First, I have in the past featured the highly controversial activities of Royal Dutch Shell in Nigeria. To say that its activities in the Niger Delta and relationship with the Ogoni tribe are controversial is to put things mildly. Now we have these cables in which American officials claim that a Shell executive boasted of infiltrating the Nigerian government. From WikiLeaks' media partner The Guardian:
The oil giant Shell claimed it had inserted staff into all the main ministries of the Nigerian government, giving it access to politicians' every move in the oil-rich Niger Delta, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable.There's another story that caught my eye. I have never been much of a fan of Venezuela's so-called Bolivarian Revolution insofar as it has done rather worse by its people in the aftermath of expropriating several Western oil companies. If you kick the foreigners out, I'd be a heck of a lot more impressed if you could at least sustain output at pre-nationalization levels. Let's just say Hugo Chavez hasn't achieved this feat. Talk about ideology trumping reality. Worse, for lack of technical expertise, it's said that he's asking same Western companies he kicked out to come back on terms more favourable to them. Not very impressive; Simon Bolivar probably wouldn't approve:
The company's top executive in Nigeria told US diplomats that Shell had seconded employees to every relevant department and so knew "everything that was being done in those ministries". She boasted that the Nigerian government had "forgotten" about the extent of Shell's infiltration and was unaware of how much the company knew about its deliberations.
The cache of secret dispatches from Washington's embassies in Africa also revealed that the Anglo-Dutch oil firm swapped intelligence with the US, in one case providing US diplomats with the names of Nigerian politicians it suspected of supporting militant activity, and requesting information from the US on whether the militants had acquired anti-aircraft missiles.
Venezuela's tottering economy is forcing Hugo Chávez to make deals with foreign corporations to save his socialist revolution from going broke. The Venezuelan president has courted European, American and Asian companies in behind-the-scenes negotiations that highlight a severe financial crunch in his government. Venezuela's state-owned oil company, PDVSA, is the engine of the economy but buckled when given an ultimatum by its Italian counterpart and has scrambled to attract foreign partners, according to confidential US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks.And then there's the humiliation of Hugo as he calls back the conquistadores:
The memos depict an unfolding economic fiasco and suggest some of Chávez's key allies – Argentina, Brazil and Cuba – are gravely concerned at Venezuela's direction. "President Chávez, for his part, is acutely aware of the impact the country's general economic trajectory has had on his popularity," says one cable...
However, in separate private conversations with the [American] ambassador, Patrick Duddy, industry figures detailed the parlous state of the industry. A senior manager from Chevron estimated the state oil company's output at 2.1m to 2.3m barrels per day, well below official declarations of 3.3m.
Italy's ambassador to Caracas, Luigi Maccotta, told his US counterpart that [national] Italian oil company ENI squeezed PDVSA over an Orinoco belt deal in January this year knowing it had no one else to turn to. The Italians delayed the signing by two days to reinforce the Venezuelan government's "need for ENI". Paolo Scaroni, the company's CEO, then faced down Venezuela's oil minister, Rafael Ramirez, over changes to terms and conditions.Colour me unimpressed, Hugo.
"Thirty minutes before the ceremony was supposed to begin Scaroni told Ramirez: 'Take it or leave it, I can get on my plane and move on.' Ramirez apparently used that half an hour to convince President Chávez to accept all of ENI's proposed changes or risk losing the deal," according to the US cable. The Italians said they would not pay PDVSA a standard signing bonus because the company already owed them $1bn.