14 February, 2013Following the murders of two union leaders in Colombia in 2001, Jaime Blanco, a former contractor for the US-based coal company Drummond Co., was convicted of murder on 25 January 2013 and sentenced to nearly 38 years in prison.
The court found that Blanco, who supplied food services for Drummond's La Loma mine in the northern department of Cesar, had arranged with rightwing paramilitaries for the killing of Valmore Locarno and Víctor Hugo Orcasita, leaders of the mine's union. Blanco's assistant, Jairo Charris, was convicted in 2009 in the same murder plot and was sentenced to 30 years.
Judge Castiblanco also ordered prosecutors to investigate Drummond's president and three former employees to determine whether they might also be responsible after several witnesses, including the convicted man, alleged Drummond senior managers ordered the killings.
In addition, the judge supported a request by the victims' relatives to ask the Supreme Court to investigate former assistant prosecutor Edgardo Maya for allegedly failing to act to protect unionists in Cesar; Maya is Jaime Blanco's half-brother.
Blanco, who ran a food services concession at the Drummond mine, was sentenced to 37 years and 11 months in prison and fined him $369,000. The judge said that Blanco "took advantage of his closeness to commanders of the paramilitaries" to help him eliminate Locarno and Orcasita, who represented union members who had complained about his food service.
Drummond management has long been suspected of involvement of the murders of Locarno and Orcasita and of another La Loma unionist, Gustavo Soler, who was killed later in 2001.
The US-based International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) and the United Steelworkers (USW) union filed a civil suit against Drummond in March 2002 under the 1789 Alien Tort Statute in federal court in Birmingham, Alabama, where the company is based. The Birmingham jury found the company not liable in 2007.