On Counterpunch, author Nikolas Kozloff examines American political strategist James Carville’s numerous forays into South American politics, including ties to BP and the establishment opponent of Colombian Green presidential candidate Antanas Mockus, who came in second with a bit over 20 percent of the vote yesterday. Carville has recently been on American network news blasting BP for their oilspill near his native Louisiana, yet Kozloff talks about what Carville has done to prop up BP in South America (and they are now considering offshore drilling in Colombia, just to add to the hypocrisy). Read the full article here.
A political guru, frequent CNN pundit and a personality who was featured in the well known documentary The War Room, Carville moves in powerful circles in the U.S. What’s less commonly known, however, is that Carville is also a virtual kingmaker in Latin America — indeed, his professional contacts have ranged from Mexico’s Ernesto Zedillo to Brazil’s Fernando Enrique Cardoso to many others.
His latest stint is the troubled Andean nation of Colombia, which is fast approaching its presidential election. There, according to Colombian magazine Semana, Carville has offered his consulting services to Juan Manuel Santos, a former Minister of Defense and member of the governing Social Party of National Unity or Party of the U. Santos, who is trailing in recent polls against Green Party candidate Antanas Mockus, hopes that a bit of Carville’s previous luster will rub off on him…
Take, for example, the case of Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, who works with Carville and helped with the infamous Goni campaign in Bolivia. According to Tom Hayden of The Nation, one of Greenberg’s clients included BP. Interestingly enough, Hayden adds, BP was also heavily invested in Bolivia at the time to the tune of billions of dollars. Indeed, during Goni’s embattled presidency BP was at the center of Bolivian political controversy, as the company formed part of a planned consortium which would have piped gas to Chile and from there on to the U.S.
In the wake of Goni’s ignominious departure from Bolivia, Carlos Mesa inherited the presidency and held a referendum asking Bolivians whether they wished to recuperate state control over natural resources. “BP,” writes Hayden, “supported the referendum, along with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, as did US Embassy officials, because the possible alternative–an Indian-led revolution–was even worse.”
It’s The Environment, Stupid
All of this prior history is now being brought to bear on Colombia, where Carville in his role as political confidant once again stands to play an influential role. In Colombia, as in Bolivia, energy companies loom large. Recently, Bogotá has militarily taken on guerrilla forces and undertaken measures to make the investment climate more promising for foreign oil corporations.
As a result, the country has seen rising petroleum investment, and currently BP is a key player in Colombia. A company which has already accumulated a sordid environmental and human rights track record in Colombia, BP is —incredibly — thinking about commencing exploratory drilling in offshore Colombian oil blocs.
Colombia needs to give BP the boot if it wants to avert disasters like the one in the Gulf, yet it’s by no means clear that Carville’s man Santos is the one to take on the oil industry. An establishment politician who favors the military and foreign investment, Santos would seem to be an unlikely environmental champion.
His opponent, Antanas Mockus, is no radical either and it’s not clear whether he would usher in an environmental revolution in Colombia. However, if Mockus was victorious he would be the first Green Party president in the world. A politician who wants to restore integrity and legality to Colombian politics, Mockus is therefore more likely to rein in Big Oil.