Greg Palast investigating BP’s blowout in the Caspian, Baku, Azerbaijan 2010.
Only 17 months before BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig suffered a deadly blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, another BP deepwater oil platform also blew out.
You’ve heard and seen much about the Gulf disaster that killed 11 BP workers. If you have not heard about the earlier blowout, it’s because BP has kept the full story under wraps. Nor did BP inform Congress or US safety regulators, and BP, along with its oil industry partners, have preferred to keep it that way.
The earlier blowout occurred in September 2008 on BP’s Central Azeri platform in the Caspian Sea.
As one memo marked “secret” puts it, “Given the explosive potential, BP was quite fortunate to have been able to evacuate everyone safely and to prevent any gas ignition.” The Caspian oil platform was a spark away from exploding, but luck was with the 211 rig workers.
Chevron petroleum Corporation is attempting to slither out of an $8 billion judgment rendered yesterday by a trial court inÂ Ecuador for cancer deaths, illnesses and destruction caused by its Texaco unit.
I’ve been there, in Ecuador.
I met the victims. Â They didn’t lose their shrimp boats; they lost their kids. Â Emergildo Criollo, Chief of the Cofan Natives of the Amazon, told meÂ about his three-year-old. Â “He went swimming, then began vomiting blood.” Then he died.
When I showedÂ Texaco lawyer RodrigoÂ PerezÂ the epidemiological studies tracing childhood cancers to their oil, Â heÂ sneered and said , “And itâ€™s the only case of cancer in the world? How many cases of children with cancer do you have in the States, inÂ Europe, in Quito? If there is somebody with cancer there, [the Cofan parents] must prove [the deaths were] caused by crude or by the petroleum industry. And, second, they have to prove that it is OUR crude â€“ which is absolutely impossible.”
The Texaco man stated,Â “Scientifically, nobody has proved that crude causes cancer.”
President Barack Obama has said that the British-based BP must pay for all the damage it caused in the Gulf.
I’ve just returned from the Gulf and I can tell you, it’s grim, it’s terrible. Â But compared to the damage caused by Chevron-Texaco, the Gulf blow-out is a picnic.
So now, Mr. President, will you stand by your words and tell this renegade, deadly US corporation to pay for the damage they have done?
At the end of my meeting with the oil company lawyers, I showed them a document in which Chevron-Texaco directed its underlings to destroy evidence.
The oil company men said they would get back to me with an “explanation.” Â It’s been three years, and I’m still waiting.
There is another insidious game being played by Chevron. Â The oil company’s ethically-challenged law firm, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, has attempted to block the Cofan and other victims of Chevron from having legal counsel. Â They have even convinced some pinhead judge to block collection of Ecuador’s judgment because harming Chevron would be a blow to “global business.”
A Conversation with Ecuador’s New President [Quito] I don’t know what the hell seized me. In the middle of an hour-long interview with the President of Ecuador, I asked him about his father.
I’m not Barbara Walters. It’s not the kind of question I ask.
He hesitated. Then said, “My father was unemployed.â€
He paused. Then added, “He took a little drugs to the States… This is called in Spanish a mula [mule]. He passed four years in the states- in a jail.â€
He continued. “I’d never talked about my father before.”
Apparently he hadn’t. His staff stood stone silent, eyes widened.
Correa’s dad took that frightening chance in the 1960s, a time when his family, like almost all families in Ecuador, was destitute. Ecuador was the original “banana republic” – and the price of bananas had hit the floor. A million desperate Ecuadorans, probably a tenth of the entire adult population, fled to the USA anyway they could.
“My mother told us he was working in the States.”
His father, released from prison, was deported back to Ecuador. Humiliated, poor, broken, his father, I learned later, committed suicide.
At the end of our formal interview, through a doorway surrounded by paintings of the pale plutocrats who once ruled this difficult land, he took me into his own Oval Office. I asked him about an odd-looking framed note he had on the wall. It was, he said, from his daughter and her grade school class at Christmas time. He translated for me.
“We are writing to remind you that in Ecuador there are a lot of very poor children in the streets and we ask you please to help these children who are cold almost every night.â€
It was kind of corny. And kind of sweet. A smart display for a politician.
Or maybe there was something else to it.
Correa is one of the first dark-skinned men to win election to this Quechua and mixed-race nation. Certainly, one of the first from the streets. He’d won a surprise victory over the richest man in Ecuador, the owner of the biggest banana plantation.
Doctor Correa, I should say, with a Ph.D in economics earned in Europe. …more