[Translation of an article from El Clarín of Santiago, Chile, for April 21. See original here.]
By Marcos Roitmann Rosenmann
Measures taken to nationalize and to recuperate basic riches in Latin America or Africa or Asia have always suffered the ire of colonial centers and the enterprises affected. There is no shortage of examples: Lázaro Cárdenas, Jacobo Arbenz, Fidel Castro, Omar Torrijos, Velasco Alvarado, Salvador Allende, Evo Morales, Hugo Chávez; the list is long.
Accustomed to ordering and to being in charge, arrogant empires are unfamiliar with the concepts of independence and sovereignty. They are reluctant to deal as equals. Paternalism, based on positions of strength, shapes the discourse of imperial haughtiness. To declare oneself opposed to paternal authority and the established order usually brings on exemplary punishment: blockades, destabilizing processes, economic strangulation, assassinations of leaders or coups d’état. These days, the expropriation of a private company, Repsol YPF, whose interests are those only of their stockholders and whose objective is to obtain profits at the cost of any ethical, judicial or environmental consideration, awakens the ire of the hegemonic powers, their institutions and principal political leaders.
Argentina, its president and its people, are being subjected to an unrelenting attack by Spanish authorities, European leaders, lackey governments of Latin America, academic centers and social communications media in which Repsol owns shares and controls intentions. The United States, the IMF, the European Union and, the unthinkable, the voice of the principal union considered in Spain to be of the left, Comisiones Obreras, climb onto the imperialist bandwagon. The Comisiones Obreras statement wastes no words; it adheres to the criticisms by the political parties and declares its disagreement and rejection of the Argentine government over a “measure that will cause great harm to the stockholders, above all to the small stockholders, the workers, and to the Spanish economy.”
A union that says it represents the workers but allies itself with a business that is responsible for assassinations, kidnappings and disappearances of union leaders in Colombia and other countries of the region has lost all sense of shame. In an excellent report edited in 2006 by Pedro Ramiro and others and published as a book, La Energía que Apaga Colombia: Los Impactos de las Inversiones de Repsol y Union Fenosa, the authors recount the implementation of the so-called “Operación Heroica,” developed by the armed forces and paramilitary groups in the region of Arauca, to clean up the zone and facilitate the installation of Repsol. In that operation, “2,500 people were arrested, 30 leaders of ecological and environmental organizations were charged with rebellion and terrorism.”
Carried out between January 1 and November 14 of 2003, its implementation in the department of Arauca involved a strange increase of “more than 74 percent in homicides and deprivations of liberty of union activists throughout Colombia.” The installation of Repsol brought with it displacement and appropriation of communal lands of the U’wa people, the real owners of the lands. But it didn’t matter. Comisiones Obreros supports Repsol.
Less surprising are the words of José Manuel Soria, the minister of industry, when he warns, “The government of Spain will defend the interests of Repsol and those of any other Spanish business that is operating in the rest of the world,” words that are echoed in those of Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, at the time vice president of the government, who corroborates what her colleague says: “Spain’s obligation is to defend, with all the means at its disposal, the general interests of Spain,” especially when Repsol has financed their election campaigns. Likewise, the PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero Español) has not wanted to miss out on the colonialist bacchanal and pays back Repsol for favors, saying that “The Spanish government knows that it can count on us and we are confident that in the end this can be corrected and a very harmful decision can be reversed.”
The ensemble of attacks is completed with the miserable actions of the minority and nationalist parties, who described the measure as anachronistic. To sum it up, the declaration released by the Unión Progreso y Democracia (UPyD), which “urges the Argentine government to maintain a coherent line in the implementation of the necessary judicial security for the investing foreign businesses that operate in the country… UPyD wants to warn of a possible spread of expropriations into other governments in Latin America, led by Hugo Chávez, which could endanger the current levels of foreign investment, strangulating the possibilities of economic development which today benefit the accounts of the countries receiving the investments… and asks for judicial responsibility for Repsol investments.” By judicial responsibility, does UPyD mean that which turns a blind eye toward the assassinations of union leaders, the forced displacement and the genocide of indigenous communities and peoples, as well as impunity for environmental degradation wherever it may occur?
It would seem that Repsol is a model business, committed to the protection of the environment, respectful of indigenous communities and a leader in the application of non-polluting technologies. And with a president, Antonio Brufau, living in poverty with a net salary for 2011 of more than seven million Euros. For these reasons, they did not hesitate to say that the expropriation “is only a way of covering up the social and economic crisis that Argentina is facing.”
Nevertheless, a report by the Observatorio de las Multinacionales Españolas en América Latina (OMAL) points in the opposite direction. Repsol is actively involved in the loss of diversity, it is present in 17 national parks in Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina. Its direct emmisions amount to the equivalent of 30 million tons of CO2, this without taking into account that produced by the burning of fossil fuels, which produces more than a billion tons of CO2 annually.
But we cannot fail to mention the actions of the lackey governments of Latin America in this campaign of destabilization. The words of Juan Manuel Santos, president of Colombia, who, to show his sympathy for Repsol, state, “Here in Colombia we do not expropriate… We want you to feel that there are stable rules of the game, we are not going to expropriate here; you are welcome here, you are our partners. If you are doing well, we are doing well.” And what can be said of Felipe Calderón when he criticizes the president of Argentina and describes the measures as “regrettable… and which will do no one any good.” Or of Ollanta Humala’s minister of the economy, Miguel Castilla, calling the nationalization a “wrong and insane policy.” Nor did Sebastián Piñera, president of Chile, miss a chance to show “his preoccupation over such a measure.”
All of them have forgotten that their countries are what they are in large measure because of the nationalization of petroleum and copper. By chance, another group of presidents and countries, a majority, like Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba, Paraguay, Bolivia, Brazil and Uruguay, have raised the banner of dignity, supporting the Argentine Republic. The words of José Mujica, president of Uruguay, when he stresses that such a measure was based on an old error, that of privatizing state petroleum in the ‘90s,will suffice: “And if they repair it or do not repair it, that is the business of the Argentine people.”
There is no other path: either national sovereignty of shameful surrender.
Tags: Argentina, colonialism, Comisiones Obreras, environment, expropriation, Felipe Calderon, Jose Mujica, Juan Manuel Santos, nationalization, Partido Socialista Obrero Español, petroleum, Repsol, Sebastian Pinera, Spain, Union Progreso y Democracia, YPF