Monthly Archives: December 2012

US Army War College publishes bad writing, says Venezuela aids all evildoers


I was having fun trying to understand the abstract, which is one of the worst pieces of English-language writing I have ever seen published. (At first I thought maybe the copy editor had been waterboarded and was rebelling by allowing this to go to press, but now I think it’s actually the English language being tortured in real time.)

And then I read the paper, and the fun ended. Here is a selectively informed, biased observer coming up with preordained conclusions. Shorter (and clearer) Max Manwaring: Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is actively exporting the ideology and practice of asymetrical warfare to a wide range of criminal, terrorist and anti-US organizations and governments as part of an unreformed Leninist revolutionary ideology.

Such thinking would be no big deal if it were just some fringe dude on the Intertubes. In fact, there is a benefit in having paranoid fantasies of all sorts popping up here and there, as sometimes those fantasies turn out to be correct. But in this case, I worry, as this is coming out of the US Army War College. Sure, it has plenty of disclaimers saying it’s not official US doctrine, thinking or policy. But still, if the people making US defense policy take seriously this kind of scholarship, that country is in worse trouble than I thought. Continue reading

Chevron in Argentina: Hoping for a breakdown in division of powers?

The Ecuador plaintiffs seeking $19 billion from Chevron Corp. just sent out an interesting little press release, pointing out this article in La Nación in Argentina. I think it’s worth noting. Why? Because most of the pro-corporate types who watch South America point to the breakdown in division of powers between courts and executive as being a bad thing. And here, La Nación says that a big corporation –Chevron– will only move ahead with its new oil plans if judges rule a particular way on a court case. That could set up an interesting situation regarding division of powers, as the executive branch wants Chevron’s investment and so it has an interest in vacating a big judgment in favor of Ecuadorian rain forest residents. Here’s the link, and here’s a bit of a translation.

The YPF deal depends on an end to the Chevron injunction
It was admitted by the manager of the local unit of the US company, whose funds are frozen by judicial decision Continue reading

Venezuelan intelligence defends Derwick Associates from the deadly peril of journalism

Hey, remember Derwick Associates? The guys who recently accused me of being part of a global defamation conspiracy because I:

1. Reposted a deleted article about the company, originally posted at, which mostly rehashed stuff from reporting originally found in an article by Venezuelan reporter César Batiz in the newspaper Últimas Noticias
2. Laughed at the lawyer letter they sent me demanding I take down that page
3. Gave Batiz evidence that the FBI and US Treasury Department had looked at articles about Derwick on this website
4. Wrote a little note pointing out that there are databases out there to show Derwick’s connection to planes that are registered through anonymizing services

I don’t think this is really about defamation, as nobody has yet told me how anything I have said was defamatory. Instead, they just seem very keen on avoiding press attention.

Personally, I find this all pretty funny, as their efforts have been mostly self-defeating. At first I didn’t care much about this Derwick case. But these guys couldn’t just sit there and let the skeptical reporting go. They had to attack. And now, they are looking ever more interesting.

But the laugh riot doesn’t end there. Because now, Venezuela’s “intelligence” police — or someone claiming to represent them — have joined the fun, thereby guaranteeing even MORE attention on this extraordinarily successful company. Continue reading

Pacific Rubiales Energy: Equal time on union issues (plus fe errata)

As I said the other day, I contacted Pacific Rubiales for comment on this story and the company sent me a response Sunday. I am just posting it as I was out in the mountains, away from even telephone contact. With no edits at all, here is what the company sent me. Always best to hear all sides in a situation where some people are being killed and others are being accused.

First and foremost, we would like to thank you for the possibility of commenting the story you referenced in your e-mail. It is important to be very precise with the information to be published, particularly bearing in mind facts pertaining to this case. To this end, please bear in mind the following:

1. Milton Enrique Vivas was a worker in the Cara-Cara Field, which is at least 170km away from PRE’s operations.
2. Cara-Cara is an concession contract for oil and gas production called “Contrato de Asociación” by and between the Spanish Company CEPSA and Ecopetrol.
3. Pacific Rubiales has no participation in this operation.
4. Mr. Vivas was not actively pursuing any union related agenda with pacific Rubiales.
5. The Police Department (Under Col. Jaime Romero, Meta’s Maximum authority) attested a couple of days back stating that Mr. Vivas filed complaints and seeked Police protection from 4 different Union representatives, specifically from USO, having stated that he was under duress and constant threats. source:

Regarding our official stance and our comment, we would like to state that Pacific has been respectful of the union activities undertaken by the USO with direct and indirect employees at the Fields, particularly when you consider that Pacific has allowed the USO to execute several activities in the Fields, for the promotion and understanding of the freedom of association in the Oil & Gas Sector regardless of the fact that they do not represent any of the Company’s employees at the Field. Any and all allegations stated by the USO regarding discharges, dismissals, excessive work hours and days, precarious housing conditions, and violation to the right of association are not only misleading towards the general public, but we also categorically deny; we would nonetheless be pleased to review any actual support. Regarding CGC and MRS, we would be happy to forward your observations to the specific Company, considering that these are outside the scope of our Management Team.

Also, Boz checks in to remind me that Colombia is no longer the deadliest place in the world to be a unionist, as Venezuela took over the top spot.

And, I am amazed that my report about a Colombian unionist getting killed got a tenth the page views of my off-the-cuff ramblings about possible directions of the Venezuelan oil industry post-Chávez.The Colombia story is more important and includes original reporting that required a trip to a remote part of the world where almost no English language reporters have gone. But I guess I’ve learned an important lesson. You want hits? Make provocative and un-disprovable statements about Venezuela.

Derwick Associates says I’m an agent in a defamation campaign

Published today in El Nacional, a newspaper in Caracas. If there’s interest I’ll translate this, but don’t have time at this very second.

Derwick can’t be bothered to send a letter here, despite my permanent policy of providing a forum for those who take exception to my reporting and my specific request to their lawyers that they write me if they have an issue with anything I’ve said. Instead, they took out the ad, text pasted below, in which call me and others “agents” in a “campaign of defamation.” If I’m someone’s agent, I wish they’d tell me where to pick up my check.

By the way, Derwick’s reputation self-due-diligence company, FTI Consulting, had someone searching for online info about me the other day. No big deal, but I find it odd how so many “investigators” snoop around in obvious, self-revealing ways but never bother to pick up the phone and just ask questions. Reminds me of this.

Anyway, I thought this statement from Derwick deserved to be archived publicly. So here you go.


El pasado 29 de noviembre recibimos un correo electrónico del periodista César Bátiz, miembro de la Cadena Capriles, en el que consultaba la opinión de nuestra empresa sobre “la búsqueda de información que han iniciado instituciones de EEUU, como FBI y los departamentos de Estado, Tesoro y Seguridad de la Nación, acerca de Derwick”. Nuestra respuesta, enviaba el mismo día, se concentraba en tres puntos: Continue reading

If Venezuela government changes, what happens to the oil industry?

It’s a complicated question but in light of everyone speculating on Venezuela’s future these days, I figure I could toss in my contribution. These are just a few thoughts about what will happen to Venezuela’s oil industry if President Hugo Chávez has to leave office for any reason, including illness or death — both of which seem freshly possible with his difficult cancer operation this week. But here’s the spoiler: I don’t think anything’s going to change. Continue reading

Colombia oilfield union activist killed, fingers get pointed

Llanos of Colombia's Meta Department seen from Termotecnica worker housing occupied by strikers, August 2012.

Llanos of Colombia’s Meta Department seen from Termotecnica worker housing occupied by strikers, August 2012.

Milton Enrique Vivas, 42 was killed 11 December. He was a union activist who had taken part in fights for better conditions at different companies.

The Union Sindical Obrera (USO) oil union, in its statement on the web, suggests that paramilitaries may have been to blame, and makes a point of mentioning that Vivas was part of the union struggle against Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp., without implicating the company in the crime. The police said they are investigating the USO, because Vivas supposedly accused union reps of threatening. Continue reading