The BulldogRupert Stebbings
Ni piratas ni conquistadores
Colombia es un país que vivió hasta hace una década en la oscuridad económica y financiera , la inseguridad ahuyentaba a los inversorsionistas extranjeros y nacionales y la prensa extranjera hizo un trabajo extraordinario al asegurarse de que cualquier persona que pensara en invertir en el país fuera ahuyentada con las historias de asesinatos, guerrilla, corrupción y el negocio temible de la cocaína.
Ahora, después de 10 años la seguridad se ha restablecido en la mayor parte del país, y a pesar de que la corrupción sigue siendo una piedra en el zapato para Colombia, estamos viendo que la inversión extranjera llega a niveles récord impulsando especialmente a los sectores petrolero y minero y permitiendo la internacionalización de sectores como el de distribución, lo que le está dando a los consumidores Colombianos un abanico de posibilidades que nunca antes habían visto.
Colombian’s should be proud that there country is not part of the Bolivirian alliance that has simply destroyed investor confidence in countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina & even potentially Peru and be capitalizing on the opportunity that creates to attract even more investors to the country.
Instead what do we have – certain segments of the press and some politicians acting in a neo xenophobic manner, making allegations against foreign companies that are groundless at best and in many cases are close to libellous.
Colombia is the 5thrated country on the planet (World Bank) for the protection of investors rights, the laws are strict and overseas investors whilst having to comply with a mountainous amount of legislation are happy to do so in order to invest in a country where they feel protected and safe.
The way the press acts here you would think that foreign investors are arriving on pirate ships in order to plunder the country of its natural resources whilst at the same time forcing local Colombian’s into slave labor.
One can expect little more of a reactionary media outlet such as Al Jazeera who’s recent documentary regarding the gold mining sector was a disgraceful distortion of the truth however when one observes leading TV channels and local newspapers releasing similarly distorted articles with regard to overseas oil & mining companies it is at the very best disappointing. It serves just one long term purpose – to dissuade much needed foreign companies from coming to Colombia with both their money and much needed knowledge, these people come from sector where the country needs help.
Colombia is a country which has historically in the mining sector – the number of deaths in locally owned coal mining operations is a disgrace, the country up until last year did nothing about it, miners were essentially a disposable asset it appears, at the same time illegal gold miners were allowed to pollute the rivers using the incredibly dangerous potion of cyanide and mercury. Foreign companies are working with the Government to clean those rivers and stop these practices as well as educating those artisanal workers and in many cases employing them – also anyone reading should freely search for statistics with regard to deaths, they simply don’t happen in foreign owned gold mines because the operations comply to international standards.
Gold in 20 years will be the number 1 component of GDP in Colombia and that will be in great part due to the expertise and investment of foreign companies – Peru was built on gold, it has infrastructure that this country can only dream of and that gold mining business was largely developed by foreign companies.
In the oil sector Ecopetrol makes all the headlines but a massive portion of their oil is discovered using the knowledge of overseas companies who then develop those fields before handing over up to 60% of that oil to Ecopetrol to re-sell on behalf of the country. Those oil companies paying higher wages than almost anyone else and have created 10,000’s of jobs all across Colombia, when the truck drivers went on strike earlier this year those of the oil sector continued to work as they are paid more than other drivers.
But instead of looking for the good news the press attempt to tear them down and paint them as some sort of tyrannical invaders who run their companies in a suspicious manner.
Let us be crystal clear, the behavior of Alange was a disgrace, they misguided investors and have paid the price, you can change the name to Petro Magdalena but investors won’t forget what happen however you cannot then persecute the whole sector for that reason. That is the same as suggesting that just because the Nule family are facing prison all construction companies should be treated in the same manner – it simply is not just and cannot be permitted, there are over 90 foreign oil companies in this country and whilst they are business’s they at the same time helping the long term sustainability of this country.
The latest case in point has been a three day attack by La Republica on Pacific Rubiales, it is wholly lacking in substance and can be considered little more than sensationalist, let us look at the two main pillars of their arguments.
Firstly that the underlying companies of the group by definition mean there is a lack of transparency and the insinuation that this could lead to some sort of underhand behavior. One only needs to look around Colombia or any other country for that manner to find masses of companies with subsidiaries, it is nothing new and if such poorly disguised allegations are to made they should be made in general against any such companies.
Secondly there is the attack on certain members of the Rubiales group because they have people sitting on multiple boards of directors. This is an absolutely laughable allegation – it is such a common practice in Colombia and in fact in many countries that he singling out of one group for such an article seems like a witch hunt. There may well be corporate governance or transparency issues when it comes to multiple board positions but if you are going to go down that road then please do it as a general campaign not just picking on one company.
Historically this country has grown used to foreign journalists publishing negative articles about this beautiful country, it has only served to strengthen local resolve to prove to the world that not every Colombian is a drug baron or a guerrilla, the last thing this country needs is a press within the country attacking from within a group of investors who have come to this country and invested their money at a time when many still shy away, by all means a free press but please one that is fair as well.