Daniel Quintero: The mayor of Medellín unleashes a crisis by comparing businessmen to cartels | International

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The mayor of Medellín, Daniel Quintero, in a June 2020 portrait.JOAQUIN SARMIENTO (AFP)

Once again, the mediatic mayor of Medellín, Daniel Quintero, has made a declaration of war against the businessmen of the second largest city in Colombia. His words have caused a scandal in which President Iván Duque came out to intervene. In an interview with the magazine WeekQuintero said that the Grupo Empresarial Antioqueño (GEA) resembled the mafia cartels.

In a city that suffered years of violence due to the Pablo Escobar cartel, these statements have generated bitter political reactions at the start of an intense electoral year, months before the March congressional elections and the May presidential elections. One of the GEA companies, Argos, has announced a criminal complaint for libel against the mayor. Quintero, in addition, is at the gates of a revocation process for his mandate. This Monday, the Registrar’s Office endorsed the signatures submitted to request it by those who accuse him of carrying out mismanagement of the city.

The origin of Quintero’s latest controversy were some statements in which he also lambasted former President Álvaro Uribe and former mayor and center presidential candidate Sergio Fajardo. Despite being opposed, both are national figures with origins in Medellín. “What there was here was some cartels, some mafias, where the GEA, Uribismo, Fajardismo were added, and everyone had an agreement to take a small step and someone independent arrived, put their finger on the sore spot and that has hurt them a lot” Quintero told the publication.

Although he did not mention it by name, President Iván Duque referred to the controversy. “The bullying of politicians against private initiative, entrepreneurs and companies is typical of the failed methods of XXI Century Socialism. No to business stigmatization, or expropriations, or class hatred that has ruined several countries in the region,” the president tweeted on Monday. “The resentful socialists and their collaborators hide their corruption and their failures with slanderous discredit to private activity and defenders of democracy,” former President Uribe, Duque’s political mentor, previously reacted.

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a pivotal week

Medellín lives moments of extreme agitation. This week the result of two takeover bids (OPA) launched by banker Jaime Gilinski to take control of the most important assets of Grupo Empresarial Antioqueño (GEA), the food company Nutresa and the financial holding company Grupo Sura, will also be known. .

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The offensive of Gilinski, the second most important businessman in Colombia after the banker Luis Carlos Sarmiento Angulo, has also touched regional pride. The GEA has 14,000 shareholders, 40% with a participation below 2% and among the minority are the pension funds. But, in addition, after the era of terrorism lived under Pablo Escobar, an alliance between business, State and academia developed in the city, which is still maintained.

That is why the mayor’s words, pronounced precisely in the magazine that is owned by Gilinski, have also hurt. Argos, one of the companies mentioned, has released a statement in which it indicates that Quintero’s statements in the middle of the takeover bid “can negatively affect the perception of national and international investors as they are false and misleading.” And announced legal action.

Meanwhile, artists, cultural managers and other figures in the city have also spoken out in favor of the GEA. Several of them speak of the 125,000 direct jobs provided by these companies and others of the destruction of social capital during the Quintero administration. “The lie hurts the city, the dignity of the people of Medellín, ignores the horror story that we suffered and from which we managed to overcome with the sum of efforts, capacities, leadership, resources, kindness and solidarity,” said Proantioquia, an alliance public-private for the generation of employment in the city.

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It is not the first time that Quintero has lined up against this group. He campaigned criticizing businessmen and has said that the board of Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM) had interests that did not favor citizens. And in August of last year he sued the builders of the Hidroituango dam, but without informing the board of directors of the EPM, which caused the resignation of all its members outraged for considering that the mayor was skipping a historical tradition of corporate governance, the seal of one of the most emblematic companies in Colombia.

The mayor has not responded to the criticism or the message from President Iván Duque. At the end of Monday afternoon, he only referred to the revocation he could face and said that the Registrar’s Office did not allow its “graphologists to access the original signatures.”

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