Colombia: protests after arrest of populist outlaw banker

The president of a failed Colombian financial firm suspected of laundering drug profits and bilking thousands of mostly poor investors of millions of dollars was arrested in Panama and promptly deported Nov. 20. David Murcia Guzmán, 28, founder of the DMG financial services firm, was detained near Panama City as he prepared to flee to Costa Rica, which has no extradition treaty with Colombia.

DMG is one of 40 financial services firms in Colombia under investigation for running suspected pyramid schemes. Murcia faces money laundering and bribery charges. Six other DMG officials face similar charges.

But the Murcia arrest and shutdown of DMG led hundreds of investors to protest on the company’s behalf in Bogotá. Police tear-gassed demonstrators who blocked a principal street in the capital, holding banner praising DMG as a “Company of the People.”

Murcia boasted that his company represented an “economic revolution” against the country’s banking system, whose high-interest loans have long frustrated Colombia’s working class. His attorney said the company did nothing illegal.

But President Alvaro Uribe painted a different picture. “We could be facing a blow from the drug traffickers, from the guerrillas, from the paramilitaries who try to launder money by tricking Colombians, and skillfully invoking unjust causes to create hate between Colombians,” Uribe said after Murcia’s arrest. (LAT, AP, Nov. 21)

See our last posts on Colombia and the econocataclysm.