Daily Archives: March 6, 2012
When the paramilitaries of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) arrived in San Onofre in northern Colombia in the late 1990s, they came after dark, dragging people from their homes and disappearing into the night.
Soon, they did not need the cover of darkness. People were executed in public plazas in broad daylight. Women and young girls were openly raped and abused.
Since the demobilisation of the local AUC bloc in 2005, 42 mass graves have been discovered in the municipality. Locals say about 3000 people disappeared ands tens of thousands fled their homes and abandoned their land to escape what one survivor called a region of “concentration camps”.
Seven years on from the AUC demobilisation, San Onofre is now the site of thousands of hectares of teak trees belonging to one of Colombia’s five biggest companies, Argos S.A.
In February last year, Argos’ commercial monocrop plantation was approved for the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) carbon trading scheme. This means it can sell carbon credits to industrialised countries trying to meet Kyoto Protocol emission reduction targets.
The company says the plantation will capture 37,000 tones of CO2 a year for 25 years – worth about $12.5 million in the current carbon market. It also plans to use another teak plantation in the nearby municipalities of El Carmen and Ovejas for the CDM.
Argos claims the teak plantation is helping fight climate change and contributing to the sustainable development of a conflict scarred region, but the project has proved controversial.
Survivors from the paramilitary era and land restitution campaigners claim the plantation and its CDM status is not only an attempt to cash in on the lucrative carbon credits market, but also legitimise a mass land grab that followed paramilitary violence, and prevent land restitution to a displaced population.
The municipalities of San Onofre, El Carmen and Ovejas are in the Caribbean region Montes de Maria. A heavy guerilla presence in the area led to the creation of AUC bloc, the “Heroes of Montes de Maria” in 1997. The paramilitaries soon gained complete social and economic control of the region by murdering, torturing and displacing local farmers with the support of local state security forces.
Between 1995 and 2005, 54 massacres were reported in the three municipalities of San Onofre, Ovejas and El Carmen and, says government agency Accion Social, 117,097 people have been displaced there since the paramilitaries first arrived.
The AUC era ended with demobilisation in 2005. However, in 2008 El Espectacor reported a new invasion, of “strange personalities” in bulletproof Hummers.
A land grab ensued, in which desperate, indebted or frightened people were pressured into selling property. Abandoned land was snapped up by speculators.
Next came big business. What had previously been an area of smallholder and subsistence farming rapidly became dominated by large-scale agro-industrial enterprises ― dairy, timber, African palm and teak.
As the land became more concentrated in fewer hands, the landscape of Montes de Maria began to change. Most of Montes de Maria is now owned by just a handful of large businesses, among them Argos, which owns an estimated 12,500 hectares.
Argos claims it bought its land in San Onofre directly from the owners in 2005, after the paramilitaries had left. However, the CDM validation report indicates it first bought land in 2003 and continued to do so until 2008.
Camilo Abello, the vice-president of corporate affairs at Argos, claims the company entered “a completely peaceful zone. The Argos representative who made the purchases was able to go into the zone because there were no paramilitaries, there was no violence.”
“Juan Carlos”, a San Onofre local whose family sold their land to Argos, disagrees.
Juan Carlos’ family owned land close to the El Palmar ranch, headquarters of the infamous local AUC leader known as “Cadena” and site of a mass grave containing 72 tortured and mutilated bodies.
“We had to sell the land because we were in an unbearable situation,” he said, “Our lives were in danger.”
Juan Carlos said his family had to ask Cadena permission to sell to Argos. He said that although he knew of no formal contact between the AUC and Argos, paramilitaries visited the farm while the Argos representative was measuring the land.
Government statistics show that nearly 2000 people were forcibly displaced in San Onofre in 2005, more than in the previous two years. More than 1000 people were also displaced in 2006 and again in 2007.
Murder and displacement rates have dropped sharply since, but government risk reports on San Onofre show a renewed and growing paramilitary presence in the area.
In El Carmen de Bolivar and Ovejas, Argos bought land from the speculators who flooded the region in the wake of the paramilitaries.
One of the main sources was a group of powerful businesspeople and ranchers called the Amigos de Montes de Maria. Locals say they pressured campesinos into selling their land and evicted families from land bought for agro-industrial projects.
Testimonies collected for two NGO reports said that in at least one case Argos bought land acquired by Amigos de Montes de Maria from demobilised AUC members who had displaced its owners.
Residents also report how one alleged demobilised AUC member, Silvio Flores, went to work for the company after it bought the land he managed on behalf of a member of the group. Locals claim Flores then began pressuring other campesinos to sell; abusing and threatening them, killing their animals and burning down houses.
In the report, residents of Ovejas also describe being threatened by heavily armed camouflaged men who claimed to be the company’s security.
Argos denies any involvement in pressuring people to sell or buying from displaced people. “What we did was buy from people who wanted to sell,” said Camilo Abello, “without any coercion or pressure”.
Abello also denied any links to paramilitary groups and claimed the company does not use any type of security at the plantations. According to Abello, the company is helping the region by creating jobs.
“We don’t think that we are taking advantage, on the contrary we are supporting the reconstruction of the fabric of society, we are investing in a post-conflict zone,” he said.
The issue of land ownership in Montes de Maria has been complicated further by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ new flagship policy ― the Victims and Land Restitution Law.
The law is designed to address the desperate plight of the estimated 3-5 million Colombians forced from their lands into city slums and squatter camps by conflict and violence. Its main focus is the restitution of lands to the displaced.
Critics of Argos claim the company is using the teak plantations and their CDM status to ward off the danger of losing their lands because of the Victims Law. If Argos faces claims on its Montes de Maria land, it can retain the plantations by exploiting a loophole in the restitution process.
The Victims Law says land will not be taken from companies that are using it for agro-industrial enterprises if the company can prove it bought the land in good faith. Instead, the authorities will try to negotiate a financial agreement between company and claimant.
Colombian Congressperson Ivan Cepeda campaigns on land rights and has raised the issue of Montes de Maria land grabs to Congress.
“The operation [Argos] has done in Montes de Maria is a clear example of how the government’s proposed restitution with the Victims Laws is going to work,” he said. “All of this is a big, sophisticated operation to legalize the lands they have robbed from the campesinos.”
Cepeda is scathing of Argos’ claims to have acted in good faith when it bought the lands.
“[Paramilitary violence] did not happen in isolation,” he said. “It is a fact of public knowledge and frankly it is illogical and incomprehensible that these businesses did not know which land they were dealing with and who had lived on that land.”
He added: “[Argos’ project is] a business that it is presenting as clean when in reality it is a business drenched in blood ― the blood of campesinos that were the victims of massacres.”
The company itself says it welcomes the Victims Law and would cooperate fully with any claims on land owned by the company.
In October, Cepeda wrote to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urging him to expel Argos from the CDM program and enforce the UN Global Compact, which commits associated companies to human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption principles.
Ban did not publicly respond, but the CDM board chair Martin Hession said responsibility for the matter lay with the Colombian government.
“Primarily, it is for (them) to resolve issues like this as they certified the sustainable development of the project,” he said in an interview with Point Carbon News.
A spokesperson for the Colombian Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development said, “Only the CDM Executive Board can take this decision [to remove Argos’ approval].”
Compared with the horrors of the turn of the century, life for the campesinos of Montes de Maria is quiet. But with growing tensions over landownership and the resurgence of paramilitarism, violence and conflict still lurk beneath the surface.
“We believe that it is not going to stay calm,” said “Andres”, a campesino from Ovejas.
“It is going to continue, we are going to see deaths here, we are going to see pressure, we are going to see evictions and displacement because they are going to try to reclaim the land like a debt and we are not going to let them.”
[The names of the campesinos interviewed for this article have been changed to protect their identities.]
- Colombia emerald tsar faces probe (bbc.co.uk)
- Colombian paramilitary surrenders (bbc.co.uk)
- Colombia’s former paramilitaries: Criminals with attitude (economist.com)
- Colombia chief prosecutor quits (bbc.co.uk)
- Former Colombia rebels lured into crime rings (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Colombia’s former paramilitaries: Criminals with attitude (economist.com)
Osama bin Laden (Reuters / Stringer)
Stratfor’s vice-president for intelligence, Fred Burton, believes the body was “bound for Dover, [Delaware] on [a] CIA plane” and then “onward to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Bethesda [Maryland],” an email says.
The official version is that the body of Al-Qaeda’s top man, who was killed by a US raid in Pakistan on May 2, 2011, was buried at an undisclosed location at sea in a proper Muslim ceremony.
“If body dumped at sea, which I doubt, the touch is very Adolph Eichman like. The Tribe did the same thing with the Nazi’s ashes,” Burton commented in another email. Eichman was one of the masterminds of the Holocaust by Nazi Germany. He was captured by Mossad agents in Argentina and, tried in Israel, found guilty and executed in 1962. His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea over the Mediterranean.
“Eichmann was seen alive for many months on trial before being sentenced to death and executed. No one wanted a monument to him so they cremated him. But i dont know anyone who claimed he wasnt eicjhman [sic]. No comparison with suddenly burying him at sea without any chance to view him which i doubt happened [sic],” Stratfor CEO George Friedman replied.
“The US Govt needs to make body pics available like the MX’s do, with OBL’s pants pulled down, to shout down the lunatics like Alex Jones and Glenn Beck,” Burton says in another message.
In another missive Burton says Osama’s body “is a crime scene and I don’t see the FBI nor DOJ letting that happen.”
WikiLeaks began publishing Stratfor emails in late February. The archive was obtained by the hacker group Anonymous, which successfully attacked one of the firm’s servers. More than 5 million emails were apparently stolen.
Stratfor is a US-based intelligence firm called the “shadow CIA” by some media. Among its clients are several US agencies and many big companies. The company relies on paid tips from informants placed in high circles of business, government and security all around the world.
- WikiLeaked: Bin Laden not buried at sea, body moved on CIA plane to US (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)
- WikiLeaks: Bin Laden’s Body In Us (thewesternexperience.com)
- Leaked: Bin Laden not ‘with the fishes’, airfreighted to USA (rt.com)
- Is Osama Bin Laden in the U.S.? fact or myth! (pikapvs.wordpress.com)
- WikiLeaks Email Claims Bin Laden’s Body Not Dumped at Sea (blippitt.com)
- Hacked Stratfor Emails: Osama’s Body Not Dumped at Sea (newsworldwide.wordpress.com)
BP announced today that the Brazilian National Petroleum Agency (ANP) has approved its farm-in to four deepwater exploration and production concessions operated by Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (Petrobras) in the Brazilian equatorial margin.
BP Energy do Brasil Ltda. is taking a 40 per cent interest in each of the blocks, located in the Barreirinhas and Ceará basins, from Petrobras.
The move will give BP access to four new concession blocks in Brazil: BM-BAR-3 and BM-BAR-5 in the Barreirinhas basin, and BM-CE-1 and BM-CE-2 in the Ceará basin. Together the blocks cover a total area of 2,113 square kilometres.
“BP is building on our strengths in exploration and the deepwater and these four new blocks bring exciting new exploration opportunities, adding to the already significant position we hold in Brazil,” said Bob Dudley, BP group chief executive. “I am pleased that this also deepens our strong relationship with Petrobras, one of the world’s leading deepwater operators.”
Guillermo Quintero, BP Brazil President added: “Over the past year, in addition to acquiring ten upstream concessions from Devon Energy in May, we have made major investments in biofuels and expanded our aviation business in Brazil. I am delighted with this continued growth of our presence in Brazil.”
Following the farm-in, BP will hold concessions in 14 blocks in Brazil, operating six. BP will be a partner with Petrobras in nine of these concession areas: the Xerelete field, BM-C-34 and BM-C-35 (in the Campos basin); BT-PN-2 and BT-PN-3 (in the Parnaíba basin); BM-BAR-3 and BM-BAR-5 (in the Barreirinhas basin) and BM-CE-1 and BM-CE-2 (in Ceará basin).
- Petrobras Discovers Oil at Tucura Well, Campos Basin, Offshore Brazil (mb50.wordpress.com)
- BP Gains Access to 5 More Deepwater Blocks Off Angola (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Brazil: Petrobras Agrees Contracts for 26 Drilling Rigs (mb50.wordpress.com)
- BP Hires PSV ‘Sea Brasil’ (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Petrobras: Production Starts at Cascade Field (USA) (mb50.wordpress.com)
Walker sees four main possibilities, ranging from somewhat benign to extremely costly.
We summarize them quickly here.
- Scenario #1: EU sanctions get put into place starting July 1, resulting in 0.6 million of barrels per day coming off the market. In this case, Brent Crude would rise to about $130/barrel, though possibly less, since the embargo might make exemptions for some distressed buyers of Iranian oil, like Italy and Greece.
- Scenario #2: Full EU sanctions are put in place, plus there’s another 10% cut from other customers. In this case, we’d be talking about oil going to $138/barrel.
- Scenario #3: Iranian crude exports are halted entirely, perhaps as a result of an Israeli air strike. Then we’re talking about a loss of 2.5 million barrels per day of supply, and Brent Crude prices up around $205.
- Scenario #4: The complete shutdown of Iranian oil. This would require some kind of military action and wide internal upheaval. In this case, the world would lose 4 million barrels per day, and we’d see crude as high as $270 per barrel.
Read more: BI
- The 10 Countries That Would Get Screwed In An Iranian Oil Shutdown (businessinsider.com)
- What Happens if Iran Does Close the Strait of Hormuz? $440 Oil? (247wallst.com)
- Iran stops oil sales to British, French companies (mb50.wordpress.com)
- SHIPPING CEO: Iran Could Send Oil To $440/Barrel (businessinsider.com)
- Four Scenarios For Engaging Iran At The Strait Of Hormuz (businessinsider.com)
The operators and licence holders for the Johan Sverdrup, Dagny, Draupne and Luno fields in the North Sea will study setting up a hub for the supply of electrical power from land. The study will form the basis for a decision on electrification.
The study, which has been initiated by the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, is headed by Statoil and involves the operators Lundin and Det norske oljeselskap, as well as the other licence holders. The work will comprise technical studies, such as concept planning, as well as commercial solutions for the electrification of the fields on the Utsira High. The intention is to create a framework for potentially setting up a company or partnership to own and operate the facilities that will feed the receiving platforms with power.
It is primarily the gigantic Johan Sverdrup discovery – together with Luno, Draupne and Dagny, including Eirin – that makes such a shared power solution possible. Preparations will be made for the possible subsequent tie-in of other installations on the Norwegian continental shelf.
The study will take in an offshore distribution platform located near Johan Sverdrup, with DC cables from land to the distribution platform and AC cables on to the receiving platforms. An analysis of the power situation at the potential land-based connection points will also form part of the study.
There will be the additional requirement for converters and transformers on the distribution platform and on land. AC cables will also be necessary and the existing switching station will need to be extended for connection to the grid network.
The progress plan for study will, to a large extent, be governed by the plans of those who will be in receipt of the power.
A concept will be selected, and the investment decision made,at the earliest in the fourth quarter of this year.
The decision to electrify will be taken by the licence holders/owners, on the basis of profitability, the official specifications and the conditions stipulated . Utsira Height can be well suited for electrification due to its considerable power needs, as well as the favourable distances and water depths involved.
- Statoil Introduces New “Cat J” Jackup Rig for Norwegian Continental Shelf + [VIDEO] (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Norway: STX OSV Delivers Platform Supply Vessel to Solstad (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Norway: EMAS AMC Wins Fram SURF Deal from Statoil (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Norway: DOF Subsea to Provide Offshore Survey & Construction Services to Statoil (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Norway: Statoil Orders Subsea Structures for Asgard (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Aker Solutions Plans to Strengthen its Footprint in Northern Norway (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Norway: Kleven Maritime Receives Contract for Rem Fortune Renovation (mb50.wordpress.com)
Think everything’s fine in the US economy?
Austan Goolsbee — Obama’s former top econ advisor — is not so sure.
In a comment to Ben White’s Morning Money at POLITICO, Goolsbee explains how easily it could all slip away.
‘Unlike in other V-shaped recoveries from recessions, we cannot go back to what we were doing before … We have to shift away from housing and consumption to exporting and investing and that’s a very slow process … And the world has not been tremendously friendly to enabling us to do that. Europeans have fumbled and fumbled their way to negative growth … And China is slowing while the price of gas is going up. There are definitely some clouds. I’m not pessimistic. I’m just guardedly optimistic. … Productivity grows 2 percent a year. So if the growth rate slows to around 2 percent then the job market will stop improving and the unemployment rate will start going back up again. …
- Love is never having to say you’re too big to fail: Our favourite #FedValentines (business.financialpost.com)
- United States still in better shape than Europe: Goolsbee (business.financialpost.com)
- Austan Goolsbee’s Budget Math Is Wrong – More than 100 Percent of Long-Term Fiscal Challenge Is Government Spending (forbes.com)
- 5 Questions for Obama (politico.com)