One irreversible (for the moment) of the decades of apartheid in South Africa was the enrichment of the large corporations that benefited to the hilt from the super-exploitation of the black working class, an exploitation imposed by absolute racial discrimination. These corporations are now in Colombia collecting the harvest of paramilitary terror.
We calmly watch the very stars that shined so brightly in South Africa now balanced just above Colombia’s strategic companies and wealth. It is stated as bare fact of the business world that SAB Miller bought the Bavaria brewery that holds a monopoly of the drink in the country. South African Brewerages (SAB) recently ceased to be just a South African business.
On its Board, next to its local shareholders, sits three from Miller, the US owners of Philip Morris-Altra, the huge corporation that controls the market in food, coffee, and tobacco; a high executive in refining and marketing from British Petroleum (BP); another from Barclay’s Bank; the former British Ambassador to South Africa and the Vice-President of JP Morgan Cazenove Ltd. (an alliance of JP Morgan Chase of Rockerfeller and the British group Cazenove) and representatives of other British and North American financial groups together with Standard Bank of South Africa. Among the shareholders is the Brandes fund, one of the North American co-owners of the “Spanish” Repsol corporation.
Another confluence of international capital has the potential to grow in Anglo American PLC. Now the co-owner of the coal mine of El Cerejon and its associate AngloGold Ashanti which, with the name of Kedhada, seeks to get at the gold in South Bolivar, Caldas, and Risaralda.
The consortium also includes JP Moran Chase, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, Philips, British Petroleum, Shell and the Oppenheimer family, the wealthiest family in South Africa. This mining corporation made a killing on apartheid and today exploits minerals throughout the world: gold, platinum, coal, copper, and diamonds (with its associate De Beers).
Next to Anglo American on the list of investors in El Cerrejon is Glencore and its associates, Billiton, the old mining arm of Shell and then Xstrata. Glencore exploits aluminum, zinc, nickel, coal, oil, and agrobusiness (such as sugar cane plantations) in various countries. Billiton already had the nickel mines in Cerromatoso in Cordoba, then Carbones (coal) La Jagua in Cesar. Now it has acquired the ECOPETROL refinery in Cartagena.
They appear as if they are Swiss businesses, and in effect there are Swiss investors with a privileged relationship with Credit Suisse – First Boston, but on the Board of Xstrata there also appear representatives of JP Morgan Cazenove Ltd. And Gencore, the South African associate that exploits gold (Gengold), platinum (Impala), and coal (Billiton).
The South African businesses served as the cutting edge for transnational capital, as the above cases show. Apartheid served them well to accumulate at rates and rhythyms unthinkable in other places. It also altered international relations between capital and labor.
At the same time, the Apartheid regime became the global centre for war. The country filled with the headquarters of mercenary companies.
In the apartheid regime were born Peter McAleese, David Tomkins, and other British and South African mercenaries of the Angolan war. After his defeat, the Brit McAleese joined the 44^th Parachute Brigade of the South African Army in what was considered the most important epoch in his life. He then went on to a mercenary company called COIN Security Group (coin as in counterinsurgency) and then, with his friend Tomkins and 16 other British, South African, and Australian mercenaries, traveled between London and Colombia on contract for narcotrafficker Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha to train the paramilitaries of the Puerto Boyaca and El Azul Putumayo autodefensas to “fight the guerrillas”. They were preceded by the Israeli mercenary Yair Klein, who swears he was called there by the Americans.
McAleese and Tomkins joined, with Washington, in the work of the “Pepes”, with Carlos Castano and other paramilitaries who ultimately came to be known as the “Autodefensas Unidas de Cordoba and Uraba” and later, the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC). They thus gave their support to the authors of a flood of massacres and their beneficiaries.
Things have come full circle. If the economy of large landowners, the latifundia, has engorged itself thanks to paramilitarism, transnational capital has done so far more. The mercenary contribution to neoliberalism in Colombia is being made.
South Africa is no longer governed by apartheid, but terror has opened a new nest in Colombia for a new, capitalist super-exploitation of workers, drowned in successive ‘labor reforms’ imposed on unions dismantled by assassinations conducted by McAleese’s graduates. The mercenary troops assassinated union leaders. Among them, for example, were 100 oil workers and today ECOPETROL (Colombia’s national oil company) and other national companies have been privatized.
In South Africa the activity of mercenaries has been restricted, but the ex-councillor Carolina Barco, now the Colombian Ambassador to the US, noted when she visited South Africa in June that Colombia could place ‘defense teams’ there, mainly with light arms for the Army and Police and to exchange security information.
There’s no doubt that they have exchanged stocks. The Santo Domingo family and other Colombian oligarchs have made the decision to “cease being the head of the mouse to become the tail of the lion”. The lion is transnational capital, still flush from its huge meal under South African apartheid. The lions have left the hunting grounds of Apartheidland, and are now hunting in AUC-Land.
Hector Mondragon is a Colombian activist and economist.