COLOMBIANS SUE DRUMMOND AGAIN, CLAIM US COAL GIANT PAID KILLERS, COLLABORATED IN DRUG TRADE

By Stephen Flanagan Jackson

     BIRMINGHAM,ALA.—
Three Colombia union leaders are long
dead---all felled in 2001 at the hands of Colombian right-wing assassins
near  Drummond coal mines in
northeast Colombia where they labored and led coal miners’ union
Sintramienergetica.   From
their graves, the shadows of the obscure trio continue to cast a pall over the
powerful, profitable US multinational Drummond Coal. 

     Undaunted by two
losses in US Federal Courts, lawyers this Spring have filed back-to-back
blockbuster civil lawsuits for wrongful deaths against the Alabama coal giant
Drummond Co., Inc. The latest legal gauntlet was launched May 28 in US Court in
Birmingham on behalf of 252 Colombian plaintiffs, all relatives of 67 Colombia
unionists, farm workers and other victims of the mortal wrath of the Colombia
paramilitary.

     The newest lawsuit
claims Drummond collaborated with the AUC (the Spanish acronym for the United
Self Defense Forces of Colombia) to protect Drummond’s interests in the Cesar
and Magdalena regions of Colombia. The suit pulls no punches, detailing charges
that Drummond paid millions to the AUC to kill and to terrorize innocent
residents perceived as supportive of Colombia union activities and sympathetic
to leftist guerilla. Named as defendants in the civil action are Drummond Co.;
Augusto Jiminez, president of Drummond Limited in Colombia; Alfredo Araujo,
Drummond director of community relations in Colombia; and Jim Atkins, Drummond
security chief in Colombia and a former CIA operative in Bolivia. 

     A shocking charge in
the new lawsuit claims that Drummond also provided assistance to the AUC’s drug
trafficking and that Drummond management in Colombia received a portion of the
profits from the paramilitary drug trade and international smuggling.

     The lawsuit is a
bloody, brutal microcosm of the interminable civil war in Colombia.  A 60-page
complaint, the civil action
contains allegation after allegation, describing how innocent Colombians were
killed in or near their homes or kidnapped and “disappeared”, their spouses and
children tied up and beaten, and people pulled off buses and summarily executed
on the spot. Implicated in the lawsuit along with Drummond executives are
notorious paramilitary such as Rodrigo Tovar Pupo known as “Jorge 40,”  Oscar Jose
Ospino alias “Tolemaida,”
and Alcides Manuel Mattos alias “Samario.”  The list of AUC key players includes
Jhon Jairo Esquiel
alias “El Tigre” as well as other paras listed in the lawsuit only by their
alias, such as Kener, El Chino, El Toro, Machoman, 05, Pelo de Puya,
Cortico,  El Enano, Pirulo, Amin,
Don Luis, and Cachaco.  Area
politicians and low-level government officials in the region charged with
conspiring in the violent “cleansing” scheme between Drummond and the AUC
include Jorge Castro Pacheco and Guillermo Sanchez Quintero.  

     The lawsuit  reiterates negative references to former
DAS(Colombia’s version of the FBI) director Jorge Noguera, maintaining Noguera
acted as a liaison with the AUC Northern Block.  The lawsuit says that “the AUC
leaders are in prison for
their role in a shared crime, while the businessmen and politicians who were
their partners remain free and are enjoying the substantial fruits of their
criminal enterprise.”  

     “There is almost
complete legal impunity for murders committed in Cesar province by the
AUC,”  the lawsuits argues,
explaining the rationale for filing the action in the US. The allegations do
not stop there, however, continuing charges that “the collaboration between the
AUC and the government of Colombia goes to the highest levels and ensures that
no serious action will be taken to bring justice in Colombia.”

     A similar suit  charges “symbiotic relations between
the Colombia military(funded by US taxpayers) and paramilitary” in its support
of Drummond. That suit also seeking
monetary damages from Drummond was filed several weeks ago  in March at the same
Hugo Black Federal Courthouse here in
the names of  eight children of the
three  murdered Colombia coal
miners. Gustavo Soler, Valmore Locarno, and Victor Hugo Orcasita were  slain in 2001
in two separate
violent---and unsolved---incidents near
multinational  Drummond’s
gigantic complex of strip coal mines, railways and port facilities in
Colombia’s wild, untamed northeast.

This particular “déjà vu” legal action is assigned to Judge David
Proctor in U.S. District Court in Birmingham, Drummond’s corporate home.  Proctor is
expected to rule by mid-June
on Drummond’s request for dismissal.

Ironically, Drummond Co. recently announced the opening of an additional
coal mine in Colombia as well as declaring an anticipated 23 percent production
increase for 2009. Drummond’s annual Colombia coal output is expected to spike
to 27 million tons. Drummond strip mines, ships, and sells Colombia coal
internationally. One of Drummond’s main customers is  the Southern Company and its
subsidiary, Alabama Power,
which receives coal shipments through the Port of Alabama in Mobile, and burns
the high-quality coal to generate electricity for customers in the southeast
US.  Drummond’s largest international
customer is Israel.

     Garry
Neil Drummond, a former University of Alabama trustee, runs the day-to-day
operations of Drummond Co., a closely-held corporation owned by the Drummond
family. Drummond is a member of the UA Business School Hall of Fame.

     The
March  2009 lawsuit charges that
Drummond Co. created a sham corporation---Drummond Limited---to shield the
company from liability for anti-union violence in Colombia. This lawsuit is
similar to the case which the Colombia labor union lost in front of Judge Karon
Bowdre and  a Federal jury in July
2007. Several union colleagues and widows of the three assassinated
Colombia  workers were the
unsuccessful plaintiffs in that litigation. Their appeal to the US 11th Circuit
Court in Atlanta also met defeat in December 2008. William Pryor, the former
Alabama Attorney General, is a Bush appointee on that Court.  Although it ruled in
Drummond’s favor,
the Appeals Court agreed that US multinational corporations operating abroad
may be held liable for violations of the US Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789 and
the Torture Victim Protection Act. This was the first ATCA case to go to a jury
trial.

Atchison and Starnes law firm of Birmingham handled Drummond’s
successful defense as local counsel in the first two rounds and is in the same
role now.  Garve Ivey, Jr. of
Jasper, Ala. filed the two current civil suits.  Drummond attorneys have filed a
motion to dismiss which is
awaiting Judge Proctor’s decision.
William Jeffress of Baker Botts in Washington, DC is once again
Drummond’s lead lawyer.  The
plaintiffs’ lead attorney continues to be Terry Collingsworth of Conrad and
Scherer of Washington, DC.

Collingsworth postulates the axiom of “double jeopardy” does not apply
since the children of the murdered Drummond employees and the latest 252
plaitiffs were not participants in the prior case and are not bound by that
judgment.

Collingsworth says a key plaintiffs’ witness is now released from a
Colombia prison  and “in a safe
place and ready to testify.”
Collingsworth is referring to Rafael Garcia, the Colombian Canary who
served a stretch in La Modelo prison in Colombia where he told a
LatinAmericanPost.com journalist that he saw money being passed from a Drummond
executive to the right-wing paramilitaries for the killings of union leaders at
Drummond’s coal mines. Collingsworth also says other key Colombia witnesses are
available who will testify as to Drummond Co.’s involvement in the planning,
the payoffs and the execution of the murders in cahoots with Colombia
right-wing paramilitaries who have been declared “terrorists” by the US
government.   Salvatore
Mancuso, a former top Colombia paramilitary leader is presently being held in a
US jail on drug charges. Mancuso has squawked to the Colombia attorney
general’s office about Drummond’s complicity with the AUC in the murders of
Soler,  Locarno, and Orcasita.

“We absolutely maintain our innocence,” responds a Drummond
spokesman.     

(Jackson is associate editor of LatinAmericanPost.com and associate
professor at Stillman College, Tuscaloosa. Jackson has been reporting from
Colombia and Alabama about Drummond’s Colombia coal business since the early
90s. Contact sfjackson10@hotmail.com)

Source: Federal Jack’s Original Article – by Stephen Flanagan Jackson

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