A former paramilitary commander Thursday testified in a Colombian court that multinational mining company Drummond paid the AUC to protect its railroad.
Hundreds of victims are suing the coal mining company for its alleged role in sponsoring the paramilitary group which disbanded in 2006, reports newspaper El Heraldo. While the lawsuit is a U.S. case, it is being heard in Colombia.
John Jairo Esquivel Cuadrado, alias “El Tigre”, former head of the paramilitary front Juan Andres Alvarez, testified that a meeting was held in 1999 in which the AUC’s Northern Bloc leader Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, alias “Jorge 40″, and Drummond officials agreed that the paramilitary group would protect the company’s railway in exchange for a large sum of money.
The first payment received was used to purchase arms for the front, testified El Tigre.
Another AUC leader, Alcides Mattos Tabares, alias “El Samario”, testified earlier this month that Drummond paid him $1.5 million to kill company unionists, specifically naming two union leaders who “had” to be killed for allegedly organizing a strike that would have damaged the company financially.
He went on to say that the Northern Bloc of the AUC was able to expand their activities due to monthly payments of over $100,000 provided by Drummond.
It is believed close to 600 people were the target of assasination attempts ordered by the company in the decade after 1995, when the Alabama-based company began its Colombian operations.
The company produces some 25 million tons of coal in Colombia annually.
Drummond’s attorneys have rejected the allegations, refusing to accept claims of paramilitary ties, saying that they relied on Colombian military and their own security personnel to defend against guerrilla attacks.