ALFA wants to spend billions of dollars on this

Thanks to the indispensable Otto Rock, always with his ear to the ground for community (ahem) issues, I hear about this situation in Puerto Gaitan.

Following several days of protest around the Pacific Rubiales offices in Puerto Gaitan, Meta, a group of about 60 indigenous people entered and took over the multinational’s premises. The natives of the community Vencedor-Pirirí arrived with clubs and bows to demand that Pacific fulfill agreements it had with them, including maintenance of the Puerto Gaitan-Rubiales road, schools, and health centers. The situation in the morning became tense over the situation of Pacific employees, so the police intervened.

A police officer goes on to explain that some workers were briefly held captive until the police moved in. The host comes back to say that several vehicles have been burned in the protest.

In other news, a pal in Bogotá says Pacific has already taken its name down from its headquarters building, and I heard third-hand that signs in the oilfields are being replaced with signs that don’t have Pacific’s name. If anyone could get me a photo of either of those, I’d be quite grateful. I’d be happy to post it here with or without attribution, your choice.

Odebrecht — Just a Brazilian issue?

Marcelo Odebrecht, head of Brazil’s biggest engineering and construction company, is in jail in Brazil on allegations of kickbacks in the procurement of oil industry materials to Petrobras. Without prejudging his guilt or innocence, I think it’s fair to say he isn’t doing himself any favours with e-mails like this:

Brazilian police said on Wednesday they intercepted a note from the jailed chief executive of Odebrecht SA to his lawyers asking to “destroy email,” after he became the highest-profile executive arrested in Brazil’s largest ever corruption investigation.

The handwritten note, reproduced by Federal Police and posted in court documents online, says “destroy email drilling rigs.”

Marcelo Odebrecht, head of Brazil’s largest engineering and construction conglomerate, was arrested Friday in a sweeping investigation into a kickback scheme at the state-run oil company Petrobras. [ID:nL1N0Z50JB]

Dora Cavalcanti, a lawyer for Odebrecht, called the publication of the note “an act of extreme bad faith by the police,” and said there was nothing criminal about its contents or Odebrecht’s intent.

“That phrase ‘destroy email’ meant ‘explain’ or ‘refute’ the allegations about the email,” Cavalcanti told Reuters, adding that it was one of seven points in Odebrecht’s notes for his plea for habeas corpus, or release from unlawful imprisonment.

Yes, clearly, he was only saying that the e-mail needed to be destroyed metaphorically. I’m all for metaphoric destruction. When you growl “I will destroy you” of course you don’t mean that you will put someone in a meat grinder. Rather, you mean you will harm the person’s reputation. Something Mr. Odebrecht is learning all about, now that I think of it.

Joking aside, the question is, does Odebrecht have operations in other oil-producing countries? With an ostensibly weak compliance regime in Brazil, might there be something to investigate in other countries? Happily, the answer is no. Because Odebrecht operates only in strictly controlled, low-corruption jurisdictions:

Odebrecht Oil & Gas offers integrated solutions for the upstream oil and gas industry in Brazil, and selectively, in Angola, Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico, both during the investment as well as the operations phase.

Oh good, nothing to worry about.

Update a few minutes later: I see the NY Times does Angola today:

Corruption Is Killing Children in Angola

This is a video report that I’ll never be able to do again. It’s about Angola, an oil-rich and fabulously corrupt country that also happens to be thedeadliest place in the world to be a child.

Angola, naturally, doesn’t welcome journalists. It took me about five years to get a journalist visa to get into Angola, and after my reporting I doubt I’ll get another visa as long as the current regime remains in power. So at The Times, we poured a lot of time and effort into the story of what corruption does to a country.

For me, the most compelling moments are those of rural Angola, the villages where people live without any access to doctors or dentists. We simply drove down a highway for hours, and then twice took small dirt roads quite randomly to see where they would lead, and then stopped in villages and chatted with people. It’s pretty heartbreaking to see kids suffering untreated from disease and unable to attend school, or to meet a mom who has lost 10 children — and it’s not just sad, but infuriating when you see it in a country that is rich with oil and diamonds. Then you remember that the Angolan president’s daughter is a billionaire, that Western governments are buddying up to the president — and, well, you feel you owe it to the villagers you met to tell their story in their own words. So we shot some videos to run with my columns. May this add pressure on the government to spend its oil wealth not just on Porsches and Champagne for the leaders, but also on health and education for ordinary Angolans.

Go watch Kristof’s video if you can stand it. And don’t worry about Odebrecht because I’m sure they had nothing to do with any of this.

Personal to lawyers and investment bankers

Uploading filings to regulatory and court systems as scanned PDFs doesn’t hide them. People like me download them and OCR them. Every time you file a graphic PDF rather than a machine-readable document, you are just making yourself look more suspicious and inviting me to read the document more carefully. It doesn’t help you.

PetroTiger CEO pleads guilty to FCPA violation in Colombia

PolitickerNJ has the story.

The former co-chief executive officer (CEO) of PetroTiger Ltd. – a British Virgin Islands oil and gas company with operations in Colombia and formerly with an office in New Jersey – pleaded guilty today to conspiring to pay bribes to a foreign government official in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)…

Sigelman admitted to conspiring with co-CEO Knut Hammarskjold, PetroTiger’s former general counsel Gregory Weisman, and others to make illegal payments of $333,500 to David Duran, an employee of the Colombian national oil company, Ecopetrol…

Colombia … announced in March of this year the arrests of Duran, his wife, a former employee of PetroTiger, and several other officials from Ecopetrol…

Go read it all

And here, yours at no extra charge, is the superseding indictment.

ProEnergy document leaker storms out of closet

I’ve spent the last two days thinking about how to write a post on this, and I think the best thing is to let this person speak for himself. If you’re at all interested in the whole drama of ProEnergy Services and Derwick Associates in Venezuela, you need to see this. A leaker, Dan Rosenau, is offering a big cache of documents to anyone who wants to help the world understand the ProEnergy-Derwick weirdness.

Apparently, this leaker was the source of the Tomas Lander documents I linked to a few months ago, and which also gave rise to my story asking questions of Pratt & Whitney Power Systems (now just PWPS). There are many, many more documents as well.

ProEnergy Services didn’t respond to a voice message and an e-mail in which I requested comment and confirmation that the documents are genuine. The company also didn’t confirm or deny whether Rosenau had worked there.

Interesting. Go check it out at Cryptome.org.

Venezuela coin scam update

Hannah Dreier, the wonderful AP correspondent in Caracas, reports that coins have disappeared there. And yet the Venezuelan mint says it continues to produce them (Excel sheet).

Here are the number of pieces in circulation over the past couple years:

Venezuela Central Bank pieces in circulation

Thanks to the miracles of Excel, I was able to use that table to calculate a minimum number of how many pieces have been minted in the past two years, past year, and past month. (Note that this is net of any coins intentionally taken out of service, but that number is probably very small.)

Continue reading

China plans huge Brazil-Peru rail link

Interoceanic Highway

The new road climbing out of the Amazon into the Andes

Story here.

Chinese premier Li Keqiang is to push controversial plans for a railway through the Amazon rainforest during a visit to South America next week, despite concerns about the possible impact on the environment and on indigenous tribes.

Currently just a line on a map, the proposed 5,300km route in Brazil and Peru would reduce the transport costs for oil, iron ore, soya beans and other commodities, but cut through some of the world’s most biodiverse forest.

The six-year plan is the latest in a series of ambitious Chinese infrastructure projects in Latin America, which also include a canal through Nicaragua and a railway across Colombia. The trans-Amazonian railway has high-level backing. Last year, President Xi Jinping signed a memorandum on the project with his counterparts in Brazil and Peru. Next week, during his four-nation tour of the region starting on Sunday, Li will, according to state-run Chinese media, suggest a feasibility study.

 

The criticisms are similar to those that met the Interoceanic Highway project along the same general route a decade ago. When I traveled that road in 2011, when it was mostly paved but still missing a couple final links, I found that the most of the predictions of doom had failed to come true, while there were some clear benefits from the road construction. However, the bad news may have been bubbling away, and I haven’t been back to see if things stayed so positive once the road was fully open.

Time to go back!