Tuesday, May 16, 2006

South south south of the City In the Trees

NBC News is reporting this morning that Ecuador has seized the assets of Occidental, a U.S. oil company, ostensibly over the sale of part of one of its fields to a Canadian company (EnCana). Recently, Ecuador passed a law requiring foreign oil companies to share at least 50% of the profits they make above the agree benchmark crude price set in their contracts. Exactly what this has to do with Occidental's sale I don't know, but it continues a trend we've been seeing lately in South America.

The other half of our hemisphere seems lately to have awakened to its strengths. It's beginning to look like the days of Latin America rolling over like a two-dollar whore are ending. Good for them! Why should Latin Americans toil in poverty, often under regimes propped up on the rifles of U.S. Marines, just so a handful of people in the U.S. can get rich? And yet the screeching is always the same... these countries are outlaws, they don't respect the rule of law, they don't respect freedom, they don't believe in democracy, on and on and bloody on. When "freedom" and "democracy" and "the rule of law" are nothing more than euphemisms for a stacked deck that produces a winning hand only for Americans no matter how you shuffle it, then perhaps they're right when they screech this... but why should anyone respect "rules" and institutions established to turn the wealth of a nation over to another, and leave the people who really own it in grinding poverty and squalor? For those who will sneer that the money will only wind up in some dictator's Swiss bank account, well... at least it'll be some domestic dictator, rather than some guy in Houston, and that's at least one step in the right direction!

But even then, the facts don't bear it out. Hugo Chavez, for instance, has won several elections and even a recall vote. He survived a CIA-inspired coup attempt because millions of Venezuelans hit the streets when he was deposed and demanded him back. You think the people of the United States would do that for George Bush? Jesus... you want democracy; what more proof of it could you possibly want? And meanwhile, Chavez has been pouring oil money into rebuilding Venezuela, expanding literacy, importing doctors, making oil deals with other impoverished nations in the region (undercutting the US dollar by bartering around it), and even helping out the people of New England last winter. All the while, he's been urging the rest of Latin America to follow his lead, work together to realize the goals of Simon Bolivar so long ago. Here's too South America. I hope they make it work, and they get up off their knees at last and look us in the eye.

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