Friday, February 4, 2011

A Step Forward for Alleged Drummond Victims

A funeral of a mining union member (
In the latest turn in a long-running lawsuit against Alabama-based coal mining company Drummond, an Alabama court has ruled that the children of Colombian union organizers murdered by paramilitaries can sue the company in the U.S. for damages.

Jorge 40 - back in his jungle days.
In March 2001, paramilitary fighters pulled the union leaders off of a bus carrying Drummond mine workers and then killed the two men.  Jorge 40, a paramilitary leader now imprisoned in the U.S., later confessed to ordering the killings. But Drummond rejects allegations that the company colluded with the paramilitaries in the killings in order to repress union activity. The case has received additional attention because ex-Colombian Pres. Alvaro Uribe, who has been dogged himself by allegations of paramilitary ties, will have to testify in the case, although he is not accused himself.

Despite this victory, the plaintiffs are still a long way from collecting anything. Business collusion with paramilitaries, also called 'death squads' because of the massacres they committed, was apparently widespread for many years in Colombia. Like Colombia's leftist guerrillas, the paramilitaries are considered to be terrorists by the Colombian, U.S. and European governments. The Chiquita banana company even confessed to the U.S. government to having paid protection money to leftist guerrillas and later right-wing paramilitaries and paid a $25 million fine. However, proving any Drummond collusion with the paramilitaries has proven more difficult. Nevertheless, the case has damaged Drummond's public image, and the company is said to be looking into selling its Colombian mines.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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