Saturday, July 01, 2006

If only Haiti and Bolivia were playing today...

On Saturday, two football/global political-economic powerhouses meet each other in the World Cup in Brazil (ranked 9th, despite its deplorable wealth inequality index) and France (ranked 24th). It should be immediately obvious to most people, at least from a global justice perspective, whom to cheer for. So just for fun, let's pretend it's not immediately obvious.

On May 1st of this year, Evo Morales, the newly elected President of Bolivia, ordered troops to occupy 50 gas and oil institutions across the country, forcibly nationalising the natural resources of his impoverished country. The move echoed earlier actions by Allende in nearby Chile, as well as by Mossadegh in Iran (a point which I would surely have brought again up had Iran advanced beyond the group stage this year). Foreign energy corporations operating in Bolivia -- Brazil's Petrobras, Spain and Argentina's Repsol, British Petroleum, and USA's ExxonMobil -- were given 180 days to renegotiate their contracts and accept Bolivia's new policy of taking 82% of the proceeds for the benefit of the Bolivian people. After many years of exploitation, the bottom line is, no more cheap gas for Brazil.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil responded by calling a summit with Morales, Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. As half of Brazil's supply of natural gas comes from Bolivia, Lula is going to be in some serious political hot water because of the Bolivian President's move. At the same time, Lula is aware that his country has for many years been dependent on the exploitation of its poor neighbor. Lula will likely end up agreeing to the contract and/or providing some additional incentives to Bolivia in exchange for keeping the price of natural gas low.

The point here, above all, is that Lula is negotiating with Morales. Contrast that with the way England responded to Mossadegh's nationalisation of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, or with the way the USA responded to Allende's nationalisation of the copper industry in Chile.

. . . or with the way France (and the USA) responded to the mere fact that Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide continued to breathe air back in 2004. Surely many readers are aware of what transpired in February of that year, when US and French forces kidnapped the Haitian President and left the country to the mercy of thugs trained and armed in the Dominican Republic by the USA. (SourceWatch has a nice synopsis if you're unfamiliar with the story.) Haiti, for the record, the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere, does not sit on natural resources of any particular interest to the richer countries that surround it. One wonders why this invasion and coup d'etat was worth all the trouble.

So, yeah, you should cheer for Brazil, if only because you can't cheer for Bolivia or Haiti.