Many themes run through the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables released thus far, but only one runs through the heart of all of them. Underneath diplomacy and protocol, the US Chamber of Commerce and its clients around the world have a thumbprint on every
December 10, 2010

Many themes run through the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables released thus far, but only one runs through the heart of all of them. Underneath diplomacy and protocol, the US Chamber of Commerce and its clients around the world have a thumbprint on every single economy, even in countries like Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez is in full control of his own country and remains busy destabilizing others.

In a cable dated October 15, 2009, Ambassador Patrick Duddy relays a basketful of concerns expressed to him by Chevron, Baker/Hughes and the Venezuelan/American Chamber of Commerce.

Baker Hughes, XXXXXXXXXXXX shared that doing business in Venezuela is increasingly difficult, noting that where there used to be seven steps required to export a container from Venezuela, there are now over thirty steps imposed by GBRV agencies. XXXXXXXXXXXX confirmed that BHI has removed higher-technology assets from Venezuela.

That complaint sounds familiar, doesn't it? They all hate bureaucracy.

Chevron, on the other hand, has figured out a way to pull out the profit without investing anything in the country. Guess they're using the lessons they've learned here at home.

ChevronXXXXXXXXXXXX told the Ambassador XXXXXXXXXXXX that the company’s two Maracaibo joint ventures (JV ) Petroboscan and Petroindependiente) with PDVSA are profitable especially since Chevron is not investing new funds. He confided that although the JVs owe over $100 million to various service companies, Chevron is withdrawing profits through a deal to take crude oil shipments from Petroboscan to its Pascagoula refinery in Alabama.

Enter the US Chamber of Commerce with their list of complaints:

The Ambassador also attended a dinner hosted by the Zulia chapter of the Venezuelan-American Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber participants echoed well-known concerns regarding the difficulties with the CADIVI foreign exchange controls and voiced caution regarding the use of the parallel permuta rate because they do not want to be seen as possibly operating on the margins of Venezuelan law. A XXXXXXXXXXXX manufacturer mentioned that he is no longer able to import material from Europe using CADIVI. He fears his production costs will significantly erode his company’s competitiveness if he imports the fabric using the permuta exchange market.

To which I show him the world's tiniest flea playing the world's tiniest violin. Let's back up and remember why these US companies are in Venezuela. Here's the answer, in the Ambassador's conclusion:

The two perspectives on doing business in Venezuela presented by Chevron and BHI underline the private sector’s difficult situation -- faced with increased risk, companies are not investing in operations but are seeking ways to maintain a market presence given the tremendous opportunities that may yet exist in Venezuela,s oil sector.

It's all about the oil, baby. And the US Chamber. And commerce. Human rights? Meh. Chavez destabilizing Honduras, other countries? Meh. Oil trumps all.

If you don't believe that, check out this cable from 2007 written under the Bush administration.

As Chavez seeks to take on the mantle of this generation',s Castro, he starts with built-in advantages, not the least of which is a whole lot of money. Add to that the bluster of his anti-imperial, anti-U.S. rhetoric, and a certain squirrelly charisma, both of which continue to find a sympathetic audience in much of Latin America, and he presents a formidable foe. But he certainly can be taken. Washington policy-makers have already hit on one sure-fire tactic: Don,t fire back at every provocation, especially when it,s clear that Chavez,s mouth has opened before his brain has engaged. His recent dust-ups with both the Brazilian and Chilean senates over the RCTV closure are examples where Chavez,s ranting lost him points with ostensible friends without our having to lift a finger.

Is it any wonder the Ambassador was expelled because Chavez suspected an overthrow effort?

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