Venezuela: The Spectre of Big Oil

by Paul Kellogg

Global Research, March 4, 2008
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“Never again will they rob us — the ExxonMobil bandits. They are imperial, American bandits, white-collared thieves. They turn governments corrupt, they oust governments. They supported the invasion of Iraq.”

This was the response from Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez to the successful lawsuit by the world’s biggest corporation (ExxonMobil), freezing $12 billion in assets of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA — a serious escalation in Big Oil’s long running dispute with Chávez and the movement he represents.

ExxonMobil isn’t suing PDVSA because it needs the money. The world’s largest publicly traded corporation recorded profits of $40.6-billion (U.S.) in 2007, up three per cent from 2006’s record of $39.6-billion. “If Exxon were a country, its 2007 profit would exceed output of two-thirds of the world’s nations. Its 2007 revenue of $404-billion (U.S.) would place it among the 30 largest countries, ahead of such middle powers as Sweden and Venezuela.”

ExxonMobil claims it is suing PDVSA because of a June 2007 deadline given by Chávez to Exxon and other Big Oil corporations operating in Venezuela, demanding they cede majority control in their heavy-crude upgrading projects in the country. ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips filed arbitration requests with the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, and ExxonMobil simultaneously took legal action in courts in the U.S. and Britain, which on February 7 agreed with their claim, and ordered the freeze of PDVSA assets.

But there is much more at stake than a simple legal disagreement. First — many other Big Oil companies have agreed to Chávez’ terms and not gone to court — among them, Chevron Corp., Norway’s Statoil ASA, Britain’s BP PLC and France’s Total SA. Second, Venezuela is not the only country to confront Big Oil and demand that old contracts be renegotiated. Here in Canada, Newfoundland’s Danny Williams demanded and won an ownership share in the multi-billion-dollar Hebron offshore oil deal. Even the Tories in Alberta are forcing Big Oil to pay higher royalties. And in Russia, “both BP PLC and Royal Dutch Shell PLC have ceded control in big, lucrative Siberian projects to Russian gas monopoly OAO Gazprom.”

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War pimp alert: Colombia to accuse Chavez before international court

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(CNN) — Colombian President Alvaro Uribe said Tuesday that he will seek Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s denunciation in international court for financing a terrorist group.

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President Bush vowed to stand by Colombia and criticized Venezuela’s “provocative maneuvers.”
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Camilo Ospina, Colombia’s ambassador to the United Nations, will go before the International Criminal Court to accuse Chavez of “supporting and financing genocides,” Uribe told reporters.

The Colombian leader alleged Monday that correspondence taken from computers seized in last weekend’s military raid into Ecuador showed Chavez had given $300 million to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Colombia’s largest rebel group, known by the Spanish acronym FARC, has sought to overthrow the government for more than 40 years. The United States and European Union consider the FARC a terrorist organization. Video Watch tension build in South America »

Raul Reyes, a FARC leader, was killed in Saturday’s raid.

Venezuelan officials have denied Colombia’s allegations.

Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa severed diplomatic ties with Colombia on Monday and moved troops toward the Colombia border, as did Venezuela. Map »

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South America on brink of war

SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia — South America was on the brink of war yesterday as Venezuela and Ecuador amassed troops on the Colombian border in response to the killing of a Marxist rebel leader.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez threatened to join the rebels in a war to overthrow hard-line Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, a key ally of the United States, deploying tanks, fighter jets and thousands of troops along the Colombian border.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa also ordered troops to the border, expelled Colombia’s ambassador and recalled its ambassador to Bogota, but left its embassy open. Venezuela closed its embassy in Colombia and ordered all diplomats home.

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Chavez warns of “war” if Colombia strikes Venezuela

CARACAS (Reuters) – President Hugo Chavez warned Colombia on Saturday it would be a “cause for war” if its forces struck inside Venezuelan territory as they did in Ecuador killing a top Colombian rebel commander there.

“Don’t be thinking that you can do that here … because it would be extremely serious and would be a causa belli, a cause for war, (if there is) a military incursion in Venezuelan territory. There’s no excuse,” Chavez said in his most belligerent comments to date in a diplomatic dispute with Bogota.

Colombia’s military said troops killed Raul Reyes, a leader of Marxist FARC rebels, during an attack on a jungle camp in Ecuador in a severe blow to Latin America’s oldest guerrilla insurgency. The operation included air strikes and fighting with rebels across the border.

Chavez has been at odds with U.S.-backed Colombian President Alvaro Uribe over the Venezuelan’s mediation with the FARC, or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, over the release of hostages held by the rebels.

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Chavez Warns ‘U.S. Pawn’ Uribe of Impending War

January 26, 2008 

Argentina – La Capital – Original Article (Spanish)

In a further escalation of tension between the two countries, the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, accused Colombia’s President, Alvaro Uribe, of “devising a belligerent provocation,” on orders from the United States, “that could ignite a war.” “I accuse the Government of Columbia of plotting a conspiracy, an act of war against Venezuela, on orders from the United States,  to which we will be obliged to respond in a way that could ignite a war,” said Chavez during a press conference alongside his colleague Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua.Read more The press conference, held on the eve of the Sixth Summit Meeting of ALBA [Bolivarian Alternative for the People of Our America - Chavez' answer to Free Trade Agreements with the U.S.], the Venezuelan leader stressed that it was no coincidence that three senior officials of the United States, including Condoleezza Rice, had been in Colombia during the past few days.

Chavez urges withdrawals from U.S. banks

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez urged his Latin American allies on Saturday to begin withdrawing billions of dollars in international reserves from U.S. banks, warning of a looming U.S. economic crisis.Chavez made the suggestion as he hosted a summit aimed at boosting Latin American integration and rolling back U.S. influence.

“We should start to bring our reserves here,” Chavez said. “Why does that money have to be in the north? … You can’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

Chavez noted that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Colombia in recent days, saying “that has to do with this summit.”

“The empire doesn’t accept alternatives,” Chavez told the gathering, attended by the presidents of Bolivia and Nicaragua and Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage.

Chavez warned that U.S. “imperialism is entering into a crisis that can affect all of us” and said Latin America “will save itself alone.”

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Rice pushes free-trade deal with Colombia

MEDELLIN, Colombia (AP) – Colombia’s problems with violence — particularly labor strife — could get worse unless Congress approves a free-trade deal with the country, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.

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Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits Medellin, Colombia, with U.S. lawmakers Friday.

Rice’s visit Friday is the latest, most high-profile one in a coordinated campaign by Colombia and the White House to win over skeptical Democrats and revive the trade pact, which was first signed in 2006 but has not yet been passed by Congress.

“[I'm here] to say very strongly that whatever the challenges facing Colombia, they are not going to be easier if this free-trade deal does not pass,” Rice said Thursday in the Andean nation’s second-largest city, Medellin. “In fact, they will be harder.”

Colombia is the world’s most dangerous country for labor organizing. Rice and nine Democratic lawmakers met in Medellin with union leaders who oppose the deal to hear complaints that President Alvaro Uribe has failed to stamp out the violence, including murder.

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