Monday, September 25, 2006


Why Hugo Gets My Petro-Buck

I could have done without Hugo Chavez's smells-like-teen-Satan allusion at the UN last week, not because I was outraged by the suggestion that the policies of the Land of the Free are aligned with the Forces of Darkness, but because it distracted the media into recollections of Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe at the UN, and other such irrelevances. The message gets lost when the Nancy Pelosis of the world get caught up in defending the national honor of the presidency. I can't even remember the rest of what Chavez had to say, and for me, that's a loss.

I feel especially sorry about this as I charge through the latest page-turner on my list, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, by John Perkins. It's a couple of years old, and if I didn't work in a library, I might never have come across it. That, too, would have been a loss.

Perkins worked for a consulting firm with a low profile, one that performed (and still performs) the tasks required to drag leaders of other countries into the global empire that our country has been long in the business of building. He begins his story in Ecuador, where his efforts 25 years ago resulted in the establishment of an oil drilling operation that has resulted in the leakage of more oil into the fragile rain forest than the Exxon Valdez disaster. "Today, a new. . . pipeline constructed by an EHM-organized consortium promises to make Ecuador one of the world's top ten suppliers of oil to the United States. Vast areas of rain forest have fallen, macaws and jaguars have all but vanished, three Ecuadorian indigenous cultures have been driven to the verge of collapse, and pristine rivers have been transformed into flaming cesspools."

Perkins describes the tasks and goals of the organizations employing economic hit men (EHMs): "we build a global empire. We . . . utilize international financial organizations to foment conditions that make other nations subservient to the corporatocracy running our biggest corporations, our government, and our banks. Like our counterparts in the Mafia, EHMs provide favors. These take the form of loans to develop infrastructure--electric generation plants, highways, ports, airports, or industrial parks. A condition of such loans is that engineering and construction companies from our own country must build all these projects. In essence, most of the money never leaves the United States; it is simply transferred from banking offices to engineering offices.. . If an EHM is successful, the loans are so large that the debtor is forced to default on its payments after a few years. When this happens, then like the Mafia we demand our pound of flesh. This often includes one or more of the following: control over United Nations votes, the installation of military bases, or access to previous resources such as oil or the Panama Canal. Of course, the debtor still owes us the money--and another country is added to our global empire."

Confessions is a frank disclosure of one man's 35-year career, and it makes for some compelling reading. No one who reads this book will ever wonder why our enemies hate us so, or what the 9/11 attacks were really about.

Add Hugo Chavez to the list of people who refuse to step under the U.S. umbrella. The Satan image may have been pinned to Duhbya, but the mischief of EHMs belongs to both parties. In Ecuador, for every $100 of crude sold, $75 will be used as repayment on loans; most of the rest will go to government and military expenses (including purchases of weapons from our arms dealers), leaving about $2.50 for social and educational expenditures.

The U.S. found itself determined to make the most of the Ecuadorian connection after the election of Hugo Chavez, who uses his profits on education and social programs for the poor. This policy, says no less than the NY Times, is a ploy to keep him in power. No, I say, this is a statement of values. Remember values?

I get a smile out of going to a Citgo station each week and sticking my debit card into one of its pumps. I am perfectly happy to help keep Hugo in power, though I'm sure that my government will send its nasty little agents into Venezuela to destabilize him, if possible. In the meantime, I grin as I write Hugo into my check register.

Do read this book. It's worth your time.

I buy Citgo gas, too.
And I like Hugo Chavez and admired his remarks about the stench of sulphur remaining after Bush had left the building.
But most of all, I like Chavez because he sold heating oil at a massive discount to the needy on the U.S. East Coast so they could afford to stay warm last winter.
I just Citgo'd this week. A full tank for $26.
Fuck you, Bush.
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