Sunday, August 07, 2005

Chevron's slaughter of the innocents: great minds think alike

Chevron denies it, but what else would you expect them to do? Admit that they hire and pay for death-squads? From Elise Ackerman in The Mercury News:
The bodies of the dead Nigerian villagers had not yet grown cold when the Nigerian navy captain presented Chevron with a bill: 15,000 naira, or $165 for responding to "attacks from Opia village against security agents.''

Within 24 hours Chevron paid up. It would be years before the San Ramon-based energy company would acknowledge the role it played in the destruction of Opia and another small village called Ikenyan in Nigeria's oil-rich delta in January 1999.

The receipt for the January 4 army raid, which left four villagers dead and nearly 70 missing and presumed dead, came to light only this summer as part of a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of the victims in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. It is being reported first on The receipt also is among documents obtained by the Mercury News.

Chevron has denied any responsibility for the death or injuries that occurred that day. Charles Stewart, a Chevron spokesman, said the payment to the captain reflected "a longstanding industry practice of paying a small amount for each day'' to military personnel who protected "the people and the property of the oil companies located in the Niger Delta.''
Here's the Big Joke: Chevron had been engaged in a battle with China's government oil company, CNOOC, for purchase of Unocal Corporation. Chevron has been trying to get Congress to intercede on its behalf, using China's "human rights record" as a major reason (that's on the record; off the record, no one interested in interceding on behalf of Chevron could give a shit about human rights, of course). Now that CNOOC has withdrawn its offer, Chevron is free to acquire Unocal for $1 billion less than their rival's offer.

However now Chevron faces a jury in Federal court in San Francisco. Ackerman's story sets out, in gory detail, the circumstances behind the Opia massacre and evidence for Chevron's deep involvement in it. She sums it up this way:
Barbara Enloe Hadsell, an attorney for the villagers said that in addition to paying the security forces, Chevron loaned them [a] helicopter that was used in the attack. She said Chevron personnel not only accompanied the soldiers as they flew to Robin Creek but also directed the pilot to "deviate from his course'' to pursue villagers who were "getting away.''

"That's complete Chevron involvement,'' Hadsell said.

Stewart, the Chevron spokesman, admits that Chevron's Nigerian subsidiary helped transport the military reinforcements to the rig after gunfire was heard on the radio. Stewart also acknowledged that a Nigerian military officer onboard one of the helicopters "discharged a gun during flight.''

But Stewart said Chevron did not authorize the weapons to be fired and that it occurred when no village was in sight. "We are confident as the case progresses, Chevron will be vindicated,'' he said.
So what do you think? Do you think a global oil company would stoop so low as to pay Nigerian goons a couple of bucks to exterminate a village that was in their way?

That's funny. That's what I think, too.