‘There are no miracles, the only way to get more is to produce more’: Luis Carlos Sarmiento

Seven decades have passed since this Luis Carlos Sarmiento Angulo began his business journey in a rented office of 18 square meters on Avenida Jiménez and Carrera 7 in Bogotá., with only two more employees. He had an engineer degree with honors from the Faculty of Engineering of the National University and had a strong belief that Colombia was a country where you could succeed.

Now, retired as chairman of the board of directors of Grupo Eval, he maintains the same optimism. Of course, he believes production is the only way out. “There are no miracles,” he told journalist Gustavo Gómez, director of Caracol Radio, in the first interview after taking the step. “General rule: If you look for good opportunities, you have to work for them, you have to investigate them, you have to get them. The only way to get more is to produce more,” he argued.

However, at the age of 91, he admits that he still doesn’t think about comfort. “I wake up several times at night and my mind keeps thinking. He said, “I try to convince her to sleep with me, but sometimes it’s hard for me.”

Luis Carlos Sarmiento Angulo, President of the holding company Grupo Avel Acciones y Valores, S.A.

picture:claudia rubio

in the matter, Sarmiento Angulo reveals that method and perseverance are part of the recipe to achieve set objectives And he learned this at home. “My parents were two unforgettable creatures. I always recognized his natural intelligence. There were nine children and the arrangement at home was extraordinary. There was no shouting, no fighting. He had a skill that I still remember. I am proud of how they managed to maintain order without arguments, without fights. “It was an ironclad order,” he said.

Today, as he leaves one of the most important financial and industrial groups in the country, which provides permanent employment to some 120,000 people, Sarmiento Angulo reveals that he too has gone through very difficult situations, as has Odebrecht. It happened with. But how did he get stuck in such a situation? “What happens is that, like all things in life, I trusted.” Because “Those guys (from Odebrecht) had an incredible reputation. He had a lot of contracted work in the United States,” he said.

“To partner with them (Odebrecht) we ask for recommendations, bank references, which are much more serious, as they vary from bank to bank. We constantly exchange information between banks, but today for you and tomorrow for me; The information should be very serious. And the information they gave us about those people was excellent,” he said. Anyway, whatever happened, happened. “Naturally, when the investigation started I opened the doors and said: Look at what you want and see what you want,” the businessman said.

And he added: “(Odebrecht) caused us more harm than you can imagine. And there’s no way to claim anything from it, because that company went bankrupt. For scoundrels, for vagabonds. Nothing else to do. “We had to suffer the consequences of all that.”

He said he agreed with what he said on the issue in his resignation speech to the board of directors: “Some people, without knowing the very long history of our values ​​and principles, have questioned our integrity in being a minority partner in development. raised.” The majority shareholder in a road project was Odebrecht, a company with great international reputation at the time, but which ultimately became one of the international criminals today, having carried it out on its own and without our knowledge or consent. A series of criminal acts made known to public opinion. public.”

Furthermore, he confessed that he feels at peace. “I have no regrets of any kind. I have worked for 70 years in my profession as an engineer in this country and I do not regret or regret any mistake,” he indicated.

personal satisfaction

The businessman recalled that he has always maintained his strong commitment to contribute to the development of the country. This is how he started the Cancer Treatment and Research Center (CTIC) project, which today has become one of the realities that makes him most proud.

He said he did this to “try to give back to society a part of what I have earned, what I have achieved, apart from taxes.” Cancer is a disease which has one name and thousands of types. We all have had some proximity to cancer. And so I thought that was a useful thing.

CTIC “is for everyone,” he says happily. “Whoever comes here, they take care of them. This is a non-profit organization. We give up any financial gains in the family now or anywhere in life. In addition to the economic benefits that can accrue to the hospital, in the law we have established the obligation to invest in research and replacement of equipment,” explained Sarmiento Angulo.

Regarding his family, he was full of warmth when talking about his wife, Mrs. Fanny Gutierrez. “We have been married for many years and it is fundamental to be able to create a stable family like ours,” he said.

With him he built a home that has brought him happiness: “My family, we are already reaching forty people. I live happily with my family, I like it. Our family life is very good. We meet constantly and share everything.

Luis Carlos Sarmiento Angulo, with his son Luis Carlos Sarmiento Gutiérrez.

picture:nestor gomez

In this conversation with Gustavo Gómez from Caracol Radio, Sarmiento Angulo also talks about the government of President Gustavo Petro and his main proposals: ‘total peace’ and social reforms. “‘Complete peace’ is, in my view, more a dream than a reality, unless clear, precise conditions are required, the fulfillment of which is enforceable and enforceable. If this is done, then obviously But ‘complete peace’ is the biggest solution.” The risk is that if this is not done, he explains, “what it becomes is adultery.”

From their point of view, the position of groups outside the law is very comfortable. “Our law is continuously becoming more tolerant.” And he recalled the lessons that have been a good part of negotiation processes to end armed conflict. “In the first ceasefire they offered some things to the guerrillas, but that has come to an unthinkable extreme. More every year, until they reach the point of asking for payment not to kill people. It is beyond natural reason. This is not an idea that anyone can discuss.”

For Sarmiento Angulo it is a complex issue because today it is about groups made up of people who obtain large margins by violating the law. “This crime occurred in an area of ​​very high economic profitability. Therefore, the discussion is more difficult. When only emotions are involved, everyone, no matter how disorganized, has some feelings of compassion, of helping others. But when you get to the level of money that these people make, nothing! There is no other choice. You have to order there, if not, there is no way. This is not a matter of many concessions, but of implementing legal requirements,” he stressed.

And with regard to the social reforms going on in the Congress, he indicated that an accurate calculation should be made as to what their effect would be. “The big discussions right now are in the numbers. big number. We should keep analyzing it continuously and people are already very aware of it. Ordinary people, whose money is in institutions, and who are guaranteed proper medical services, benefits, when they are told this is going to change, ask: Wait a moment, and what will my rights be? Said.

He explained that, in part, the reforms have not passed in the legislature because Colombian society is too well-informed: “An amendment as they are proposing, 20 or 30 years ago, would probably have passed in a session of Congress, and “Approved without further discussion. But people don’t eat stories these days.”

It’s time to build a bridge

Sarmiento Angulo highlighted that President Petro has built bridges with businessmen, as he has done with Grupo Avel in the ongoing projects in La Guajira. These arose from an exchange of ideas when they met in the House of Illustrious Guests near the San Juan de Manzanillo fortress in Cartagena. “What happened in La Guajira is a very important detail, because it is an engagement between representatives of the government and us, representatives of the private company. “I value it very much,” he said.

For Sarmiento Angulo, this seems like a better path to common benefit than the distance that exists between the Palacio and the business sector: “It’s a shame that it happens. This is experience. It is a shame to voluntarily abandon the knowledge gained from great experience. “A lot of effort has been wasted.”

That’s why he attaches great importance when you talk. “We have had the opportunity to talk with him and we have reached agreements on many things,” he reiterated about his meetings with the head of state.

In the interview, the businessman was optimistic about the country’s future because – he said – it is in the hands of “very good” and “hard-working” people like the Colombians. He also took the opportunity to explain his vision of the sector, which, in his experience, is tomorrow. “For me, Llano is the future of Colombia,” he said.

“In our country, the inhabited area, which is the northwest (occupying three mountain ranges and plains in the north of the country) is 46 percent of Colombia’s area. And, the second part, the Eastern Plains, is 54 percent. So more than half of our country is minimally exploited,” he argued. And he added that “there will be regular, well-paid work for all guerrillas (in Llano). For me, Colombia’s development potential in the Eastern Region is immense. Every morning I wonder how it is possible that we have done nothing about it.”

That’s why he said he put a lot of effort into building a communication route between Villavicencio and Bogotá. “We have made every effort to maintain traffic, but it is a very difficult topography. And there are many absurd discussions too. “Demand responsibility from us in some landslides that occur at a height of 200 meters from the road, like the one at Kilometer 58… For God’s sake, what have we got to do with it!”

Despite these difficulties its balance is positive. “At present, we have managed to regularize the traffic (on the road to Llano) and it is circulating, but we need to invest a little money on the road. “That highway, without pretense, is one of the most important in the country because it is the only means of mass communication between the western region, which is underdeveloped because of poverty, and the eastern region, which is underdeveloped because of lack of activity,” he noted.

Similarly, regarding the President’s announcement to nationalize the road of Llano, he said: “The works are a guarantee of the credits received. “No transfer can be made without paying it, and since there is no money to pay it, we have to continue the process we designed from the beginning: collecting tolls.”

He also mentioned the delay in future 4G validity periods announced by the government. “The matter is even more serious. While there is a financial cost for the use of these roads, there is no contribution from the government. The government does not pay for these roads. The money is what we have managed to get the contractors, with the financing to invest there, but in a systematic plan that later the users contribute for several years, in order to recover the investments and the bankers to finance them (financing). To be able to make payment. , In general, there is no money in the budget for these roads, except for very notable exceptions, like when an avalanche comes and takes down two bridges,” the businessman said.

He concluded that now, when he has decided to step aside from the management of the Board of Directors, he feels at peace because his son Luis Carlos Sarmiento Gutiérrez remains the head of Grupo Avel, who has very good preparation and “its Moreover, it seems to me, and I believe this is the feeling of many people, that he is a man with a big heart, committed – now hand in hand with the organization – to helping the less fortunate in La Guajira. In a series of projects for.

Armando Neira, Politics Editor @armandoneira

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