Cementos Argos SA, Colombia’s biggest cement maker, paid “fair prices” for the land it owns in Montes de Maria, a region where violence between paramilitaries and guerrillas displaced thousands, said Camilo Abello, the company’s vice-president of corporate affairs.
Abello denied any wrongdoing in the purchases after Colombian opposition congressman Ivan Cepeda said Argos benefitted from illegal sales in a region where violence forced many to flee or sell their land at low prices. Cepeda asked the United Nations in an Oct. 25 statement to pull Argos from its carbon trading program.
“Argos to date has received no complaints from the communities or the people that had been owners of the lands in the past,” Abello said in an e-mailed response to questions today.
Argos’s investments in Montes de Maria, which include part of its carbon-offsetting reforestation program, have created jobs and are contributing to the region’s development, Abello said. The company’s holdings in the region include 2,100 hectares (5,189 acres) in the municipality of San Onofre, which it obtained after satisfying the required legal process to purchase the land, he said.
Abello said as an “additional due diligence,” the company has requested that Colombia’s land registry verify the authenticity of the titles held in the region and verify the authorizations required for sale by victims of displacement.
Argos shares fell 0.2 percent to 10,360 pesos at 1:32 p.m. local time in Bogota trading. They have fallen 9.1 percent this year, compared with a 15 percent drop in Colombia’s benchmark IGBC Index.