Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Jun 27/07 | PDVSA R.I.P.: Macho Oil Follies in the Orinoco

When it comes to oil Venezuela has the biggest &^%$
and the smallest brain...they are pure macho. Worries about
production? That is for consuming wimps!

The Wall Street Journal

Exxon, Conoco Exit Venezuela Under Pressure

Host Nations Escalate Demands on Oil Firms; 'Some Tough Decisions'
By RUSSELL GOLD
June 27, 2007; Page A1

Exxon Mobil Corp. and ConocoPhillips are walking away from their multibillion-dollar investments in Venezuela, further evidence that the relationship between Western oil companies and oil-rich countries is more troubled than at any point since the 1970s.

The rising tension is forcing companies to choose whether to accept less control of investments and smaller returns in order to remain in countries with ample natural resources. That could have big implications for Western oil companies, which are having trouble tapping new reserves, as well as for global consumers and their growing thirst for oil.

The companies feel they won't get adequate value from the Venezuelan government, so they may pursue arbitration rulings that, even if favorable, mean a long wait for compensation. But the need to replace significant holdings could intensify exploration and result in new finds elsewhere, as happened after the last widespread purge of Western majors from developing nations.

Yesterday, Exxon and Conoco refused to join four other oil companies that signed over majority stakes in giant oil projects to Venezuela's state oil company. That company, Petróleos de Venezuela SA, or PdVSA, roughly doubled its stake in four major projects, with a combined value of $31 billion, to about 78%. Venezuela's energy grab parallels similar moves by Russia.

Conoco isn't throwing in the towel in Venezuela yet. By not signing a deal, the Houston company kept open the option of pursuing compensation through arbitration. Exxon declined to say if would consider arbitration. Western companies successfully used the tactic after Libya nationalized its oil fields in the early 1970s.

In recent months, amid intense regulatory pressure from the Kremlin, both BP PLC and Royal Dutch Shell PLC have ceded control in big, lucrative Siberian projects to Russian gas monopoly OAO Gazprom, essentially tightening the Kremlin's grip over that nation's vast energy reserves. Exxon is also beginning to face similar pressure at its big Sakhalin-1 natural-gas project in Siberia.

Amid surging demand for everything from energy to metals to foodstuffs, nations with abundant natural resources have begun to exercise their growing clout. They are revisiting contracts signed years ago when commodities prices were low and the same nations offered generous terms to attract Western investment. Recent high prices have emboldened these nations to seek more favorable terms and higher prices as they increasingly discard old contracts and dictate new terms of investment.

For the most part, Western oil companies have accepted the new terms. The old contracts enabled today's windfall profits, and companies could give back some of the upside and still earn good returns. Moreover, oil companies have relatively few options to move their investments elsewhere, since many of the best-known deposits of raw materials in stable, industrialized nations have already been tapped. But the new contracts, combined with higher taxes, steeper royalty rates and rising costs, are beginning to erode profitability.

To bolster output and keep investors happy, Western companies must find ways to address this growing political and economic clout while at the same time strike profitable terms and ensure steady supplies. As margins get squeezed, oil-rich nations in search of better terms run the risk of pushing too far. "Governments can overprice themselves," says Richard Gordon, an energy consultant in Overland Park, Kan., "and when they do, companies have to make some tough decisions."

One response is to move aggressively to find opportunities in politically stable nations. The wave of nationalization that swept the Middle East in the 1970s led to the development of the giant fields in Alaska and Europe's North Sea. Conoco pursued a similar path by creating a joint venture to tap Canada's heavy-oil deposits, which hold enormous reserves of oil but are expensive to produce.

"We expect restricted access to large energy resources and unstable fiscal and political regimes to force major oil companies to reshape their business strategies with increased focus on North America," says Fadel Gheit, an oil analyst at Oppenheimer & Co., in a research note.

Conoco isn't washing its hands of its assets in Venezuela, though it says it will take a $4.5 billion impairment charge in its second-quarter earnings. The company's assets there represent about 5% of its oil-and-gas equivalent production last year. Exxon's Venezuelan assets are about 1% of its overall output for 2006.

Conoco shares fell $2.24, or 2.87%, to $75.80 in New York Stock Exchange trading yesterday, while Exxon's slipped 55 cents, or 0.67%, to $81.82 on the Big Board.

However, even if a Conoco arbitration claim is successful, it could be years before the company gets any money. Still, Venezuela has considerable international assets that Conoco could attach. These include PdVSA's ownership of Citgo Petroleum Corp. -- which has several valuable refineries in the U.S. -- and of tankers full of crude oil landing in ports along the Gulf Coast and elsewhere. A Citgo spokesman declined to comment.

If the companies prevail, says James Loftis, chairman of the international dispute-resolution practice at law firm Vinson & Elkins LLC, Venezuela's assets are vulnerable because it has an export-oriented economy. "These awards will be enforceable because Venezuela will have to export goods in order to survive....Sovereign immunity will make it more difficult to collect, but I don't think given the reality of their economy it will make it impossible."

BP won an arbitration case against Libya in the 1970s after the North African nation nationalized, and chased tankers of Libyan crude around the world to seize them as payment. Within the past year, Western companies that purchased debt for unpaid for construction work in the Congo have tried to seize tankers of Congolese oil to satisfy arbitration awards.

The situation in Venezuela remains murky. Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said Exxon and Conoco will lose their stakes in the oil fields altogether. Irving, Texas-based Exxon said it would continue discussions "with the Venezuelan government on a way forward."

Other Western companies agreed to new deals for their oil ventures in the Orinoco River region. France's Total SA agreed to lower its stake in the Sincor project to 30.3% from 47%. Norway's Statoil ASA's stake in Sincor will be reduced to 9.7% from 15%. Chevron Corp. of San Ramon, Calif., will retain its 30% stake in the Hamaca project, but wouldn't offer any additional details. Britain's BP also came to terms as well. Chevron and Total have significant investments in offshore Venezuelan gas fields that are unaffected by the new terms.

Exxon is simultaneously facing pressure in Russia. Gazprom Deputy Chief Executive Alexander Medvedev yesterday said an Exxon-led consortium's plan to export gas from its Sakhalin project to China was unrealistic and should be coordinated with Gazprom's plans for the region.

Russia last year turned Gazprom into a formal export monopoly for its gas industry. An Exxon spokeswoman said the company is in talks with Gazprom on alternative plans, and is keeping its options open.

The move against the Sakhalin-1 project comes as Moscow has targeted several deals struck in the 1990s, when Western oil companies secured a number of lucrative deals amid low global energy prices and near anarchy in Russia.

Gazprom has already taken control of two of the largest energy projects in Russia's eastern regions against a background of intense regulatory pressure on their former owners, albeit with deals that were still acceptable to the Western companies involved. Last week, it agreed to buy a 63% stake in east Siberian gas field Kovykta from BP's Russian joint venture, and in December it bought a controlling stake in Sakhalin Energy, operator of a project named Sakhalin-2.

Indeed, Russia and Venezuela are among the leading proponents of taking greater control of natural resources. Generally, the terms offered by Venezuela are somewhat worse than those offered by Russia, which may help explain why oil companies are pushing back harder against one than the other.

--Geoffrey T. Smith and John M. Biers contributed to this article.


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Jun 27/07 | Hugo Flies Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Reuters Dissects Yet Another “President for Life”

The Lt. Colonel in Dictatorial Pose (and costume), the medals
are for the two failed coups he participated in.

PMBComment: Bernd Debusman, from Reuters, in his obvious quest to understand and explicate the Bolivarian phenomenon, reaches out to one of the foremost experts on leadership “disorders” Dr. Jerrold Post of George Washington University. For decades Dr. Post has analyzed the pathologies of both moderately unhinged leaders and extremely perturbed ones. Reading his seminal work on the subject: “Leaders and their Followers in a Dangerous World” it is evident that Hugo Chávez (not yet a subject at the time it was published) is not unique, is not the first and will not be the last leader to convert extreme insecurities into malignant tendencies.

One of the hardest things for political analysts to ascertain is when their subjects leave the wrinkles of politics and submerge themselves in the unfathomable waters of psychiatry. Accepting that Stalin, Hitler, Marcos, Honecker, Milosevic, Amin Dada, Saddam, Kim Jong Il – to name but a few - where madmen first and politicians second took some time and many lives.

Recent events have finally led many to understand that the leader of the Bolivarian “revolution”, if not yet in the murderous ranks of the rouge’s gallery above, has little, or no, regard for the lives and the livelihood of the citizenry he has taken hostage. The violence that defines his misrule is nothing to scoff about. Those who choose to ignore it, in the interest of political or financial gain, share a degree of responsibility for the dire consequences.

How this tragedy ends is anyone’s guess, but for sure Mr. Chávez will not escape the fate of the above thugs, nor will Venezuela recover easily from the traumatic experience. PMB

Venezuela's Chavez seen wanting office "for life"

Tue Jun 26, 2007 7:14PM EDT

By Bernd Debusmann, Special Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Insecurity, "malignant narcissism" and the need for adulation are driving Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's confrontation with the United States, according to a new psychological profile.

Eventually, these personality traits are likely to compel Chavez to declare himself Venezuela's president for life, said Dr. Jerrold Post, who has just completed the profile for the U.S. Air Force.

Chavez won elections for a third term last December. Since then he has stepped up his anti-American rhetoric, vowed to accelerate a march towards "21st Century socialism" and suggested that he intends to stay in power until 2021 -- a decade beyond his present term.

But Post -- who profiled foreign leaders in a 21-year career at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and now is the director of the Political Psychology Program at George Washington University -- doubts that Chavez plans to step down even then. "He views himself as a savior, as the very embodiment of Venezuela," Post said in an interview.

"He has been acting increasingly messianic and so he is likely to either get the constitution rewritten to allow for additional terms or eventually declare himself president-for-life."

Post portrays Chavez as "a masterful political gamesman" who knows that his popularity largely rests on being seen as a strong leader who takes on the United States, the Venezuelan elite and a host of other perceived enemies -- often with public insults that are rarely used by other leaders.

"To keep his followers engaged, he must continue outrageous and inflammatory attacks," Post said.

Even Chavez's most determined opponents concede that he is a gifted orator and has a rare ability to mesmerize audiences. In the language of political psychology, this is a "charismatic leader-follower relationship."

DONKEYS, THIEVES AND CRYBABIES

Chavez has called U.S. President George W. Bush a "donkey," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice an "illiterate," former Mexican President Vicente Fox a "lapdog of imperialism" and Peruvian President Alan Garcia a "rotten thief" and a "crybaby."

Jose Miguel Insulza, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, attracted the public label "asshole" (as did Bush), and Chavez described the entire Brazilian Congress as "puppets."

"The major psychological reward for Chavez derives from being seen as the pugnacious openly defiant champion of the little man, as one of 'us' versus 'them,'" Post said.

In his assessment, one of the character traits that drive Chavez is "malignant narcissism," a term that denotes an extreme sense of self-importance and is usually coupled with extreme sensitivity to criticism.

"The arrogant certainty conveyed in his (Chavez's) public pronouncements is very appealing to his followers. But under this grandiose facade, as is typical with narcissistic personalities, is extreme insecurity," Post wrote in his profile "The Chavez Phenomenon" for the U.S Air Force.

Chavez's supporters dismiss such criticism as U.S. efforts to discredit a popular president. Chavez himself has repeatedly said Washington was engaged in psychological, political, economic and media warfare against him.

And yet, only last month, the Venezuelan government refused to renew the broadcast license of TV and radio network RCTV, the loudest voice against Chavez, highlighting his sensitivity to criticism.

His description of the Brazilian Congress as "puppets" came in response to a statement expressing concern for the freedom of expression after RCTV's closure. Chavez was so angry about a similar remark by the Spanish foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, that he said he would "take distance" from Spain.

"There are two circumstances when Chavez's messianic personality adversely affects his decision making, with a potential for flawed judgment," Post wrote in his study for the Air Force. "When he has just achieved a major success and when he perceives himself as failing."

That pattern has been consistent throughout his presidential terms -- bold actions when he felt heady with success; harsh rhetoric, confrontational moves and temporary depression when he felt weakened.

In the heady wake of his electoral triumph last December (he won 63 percent of the vote) Chavez nationalized the country's largest telecommunications company and its most important private electricity firm, as well as silencing RCTV.

But in the wake of one of his worst diplomatic defeats, the failure of a protracted and cHostly lobbying campaign to win a seat for Venezuela on the United Nations Security Council, Chavez was so despondent that he stayed away from an Ibero-American summit meeting in Uruguay. "My colleagues don't like me," he complained.

In Post's analysis, Chavez's flawed judgment was on display with his speech to the U.N. last September, when he called Bush "the devil" who had left a smell of sulphur in the assembly hall. Chavez's speech drew chuckles and applause -- but it lost him the U.N. Security Council seat that he had coveted.

© Reuters 2006. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.

Reuters journalists are subject to the Reuters Editorial Handbook which requires fair presentation and disclosure of relevant interests.


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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Jun 20/07 (2) | Debusmann strikes again: Gustavo Cisneros is having a bad hair day...to say the least!

Cisneros and Hugo's Mentor: Courting Power 24 x 7 x 365

PMBComment: Earlier today I commented on an excellent article written by Reuter's Senior Correspondent Bernd Debusmann, now another article written by him and also with today's date has been brought to my attention. The subject of this article is one which I have covered in recent (and in not so recent) commentaries: the sharp contrast in behavior of Venezuela's two main private TV channels to pressure from the Chávez regime. RCTV, headed by Marcel Granier, was shuttered when it essentially refused to bow to pressure to change it's editorial line. Venevision, owned by the self proclaimed global entrepreneur Gustavo Cisneros, buckled shamelessly when President Chávez reportedly threatened to expose certain of his unsavory activities. The truth of what happened in that infamous Carter-Chavez-Cisneros meeting might come to light at some point from the person who acted as go between: Jimmy Carter of Plains, Georgia or from the one that informed that the world that it had indeed occurred (Carter's intention had been to keep it a secret): Hugo R. Chávez. If the facts of this meeting are not as widely reported, it is about time for Gustavo Cisneros, usually a self promoter of his every move, to level with both the people Venezuela and with those he has wined, dined and more in the world of power and influence which he covets above all. PMB

Self-censorship by Venezuela media mogul rewarded

Wed Jun 20, 2007 11:47AM EDT

By Bernd Debusmann, Special Correspondent

CARACAS (Reuters) - The shutdown of a Venezuelan television station critical of President Hugo Chavez may prove a windfall for the owner of a rival network: millions of dollars in advertising revenue.

The extra income could help media mogul Gustavo Cisernos reclaim his position as Venezuela's richest man, a place he now shares with Lorenzo Mendoza, each with a net worth of $6 billion and at the top of the heap in Venezuela.

Mendoza's fortune comes from beer, Cisneros' from a string of media holdings, including the private TV network Venevision. In the Forbes magazine's 2006 billionaires' list, Cisneros was $100 million ahead of Mendoza, and in 2005, close to a billion.

"Gustavo wants to be number one, it's really important to him," said a Caracas businessman familiar with the Cisneros family who did not want to be identified. "And now he has an opportunity."

In terms of audience and advertising revenue, Venevision perpetually ran behind RCTV, the country's oldest TV network. For years, both were sharply critical of Chavez, who accused Cisneros and RCTV's director general, Marcel Granier, of involvement in plotting an abortive coup against him in 2002.

What happened since then highlights how part of the Venezuelan elite, many linked through family ties, have learned to coexist and prosper with Chavez despite his plans to bring "21st century socialism" and a classless society to the country.

After a meeting between Chavez and Cisneros brokered by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 2004, Venevision dropped its anti-Chavez tone. RCTV stepped it up. In May, the government renewed Venevision's broadcast license for five years and let RCTV's license expire.

The decision drew widespread condemnation in Venezuela and abroad as an assault on the freedom expression. Also at stake: more than a quarter billion dollars a year in advertising money, by most estimates.

"Overall, the money spent on TV advertising totals around $600 million," Granier said in a recent interview. "We had the biggest share. It's not difficult to guess where that share will go."

AT STAKE: $280 MILLION

Experts say that while it is far too early to get a clear picture on the redistribution of the advertising pie -- RCTV previously took around $280 million of the total -- a survey by the Datos company said 44.7% of those interviewed named Venevision as their favorite TV after RCTV went off the air.

Globovision, a 24-hour news channel which still broadcasts reports critical of the government, came second, with 32.5 percent. Chavez has repeatedly threatened to shut the network down and warned such a decision could be taken independent of when its license lapses.

Despite frosty relations now between Granier and Cisneros, the two are linked by family ties typical in the tight-knit world Chavez often terms "the oligarchy." The two media tycoons are married to cousins -- daughters of the Phelps family whose patriarch founded the conglomerate that embraces RCTV.

Venezuela's web of the wealthy and the well-connected was spotlighted again when Thor Halvorssen, a human rights activist and Chavez opponent, published an op-ed piece in the New York Post. It contrasted Cisneros and Granier in "a tale of two Venezuelan media kings -- one heroic, one craven."

Reflecting opposition views widely heard in Venezuela, the piece portrayed Cisneros as a villain, a man in deep collusion with Chavez who changed his network's course toward "entirely rosy coverage of government activities."

Cisneros's response came in the form of a reader's letter to the New York Post denying there had been a Carter-brokered deal. The letter was signed by Antonieta Lopez, vice president corporate affairs of the Cisneros Group.

She is Halvorssen's aunt and godmother. They are distant relatives of the beer billionaire who shares the title of Venezuela's richest man with Cisneros.

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Jun 20/07 | Debusmann Undresses a Revolution: Obstacles on the Road to Bolivarian Nirvana

The shinny symbol of another "Revolution" gone wrong

PMBComment: the article below was not written by a twenty something stringer nor by pro-Bush right wing columnist. It is the work of one of the most respected and experienced journalists around. Google Bernd Debusmann, Special Correspondent for Reuters, and you will find a life dedicated to covering complex issues and irretraceable crises. Having often read what he writes about Latin America in general, and on Venezuela and Cuba in particular, I have concluded that for Debusmann being objective is not all about portraying the two sides of a pissing match and giving each side some credit or some blame, but much more a search for demonstrable facts and essential conclusions.

The article below is the best I have read about the myth of revolution in Bolivarian Venezuela. The endless monologue which defines Chavez’s rule has been just that: pure talk, mixed with a destructive bent made lethal -and lasting - by copious oil revenues. Around Mr. Chavez a new conservative elite has emerged that, as was the case in the past, care little about ideology but a great deal about conserving the spoils of power or of proximity to it. Debusmann concludes that this new Bolivarian bourgeoisie stands in the way of lofty (pure talk) “revolutionary” goals more so than the displaced “oligarchy” that Mr. Chavez uses as his – and the nation’s - boogeyman. This conclusion is quite correct, but I would add that in tropical fashion the dividing lines between the old and the new wealth melts away in an unprecedented orgy of conspicuous consumption.

The three things that define Venezuela’s deadly farce today are: corruption, consumption and coercion. If you add to that a widening - and all too visible -income gap you can conclude, as Debusmann does, that the vices of the past have simply become the vices of the present. So once more Venezuela have been buried by an avalanche of easy cash and scarce principles. PMB

Reuters

In Venezuela, obstacles to 21st Century socialism

Tue Jun 19, 2007 7:25PM EDT

By Bernd Debusmann, Special Correspondent

CARACAS (Reuters) - President Hugo Chavez's ambitious project to bring "21st Century socialism" to Venezuela is running into obstacles -- easy cash, corruption and an expanding class of citizens who are growing rich by exploiting economic distortions.

Chavez promised a revolution when he won his first election in 1998. Since his third election victory in December, he has pledged to accelerate Venezuela's transformation into a society where a "new man" is free of selfish urges and devoted to the common good.

But nine years into Chavez's rule, some analysts say the idea of creating a "new man" and a classless society has even less chance of success in Venezuela than past attempts in other countries, from Russia to Nicaragua and Cuba.

"Venezuelans are individualists," said Luis Pedro Espana, director of the Economic and Social Research Institute at Venezuela's Andres Bello Catholic University. "They are not inclined to work for the community. They are very consumerist, even the (Chavez) faithful."

The popular perception in Latin America of Venezuelans as happy-go-lucky, live-for-the-moment people draws few denials from either side of the deep divide between Chavez followers and opponents.

A few snapshots of life in Venezuela help explain skepticism over the emergence of the "new man."

Standing in front of a poster that says "The Informal Economy is Forbidden," a woman in a prim white blouse whispers "dollars, dollars, dollars," offering them at twice the official exchange rate. A pair of bored-looking policemen watch.

At a luxury hotel in the center of Caracas, a guest in a pinstripe suit pays his bill with wads of cash the size of bricks.

At a bustling supermarket, the shelves are stacked with imported whiskey but bare of meat and eggs.

In a small town in the Andes, police drive around in a shiny new Hummer that barely fits through the narrow streets.

"VIRUSES" IN SOCIETY

Venezuela's currency black market stems from rigid currency controls. Shortages of basic goods result from price controls. And wads of cash and luxury cars originate from an oil boom and public spending that have contributed to the fastest economic growth and highest inflation in Latin America.

All this combines to create petri dish conditions to perpetuate what Chavez describes as the viruses that have infected successive generations of citizens in his oil-rich country.

"While these viruses exist in abundance in our society, it is impossible to build a fatherland and even less socialism," he said in a recent speech. Quoting Karl Marx, he added: "Each new society is born infected by the old society."

At least one of the old infections -- corruption -- appears to have worsened since Chavez took office in 1998 with the support of the poor majority of Venezuela's 26 million people.

According to Transparency International, a Berlin-based anti-corruption group, Venezuela has steadily slipped towards the bottom of an index measuring corruption in 163 countries and now ranks 138th, the worst in Latin America.

"There is no socialism in our country," said Teodore Petkoff, a former left-wing guerrilla who became minister of economic planning in the government that preceded Chavez. "This is the same country as ever. There has been no revolution."

Chavez has used a bonanza from oil -- global oil prices have quintupled since he began his first term -- to spend billions of dollars on social welfare, infrastructure projects and direct cash subsidies for the poorest.

Government statistics show that the percentage of Venezuelans living in poverty shrank from 42.8 percent to 30.4 percent under Chavez. Poverty researchers at the Catholic University outside Caracas put the present rate at around 45 percent, below what they measured in 1999.

NEW CLASS - THE BOLIBURGESIA

But while poverty has declined, the country's class divisions have remained and a new class sprung up -- the boliburgesia. The phrase is a contraction of the words Bolivar, Latin America's liberator, and bourgeoisie -- a play on the "Bolivarian Revolution" Chavez declared in 1999.

To hear critics of the government tell it, the boliburgesia includes Venezuelans active in the black and grey markets, government bureaucrats who impose "surcharges" on routine services, middlemen in oil deals, money launderers, and drug trafficking organizations.

"This new class will stand more in the way of Chavez's 21st Century socialism than the old aristocracy ever did," said a Caracas businessman. "They have become part of the establishment."

Chavez has acknowledged that his revolution is far from complete, despite far-reaching land reforms and a campaign to nationalize strategic industries.

His present term runs through 2012, but he has begun to talk about a new target date years in the future.

"If in just 140 days so many things have happened, imagine what will happen in the 5,134 days from today to June 24, 2021," he said on June 2, marking 140 days since the start of his third term. "5,134 days of revolutionary acceleration."

June 24, 2021, has nothing to do with Venezuela's six-year presidential terms -- it is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Carabobo, when Simon Bolivar led South American independence fighters to a victory over Spanish forces.

By 2021, Venezuelans born when Chavez began his first presidential term will be 22 years old, and Chavez will have been in power for a whole generation.

© Reuters 2006. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.


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Monday, June 11, 2007

Jun 11/07 | Principles Under the Boot: The OAS Acquires Another Black Spot

Cartoon From The Economist, Comment below from PMB
This is what Lula calls DEMOCRATIC. I wonder how he defines CORRUPTION


PMBComment
: Below you will find the relevant ( i.e. Venezuela, RCTV, OAS) extract from an extensive interview Secretary Rice granted last week to the Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal. The highly principled - although unsuccessful - stance taken by the US in the OAS General Assembly is well explained and should shame (if shame is possible) the silence of the governments of Canada (Is Mr. Harper seeking new influence in the region? Where else could they?), Mexico (Calderon scared of Cuba meddling in internal affairs?), Colombia (Uribe too self-centered to understand the real challenges posed by Chávez?), Brazil (Lula, his PT and friends too fat and happy with corrupt Bolivarian contracts?), Argentina (too weird a couple trying to cling on to power?), Peru (Alan Garcia is still Alan Garcia) and Chile (What can one say about Ms. Bachelet - the political neophyte - who actually looks back with nostalgia to her happy days in "Democratic" East Germany?). I do not mention others because they are either too small or too bought to be expected to do anything or even matter. It was noticeable that El Salvador took a very vocal stance which probably reflected the stance of others in Central America (excluding that freak of politics called Daniel Ortega), and that Uruguay, led by a true 21st century socialist President, made the strongest possible statement naming the crime but not yet ready - or politically able - to name the victim or the criminal.

For the OAS Panama will be another black spot in its dalmatian existence. All too often the organization "excels" as a club of governments intent on self preservation; an elitist gathering of bureaucrats that thrive in a "you scratch my back and I scratch your back" microcosm. How can we forget its silence during the days of right wing military hegemony in the southern cone? And how can those same countries' forget it today when Venezuela's democracy withers under the pestilent boot of another militaristic regime? That my friends is the OAS - expect something from it at your own peril!

The millions of people that are forgotten time and time again by these cushy "civil" servants are only used to illustrate the numerous brochures which are printed in all gloss to justify a huge budget provided - 74% of it at least- by the country all seek and are eager to chastise.

The time for the OAS has long come and long gone. If it still stands in its august location it is because international organizations are particularly difficult to reform or extinguish. It is also safe to restate that it's much heralded Democratic Charter was signed in a moment of reckless naiveté. It would not be considered, discussed, signed and much less invoked today. So scratch September 11, 2001 as a worthy date in the history of the Inter American system. That day will always be remembered simply as the day terror shocked the globe. Whatever document was coincidentally signed in Lima, Peru that fateful day will live on in the collective memory of most of its signatories as a bad idea gone terribly wrong - unworthy of recognition and much less of celebration. While it is a pity that it all ended here, it is better to call a spade a spade and eliminate that cumbersome pretense from the agendas and the minds of such sorry bunch of "democratic" leaders. PMB

Note: for the rest of Dr. Rice's extensive interview go to this link.


Extract: Interview | Secretary Rice with the Editorial Board of the WSJ, New York, June 8th, 2007

....

QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about your trip to Panama?

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, it was great and I was really glad that I went to the OAS because I think the OAS has come a long way already. And I actually think that Jose Miguel has done a pretty good job on a lot of things, on Haiti and a number of issues he's done a very good job. I thought it was especially important in light of RCTV to go to Panama to the OAS and to give voice to what I think a lot of people around that table were -- wanted to say, but for a variety of reasons it's harder for them to say. I thought it was important, if the Inter-American Democratic Charter is going to mean anything, then a situation like RCTV then Article 18 of that charter which calls for the Secretary General to look into disruptions of democracy in member states, if you're not going to evoke it then, I don't know when you'd evoke it. And even if the Venezuelans said no, I think it was important to evoke it.

And I was not -- I thought I was actually very restrained in my initial comments about Venezuela in my remarks. But then when the Venezuelan representative decided to make this an opportunity to question whether or not our policies on Guantanamo and immigration and human rights were like those of Nazi Germany, I thought it was important to respond again to that. And I reminded him that, while none of what he was saying was true, was this an issue of American policy, but that he could hear and Americans could hear on CNN, ABC, CBS, any news channel, criticisms, debate, even unfounded criticism of Administration policy any given night. And that that was the assurance that Americans had and that Americans knew that their government couldn't shut down those stations for saying those things. And that that was the issue because the Venezuelan Government had shut down a TV station for saying those things.

I think it has had a deleterious effect on the Chavez government, both inside Venezuela and across the world, because you can't ignore this one. You know, I was in Spain and this got people's attention. It got people's attention in the European parliament. And I just thought it was extremely important to go and do that. But the OAS was about energy and it was also nice to go talk about our biofuels agreement with Brazil and so forth, but this was a time to --

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah.

QUESTION: Isn't the OAS supposed to, you know, all the voices around the table, not just yours, supposed to say something about this, the way that there were complaints against Alejandro Toledo when he had for a third term for or you know, if we had another 1988 plebiscite deciding whether Pinochet should stay in power. You know, we had the same rules that we used for the 2004 referendum in Venezuela. But those countries would have said something, but now they don't and it's entirely the U.S.'s responsibility. I don't see how you can say the OAS is working.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it wasn't entirely our responsibility and Insulza said something at the time that it happened, not at the conference -- not at the General Assembly, but he talked about his concerns several days before we got there and there were others who spoke. And -- but look, Chavez is someone who tries to intimidate smaller states. And I think some of them have been quite brave in speaking out about him. He's cost several of allies elections and, unfortunately, he's ruining a very fine country in Venezuela. But he can't intimidate the United States in any fashion. And so I don't mind giving voice to what was being said. And the Venezuelan representative -- you know, everybody recognized what he was doing and I don't think it served him very well with this case.

Extract from:
http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2007/06/86254.htm


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