Thursday, January 19, 2006

Agip: Never let it be said they aren't immoral

Perhaps it is because they are an oil company...

According to Agip's companies website, "[t]he company has also adopted a code of practice in its relations with its stakeholders and is committed to the development of guidelines and policies pertinent to corporate responsibility, to investing in people and their valorisation and to the pursuit of sustainable development through the integration of environmental and social considerations in its growth processes. "

But which part of "corporate responsibility" or which "social considerations" did they use when they bought oil rights from the Ecuadorean Huaorani Indians for, among other trinkets and small items, rice, butter, a whistle, two soccar balls and a stopwatch? From AlterNet:

Scanning bookshelves in his tiny law office in Quito, Ecuador, Bolivar Beltran's disdain for Big Oil is as legible as the contracts that map their nefarious ways.

"These were all negotiated in secret," says the soft-spoken attorney and Ecuadorian congressional aide, explaining how he used a lawsuit last year to obtain pages of once-classified contracts between the Ecuadorian military and 16 multinational oil companies.


Too often, the tribes' introduction to modernity comes from oil company negotiators. By finessing them into signing away oil access in morally deplorable contracts, these deals channel the legendary purchase of Manhattan island for $24 worth of trinkets. But they are learning fast. Increasingly savvy to the oilman's ways, tribes here are putting on war paint, grabbing spears and shotguns, and saying no, sometimes violently, to the world's most powerful interests.


In 2001, Agip Oil Ecuador BV, a subsidiary of the multibillion dollar Italian petrochemical company Eni, convinced an association of Huarani Indians to sign over oil access to tribal lands and give up their future right to sue for environmental damage. In return Agip gave, among other things, modest allotments of medicine and food, a $3,500 school house, plates and cups, an Ecuadorian flag, two soccer balls and a referee's whistle.

Other contracts, some marked classified, are signed by multinational oil companies and the Ecuadorian military. Activists and attorneys interviewed for this story say the documents prove the Ecuadorian army has become a private security force for oil companies, one obligated to patrol vast swaths of jungle lands while engaging, and spying on, Ecuadorian citizens opposed to oil operations.

The contracts I reviewed typically required companies to provide money and nonlethal logistical support such as food and fuel in exchange for military protection of staff and facilities in remote jungle areas.


In July 2001, a "master agreement" was signed between the Ecuadorian Ministry of Defense and 16 oil companies, including Petroecuador, the state oil company, and U.S.-based companies Kerr-McGee, Burlington Resources and Occidental Oil. Covering a duration of five years, the document is stamped "Reservado" -- classified. Its purpose: "To establish, between the parties, the terms of collaboration and coordination of actions to guarantee the security of the oil installations and of the personnel that work in them." It obligates the military to undertake "the control of arms, explosives and undocumented persons" in areas of oil operations and to give periodic updates to oil executives in monthly meetings. For their part, oil companies are obligated, among other things, to provide food, fuel and medical attention while maintaining permanent communication links with military units in the sector.


Another contract between the ministry of defense and California-based Occidental Oil, dated April 2000 and also marked classified, required soldiers to "carry out armed patrol and checks of undocumented individuals in the area of Block 15; provide security guards for ground travel of personnel, materials, and equipment within the area of operations and its area of influence; [and] plan, execute and supervise counterintelligence operations to prevent acts of sabotage and vandalism that interfere with the normal development of hydrocarbon activities."

"This basically gives the company the ability to spy on citizens," Beltran told me, a sentiment echoed by Steve Donziger, a U.S. attorney involved in an Ecuadorian environmental lawsuit against Chevron Corp.

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