Dodgy clans with ties to organized crime tightened their grip on Colombia’s congress on Monday.
Senator Arturo Char of the controversial Char Clan from Barranquilla was elected president of the Senate and Representative German Blanco, who is tied to dodgy Medellin clans, took over the gavel in the House.
Senate | The Char Clan
The Char Clan, founded by patriarch Fuad Char, has virtually made the northern Atlantico province its private property through alliances with death squads, and allegedly through corruption and election fraud.
Atlantico Governor Elsa Noguera is considered a leading member of the clan and as is Barranquilla Mayor Jaime Pumarejo, who would be unemployed had it not been for the support of the clan and their party, Radical Change.
The election of the youngest of the Char brothers as president of the Senate on Monday indicated how the clan is able to inflate its power in national politics despite the conviction for ties to paramilitary groups of Arturo’s cousin David, and the criminal investigations against himself for election fraud and his brother Alex for corruption.
The Char Clan’s economic empire
Olimpica is one of Colombia’s largest super market chains.
- Radio Olimpica
The Char Clan’s radio statio, Radio Olimpica, is one of Colombia’s most popular radio stations.
- Atletico Junior
Barranqulla’s Atletico Junior is one of Colombia’s most successful football clubs in history.
- Banco Serfinanza
Serfinanza is the Char Clan’s bank that has lent money to senators, Monday’s vote revealed, and has been accused by fugitive former Congresswoman Aida Merlano of being used to distribute funds for vote-buying.
- Barranquilla Port Society
The Char family is a shareholder in the port of Barranquilla, the largest on the Caribbean coast and of major importance for drug traffickers.
- Empaques Transparentes
Empaques Transparentes is a packaging factory, which provides much of the plastics for products sold in the Olimpica supermarkets.
- Aeropuertos de Oriente
Aeropuertos de Oriente is the owner of six airports in the Caribbean region and along the Caribbean Coast. President Ivan Duque chose two of their airports for a pilot to reopen national air traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Portales Urbanos
Portales Urbanos is the Char Family’s construction company that designs and builds the dynasty’s supermarkets.
- Laboratorios Best
Laboratorios Best is a pharmaceutical company that produces medicinal drugs and botanical products.
Seven senators declared themselves impeded to vote because they were either indebted with the clan’s bank, Serfinanza, or used the clan’s radio station, Radio Olimpica, to get elected.
Char, who defeated anti-mafia advocate Senator Ivan Marulanda (Green Alliance) with 76 to 20, has failed to report his possible conflicts of interests.
House of Representatives | The Medellin mafia
Only a few had heard of the House’s new president, Representative German Blanco (Conservative Party), who was elected after keeping a low profile for two years.
Over the past years, Blanco has expanded his power in the Conservative Party with outside support of the narco-elite from his hometown Medellin.
These clans have been closely tied to former President Alvaro Uribe, now-defunct paramilitary organization AUC, local crime syndicate La Oficina de Envigado and the founder of AUC dissident group AGC, “Don Mario.”
The Medellin clans
- The Gaviria family
Suspended Antioquia Governor Anibal Gaviria (Liberal Party) was elected governor in 2003 with evident support of now-demobilized paramilitary leader “El Aleman” and the alleged support of at least five other former AUC commanders. The Gaviria family’s businesses have been convicted for mass land dispossession, but no family member was ever called to trial.
- The Valencia family
Fabio Valencia rose to power as a Conservative Party politician in Antioquia with the help of one of Colombia’s most senior drug traffickers, Ramon Isaza, according to the court. Instead of being tried, former President Alvaro Uribe, a former Medellin Cartel associate, made Valencia minister of the interior and justice. The powerful politician refused to resign after his brother Leon was arrested over his ties to AGC founder “Don Mario” while he was the director of the Medellin prosecution office. Valencia became a founding member of former President Alvaro Uribe’s Democratic Center Party in 2013 and has remained in low profile since.
- The Ramos family
Former Antioquia Governor Luis Alfredo Ramos is a patron of President Ivan Duque who became allies with the Valencia and Uribe families decades ago allegedly after aligning with paramilitary organization AUC. The family patriarch is reportedly facing a 19-year prison sentence over his ties to drug traffickers close to the Uribe family and the founders of the AUC, the Castaño Clan.
- The Suarez family
The Suarez family, which is led by fugitive former Senator Oscar Suarez, controls Bello, a city that is part of Medellin’s metropolitan area. The clan leader’s conviction and growing resistance against the mafia’s political power has severely reduced the family’s power, which lost representation in the senate in 2018.
The elections of Char and Blanco returned control over the presidencies of Congress to President Ivan Duque and the dodgy clans that helped the president get elected in 2018.