often stumbled over the murky issue of whether payments were voluntary or obligatory and whether the companies received anything in return.

SEE ALSO: AUC News and Profile 

Beyond the renewed focus on the topic, however, what is notable about the latest news on these investiations is the target. Established in 1904, Postobón is ubiquitous throughout Colombia, and is the country’s largest beverage company and one of the largest in South America. It joins such illustrious brands as Chiquita BananasNestlé and Coca Cola on the list of companies that have fallen under suspicion of colluding with the AUC.

Compartir icon icon icon

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Tags

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America's largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

AUC / 12 DEC 2011

Medellin native Henry de Jesus Lopez, alias "Mi Sangre," had a prolific criminal career that saw him…

COLOMBIA / 6 JUN 2013

A Colombian police operation aimed at tackling micro-trafficking across the country will be extended for 60 days to take down…

ARGENTINA / 28 SEP 2018

The arrest of several members of an international drug trafficking organization made up of soccer hooligans from Argentina and Colombia…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…