Monthly Archives: May 2012

Venezuela-Iran oil (and terror) ties as vaporware

Here’s Tom O’Donnell’s latest in MEES. He first goes into a very detailed analysis of each Iranian energy project in Venezuela. He shows that it’s mostly vaporware, or as we say in the former British Empire, vapourware. And then he looks at whether his findings have any bearing on the whole Iran-Venezuela TERROR-BE-SCARED line that continues to filter out of the US. I quote much here but do go click:

… unsubstantiated assumptions about the nature, scope and success of Iranian-Venezuelan joint ventures abound. According to these observers, Venezuela’s Bolivarian oil policy has facilitated Iran to create a significant Latin American “terror network,” often making claims about Hezbollah in this respect, or that Iranian Revolutionary Guards are providing training for the Colombia’s FARC guerrillas in Western Venezuela and “asymmetric warfare” training for the Venezuelan military. Others claim that Iran has been extracting uranium ore in Venezuela including in the guise of making cement, engaging in extensive money laundering, flying large quantities of contraband to Tehran on a (formerly) regular flight from Caracas, and, generally, preparing to counter any U.S. and/or Israeli attack on Iran by creating havoc in Latin America, perhaps even cutting off oil shipments to the U.S.

It is very difficult to prove or disprove such assertions, and there may be validity to some. However, great skepticism should pertain when on-the-ground evidence shows that, on the oil-and-gas front, which is the supposed forté of Venezuela and the central focus of President Chávez’ signature Bolivarian diplomacy, there has been a woeful and chronic inability by PDVSA to fulfill agreements with Petropars, the Iranian flag-bearer there.

Mmm, tasty morsel. Now go read the whole story.

PS: A special note to owners of websites that prefer to repost entire articles. This is how you cite something you like. Feel free to use this post as a model.

Arevenca in Aruba: The locals get restless

For those late to the story: Arevenca is a Venezuelan company that may have once been a gravel yard. It has little history in Venezuela, but has a spectacular website advertising vast holdings in the oil shipping and refining industries. Almost everything on the site appears to be false. None of its refineries exist. No ships registered to Arevenca appear in any shipping databases. A supposed Nigerian company, which also has no paper trail, sued Arevenca in the US for allegedly accepting payment for a shipment of petroleum products and then failing to either deliver the fuel or return the cash. Separately, I have heard from various sources that a company in the US paid Arevenca US$7.8 million for petroleum products that never arrived. Just after that transaction, Arevenca leased an Airbus jet and tried to start an airline in Aruba — investing, according to a recent company statement to the press, 14 million florins, which coincidentally is equal to US$7.8 million. Aruban authorities haven’t yet given this airline, Fly Aruba, an operating license, so the jet has been sitting on the runway, gathering salt in its engines. Fly Aruba had started to train workers, but the workers have recently been getting impatient about the company failing to make payroll. Those workers have started sending lawyer letters to Arevenca.

Reader JS sends these news clippings from Aruba newspaper Bon Dia.

Our trusty correspondent summarizes the reporting thus:

The process has started [in which the workers get the court to] declare the company bankrupt…. The newspaper spoke to 2 employees but the lawyer of the employees could not be contacted…. The date for this process is not yet known and it is in the hand of a judge to decide the future of Fly Aruba.

In the other article [Arevenca President Francisco Javier Gonzalez] is saying he doesn’t understand why they want to declare the company bankrupt as he doesn’t owe the employees anything. He says he was giving the employees a gift [rather than salary] while they were in training. The newspaper is asking, is this stated in the contract of the employees and how is it possible that workers get a gift instead of wages? And is FJG paying taxes on this gift to the employees? FJG did not want to answer these questions to the newspaper but confirmed that he is operating under local law and conditions. He explained that the thousands of question they had for him will be answered when the time is right.

Now just to game this out a little, if the Aruban authorities go along with this idea of declaring Arevenca bankrupt and seizing some of its goods to pay workers, that is less money for the US company and the Nigerian company who are also trying to get money out of Arevenca. Could be a mess.

Pave the Earth II: Chile loves cars

If there’s one thing that defines the Chilean national character, it’s a love for the countryside. That means that the first thing people do when they can afford it is buy a car. For country-dwellers, a car or truck helps make the rural lifestyle a bit more profitable, as taking crops to market in horse-drawn wagons is more quaint than efficient. For city folks, a car helps people to see the countryside on the weekend. But of course soon enough, a big portion of both country and city folks, once they own cars, become suburban folks. And once they are living in spread-out suburbs, they need another car, and another. It’s a feedback loop we’ve seen all over the world.

I don’t know exactly where Chile is in this process, or whether it’s already too late to halt the sprawl. What’s clear is that the feedback is accelerating. Check this out, from the national statistics office car report, released yesterday: Continue reading

Pave–I mean save–the Earth!

RioCentroGo read Quasecarioca as he points out the hypocrisy built into the carbon-spewing mess that is the UN’s upcoming climate change summit.

The Rio Centro convention center is a hallmark icon of the disastrous, planet-warming, urban-planning-done-wrong that Rio+20 is supposed to be working to counteract. Rio Centro is located in the rapidly expanding Barra da Tijuca suburb that turns the walkable, pedestrian-friendly center of Rio completely on its head with a maze of highways, shopping malls, parking lots and gated communities.

I only add that what he says is new only in degree, not in kind. The first Rio summit, in 1992, was held in an equally remote conference centre for “security” reasons. Heads of state flew around in helicopters and zipped through the city in motorcades as nervous camo-covered teens with M-16s guarded every overpass. The simultaneous NGO summit in 1992 was at least transit-accessible, but as I have mentioned before, I was the only person there to arrive by bicycle. The whole professional activist and climate-bureaucrat world is one of the more infuriating realities for those of us who ride bikes and eat local vegetarian food as we try to limit our carbon footprints. A single climate change bigwig, be s/he from the UN or NRDC or WWF or Nature Conservancy, can swamp a lot of the good done by those of us who try to live lower-impact lives. As David Brower said, “Conservationists have to win again and again and again. The enemy only has to win once.”

Anyway, read Quasecarioca. He’s smarter than me and is actually informed and stuff. Yes, you — why haven’t you clicked yet? Click it.

Coming late to the indignation party: Chile

Monday and Tuesday, Chile charged eight emergency response bureaucrats with negligent homicide for calling off a tsunami warning after the 8.8-magnitude earthquake of 27 February 2010.

That quake sloshed the Pacific ocean so hard that it generated a tsunami wave so high that it soaked land as much as 20 meters above sea level and hundreds of meters inland. The wave killed 156 people and left 25 missing. But even as the wave was hitting towns and villages, emergency response agencies were saying there was no tsunami. This week, some people in charge of the agencies were charged with negligent homicide in a trial that is drawing national attention. Some Santiago newspapers are blogging the trial live; here is La Segunda’s version.

Among other tidbits already to emerge from the trial, according to La Segunda (translation mine): Continue reading

20 years on from the Earth Summit

Hey, remember how at the first Earth Summit in 1992, the US & Japan governments blocked action on carbon taxes and binding global targets on greenhouse gases, saying that such things would push oil to above $30 a barrel? Remember George HW Bush saying, “The American Lifestyle is not up for negotiation”? Remember the horror stories of possible $45 oil, and how that would destroy the world economy? (And yeah, I know that austerity is never a winning platform, and these governments were just hand-puppets of the big car and oil companies. But imagine if they had taken leadership in convincing the companies of the long-term benefit of the simple, elegant solutions already being proposed at the time — like a harmonized carbon tax across developed countries.)

And remember the activist groups who saw climate talks as an opportunity to load in every pet issue, from dismantling the World Bank to increasing aid for poor countries to stopping free trade agreements, rather than just focusing on the task at hand, which was to reduce fossil fuel consumption? (And yeah, I’m as holistic as the next guy, but no, poor countries wouldn’t have been hurt by a carbon tax — at least not as much as they’ve been hurt by the last decade of volatile oil prices. Indeed, some of the biggest success stories in the developing world, such as Brazil and Chile, have high fuel taxes, while the countries like Venezuela and Bolivia that subsidize fuel as a path to development have struggled.)

Anyway, thanks, everybody. There’s another Earth Summit coming up in Rio in June. This article (a couple months old already) gives a good sense of the prospects — which can be summed up by saying that we are on track to join other “dominant” species.

PS: At the first Earth Summit, I was the only person to arrive daily by bicycle. On that, at least, we’ve made some progress.

Venezuela oil: Flies on the devil’s excrement

A funny thing happened the last time I was in Venezuela. I’m in this cab. Long ride. We’re going from Caracas to Valencia, 90 minutes away, and then the driver’s going to be my chauffeur all day for $100. We’re out on the freeway rolling down out of the coast range to the savannah and he asks me about my work.

I tell him I sometimes write about oil and he tells me, all conspiratorial-like, that I must have good contacts at PDVSA, the state oil company. He asks how to get into the oil business. I tell him most people go go to university and study engineering. And he says no, I want to get into oil deals, selling Venezuelan oil. I try to explain how Venezuela decided a long time ago to put that business in the hands of the state. So if you like that sort of thing, you need to work for PDVSA. He says, no, no, all frustrated-like. I want to sell oil to a foreign country.

I repeat that PDVSA is in charge of that sort of thing, and that average José on the street can’t just start selling oil. That’s when he backs up and tries to explain why he needs contacts in PDVSA. It’ll make us both a lot of money, he says. Continue reading

Arevenca geekout: Local comments translated

Arevenca, the parent company of the startup airline Fly Aruba, has gotten a lot of criticism in the local Papiamentu language in Aruba. For the benefit of us not versed in this amazing language, reader JS has graciously translated some of the comments from this local news item at

Just to be clear, reposting these comments doesn’t mean I agree with them. I especially dislike the anti-Venezuelan racism you see in some of them. But given that this website seems to be the only place on the web that potential oil scam victims can see how the game works, I figured it doesn’t hurt to give a bit of commentary from victims and their neighbors. Continue reading

Chile copper reserves exposed to Bolivian marauders as land mines removed

Here’s a big issue for you copper investors out there: Chile, the single biggest copper-producing country, is backing down from its vigilant protection of this vital industrial metal by getting rid of the 181,814 land mines it placed on the country’s borders in the 1970s.

No, seriously — 181,814 land mines. Today, Chile’s defense minister was out declaring some mine fields “cleared” in the Antofagasta Region, near the town of Ollagüe. Roughly here.

So far, 50,000 have been destroyed. That would mean there are still more than 131,000 land mines in this country. Good thing, too, cause otherwise who knows what would happen to all that copper.

Arevenca failure to pay: Reposting with full translation

Early yesterday, I posted a link to this story, which while understandable by the target audience of Papiamentu-speakers in Aruba, was largely opaque to me. Thanks to the incredible generosity of reader JS, who took the time to translate the story, I can now give it to you in English. So, here you go.

Fly aruba has not paid its employees for 2 months.

It’s not one but two months that employees of Fly Aruba have not gotten their payment. This company aims to become a local company and has a big airplane parked at the south side of the airport. Some people find that this aircraft is taking away parking space for other aircraft. Continue reading