Sunday, February 10, 2008

Exxon Mobil Practicing Economic Terrorism

British Court Freezes Venezuelan Assets

The Toronto Star printed this AP story yesterday that illustrates the kind of economic imperialism that has become the hallmark of the big multinational corporations.
CARACAS–Venezuela's top oil official accused Exxon Mobil Corp. yesterday of "judicial terrorism," but said court orders won by the oil major do not amount to confiscation of $12 billion (U.S.) in assets.

Exxon Mobil has gone after the assets of the state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, in U.S., British and Dutch courts as it challenges the nationalization of a multi-billion-dollar oil project by President Hugo Chavez's government.

A British court last month issued an injunction "freezing" as much as $12 billion in assets.

But Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said: "They don't have any asset frozen. They only have frozen $300 million" in cash through a U.S. court in New York. As for the case in Britain, PDVSA doesn't have "any assets in that jurisdiction that even come close to those sums" of $12 billion, Ramirez said.

He called it a "transitory measure" while PDVSA, the state company, presents its case in New York and London. Exxon Mobil is also seeking international arbitration, which Venezuela has agreed to.

But Ramirez, who is PDVSA's president, said Exxon Mobil "hasn't respected the terms of the arbitration" and its claims in the nationalization dispute "don't even come close to half the sum of $12 billion claimed by them."
He accused the Texas-based oil major of employing "judicial terrorism" and trying to generate "financial nervousness" around PDVSA.

Court documents show Exxon Mobil has secured an "order of attachment" on about $300 million in cash held by PDVSA. A hearing to confirm the order is set for Feb. 13 in New York. In a Jan. 24 "freezing injunction," a British court said PDVSA "must not remove from England or Wales any of its assets ... up to the value of $12 billion."
There's just a couple of comments I'd like to make about this. One is the acceptance of the idea that if white people live over a resource by dint of their having stolen the land from red people, they have control of that resource. As in say, Texas or Alberta. This principle is not to be extended to brown people, who never own or control a resource even if they've been living over it for millenia. As in say, Iraq.

The other thing is that it's pretty obvious that the big multinationals are getting way too powerful. While we usually associate the term economic imperialism with nation states, it's becoming increasingly clear that the practice has passed into the hands of unelected and unaccountable capitalists. And they're not exactly being coy about it. In fact, Canada's largest oil company is called Imperial Oil. I'd call that pretty blatant.

What is more disturbing is the clear indication that they are now using the court systems and even the military resources of powerful nations like the USA and Britain to impose their will on a world that hasn't the wherewithal to oppose them. And sadly, I don't see that trend reversing itself in the foreseeable future.

UPDATE: (h/t Green Libertarian) This story from (Chinese news service) helps show Exxon's motivation for these actions against the people of Venezuela.
The Exxon-Venezuela dispute has aroused markets concerns that world oil supply may be destabilized.

Prices of light sweet crude for March delivery rose 4 percent, its biggest gains in two months, to settle at 91.77 dollars per barrel at New York Mercantile Exchange on Friday.

In London, Brent North Sea crude for March delivery also saw an up of 3.43 dollars and settled at 91.94 dollars.
That should drive the cost of filling your tank up considerably, and with it Exxon's profit margin.

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