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Brazil is open for US business at OTC, but Petrobras eyes local suppliers

By Katharine Frase
May 2, 2011 4:58 PM

With Petrobras planning to invest $224 billion between 2010-2014 in Brazil’s upstream and downstream oil and gas sector, plenty of US companies want to get a handle on how to get a piece of that. And US officials on hand at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston want to lend a hand, including two who are visiting the meeting from the US consulate in Rio de Janeiro.

The key for foreign companies in Brazil may be raising your Brazilian profile, according to a panel of Petrobras and US officials at OTC. While Petrobras will buy goods originating elsewhere, it does place a preference on local sources and foreign companies are encouraged to build equipment in Brazil (this is known as the local content policy).

That is not to say Petrobras will not buy foreign-built equipment. Joao Henrique Rittershaussen, general manager of strategic market development in Petrobras’ procurement department, gave a slide show that included an extensive list of equipment that it is in the market for, including pumps, cranes, compressors, structure steel, flares, power generators, tanks, processing towers, reactors, wet Christmas trees, offshore wellheads, manifolds, umbilicals, tubing, flexible pipes, risers and turbines. He also went over the types of representatives that companies can retain in Brazil; the criteria for being selected, such as meeting certain industry standards; and did a quick walk-through of where to find more about the company’s procurement on its website.

Not all of it is for pre-salt oil exploration and production, and a lot is for refineries, the Petrobras official noted, saying that the boost in downstream is “huge.” As for sourcing, Petrobras’ objective is to see more companies hiring and building out in Brazil because the “idea here is to maximize local content,” but it will still buy foreign goods, Rittershaussen said.

After his presentation, he told a reporter that there are “more opportunities for companies” that set up shop in Brazil. Also, companies with a local presence usually provide “faster and friendlier” after-sales service and response than a foreign company; at least that’s what a slide in one of the presentations said. In essence, there is a sliding scale upon which “if the product can be made in Brazil,” the proportion of local content used will be higher, he told the OTC audience.

“We recommend that you find a Brazilian partner,” Alan Long, principal commercial officer with the US Commercial Service at the US Consulate in Rio, said. “We can help you find potential partners,” he added, noting “we can do customized market research and then move forward with company to company introductions.”

Just as Petrobras, a publicly traded company controlled by the Brazilian government, would like to see more Brazilian companies land its investments, the US wants to maximize the amount of Petrobras spending that could flow to American companies, according to Joseph Ringer, the senior export finance manager for the Export-Import Bank of the United States‘ southwest region. The Ex-Im Bank has “open account terms” with Petrobras to speed loan guarantees for US companies wanting to do business with it, he added.

Houston-based Ringer gave an overview of the types of credit programs accessible through his agency and offered to sit down with would-be US exporters to Brazil. “We make house calls. We actually come out to visit you.”

Original Article

Duncan: Obama’s energy policy blocking job creation

by Jason Evans

NATION — As the nation’s gas prices rise, Rep. Jeff Duncan believes that President Obama needs to re-examine his administration’s energy policy.

The president recently praised Brazils’ energy policy, commending their exploration of off-shore drilling.

But at the same time, Duncan says, the Obama administration is tying the hands of energy producers here at home, by refusing to issue permits that would allow for offshore drilling for oil and natural gas.

“We’ve got the president going to a foreign country and applauding them for what we should be doing,” Duncan said.

The administration has lifted the moratorium placed on drilling that was put into place after the disaster on the Deepwater Horizon rig, which left 11 people dead and blanketed the Gulf of Mexico in oil for months.

But though the moratorium has been lifted, Duncan says new permits are being issued at a glacial pace.

Duncan serves on the Natural Resources Committee, which has been meeting recently with groups such as the Deepwater Horizon Commission, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The theme on the committee has been ‘How do we get the folks back to work in the Gulf of Mexico back and address rising gas prices in the nation?’” Duncan said.

Duncan believes the administration’s policy on offshore drilling and drilling on federal land is standing in the way of economic development.

“He seems to have a policy of ‘Drill there, not here,’” Duncan said. “We’ve got the resources to meet America’s independent energy needs, through offshore drilling and drilling on federal lands that have been taken off the table.

“We’ve got a president applauding a foreign country for what we’re not doing, thanks to his policy,” he said. “We need to be tapping American resources.”

Issuing permits to those wishing to drill — who have met all requirements — will lead spur economic recovery, Duncan said.

“I truly believe that energy is a segue to job creation,” he said.

More drilling would benefit not only the energy companies themselves, but a variety of services industries tied to energy-producing areas and beyond, Duncan said.

“We know we have the resources,” he said. “It’s time to put our money where our mouth is.”

Approving and investing in more drilling would also have an impact at the gas pump, Duncan said.

“It would signal to the market that we are serious about American resources,” he said. “We’d see a lessening of the price at the pump.”

That would be a boon to industry and small businesses alike, Duncan said.

“Their costs of business would go down, based on their fuel prices going down,” he said.

Duncan said he is a “huge fan” of nuclear energy, and disagrees with Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who has said America “needs to put the brakes on” building new nuclear plants, in light of the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima No. 1 reactor.

“I say no,” Duncan said. “We need to proceed cautiously, but we’ve been proceeding cautiously for the past 30 years.”

He said residents of Pickens and Oconee counties know first-hand the value of nuclear energy, thanks to Duke Energy’s Oconee Nuclear Station plant.

“You know it’s safe,” he said. “The energy source is stable, it’s consistent. You don’t have the fluctuations in the power grid.”

New nuclear technology will ensure that reactors stay cool in the event of a catastrophe.

New plants can be built with gravity-fed reactors, in which the cooling water is kept above the reactor, Duncan said.

If a power failure occurs, the water falls on the reactors, cooling them and preventing a meltdown.

Plants such as Fukushima No. 1 rely on force-fed cooling, which is why the pumps failed when the power failed, he said.

“The new reactors aren’t going to have that issue,” Duncan said.

Duncan said he believes in an “all-encompassing” energy policy for the United States, including wind and solar power.

“I believe in using it all but I also believe that we have needs that have to be met,” Duncan said. “Wind and solar would provide only a slim fraction of our energy needs. We cannot ignore the natural resources that God gave us, the resources we need to be tapping.”

( Original Article )

pickenssentinel.com

Lula Urges Mexico, Brazil to Form Oil Partnership

image

ACAPULCO, Mexico – Mexico and Brazil should form a strategic partnership in the oil sector, according to former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who urged oil monopoly Petroleos Mexicanos and Petrobras to work together to ensure further growth and technological development.

“I dreamed that one day Petrobras and Pemex … might unite, perhaps to create another company to explore other markets around the world,” Lula said Friday at the close of the two-day Mexican Banking Association’s 74th annual conference.

He said this potential alliance should be discussed by the two governments with an eye to exploring for oil “in other regions around the world with more competitive markets and to becoming more competitive, more profitable and larger Latin American companies.”

“I hope that’s possible,” said Lula, who gave a speech at the conference titled “Global Challenges for Resolving the Global Financial Crisis: Brazil’s Experience.”

Lula recalled that Petrobras ceased to be a monopoly in 1997 and became a mixed company with 38 percent of its capital controlled by the state and the rest in private hands.

He recalled that the energy giant raised $70 billion last year in the biggest share sale in history and now is a powerful company whose market capitalization has climbed from $5 billion to $215 billion.

Lula noted that Petrobras is a modern company that has its own research center and makes use of cutting-edge deep-water drilling technology, adding that that is “not the result of luck, but of investment.”

Although Petrobras is a mixed-capital company, the government participates in the company’s decisions and makes sure the country’s strategic interests take precedence, Lula said.

While Petrobras in considered a world leader in deep-water drilling and has made massive ultra-deep finds in the Atlantic Ocean in recent years, Pemex’s output has stagnated due to aging fields and a lack of major new discoveries.

An energy overhaul in 2008 gives Pemex – nationalized in 1938 – more freedom to undertake projects with private firms, which are to be hired under incentive-based service contracts.

But the legislation excludes the provisions of President Felipe Calderon’s original initiative that would have allowed those companies a stake in the oil or any eventual profits.

Lula, a former Marxist who governed as a centrist from 2003 until the end of his term in Jan. 1, 2011, also noted that after no new refineries were constructed for 30 years Petrobras currently is building five.

He also said the company has become a self-sufficient natural gas producer and is working to develop alternative fuels.

Lula said the government must play an important role in the economy and cannot be afraid of private initiative, but instead but establish clear rules of the game for all sectors.

He called on Mexican bankers to arrange business meetings with Brazilian executives to form strategic alliances that lead to the creation of “strong and competitive” new companies.

After comparing the size of the both countries’ economies and bilateral trade flows, the former president said there is “something wrong in (bilateral) relations.”

Lula said it is disappointing that total bilateral trade amounts to just $7 billion annually and challenged the two countries to adopt a more daring trade policy.

He also urged Mexico, which is heavily reliant on trade with the United States, to look more to strengthening relations with South American nations.

Regarding the global financial crisis, Lula said it is still not over and that it is necessary for world leaders to remain vigilant.

He also said the G-20 group of major economies must take measures to prevent banks from falling into financial problems, strengthen government oversight and bar financial entities from lending money they don’t have.

( Original Article )

laht.com

George Soros Holding Two Events To Takedown The USA by Controlling Finance and Media

April – 6 – 2011

Dan Gainor @ FOX News:

Apparently, megalomaniacs need schedulers.

Just ask George Soros. The left-wing billionaire is helping fund two major conferences that start on the same day, in two different locations just a three hours apart by car. Two liberal events packed into one long weekend. God created the world in six days. Apparently, Soros, who sees himself as “some kind of god,”needs just a long weekend to start remaking today’s world in his image.

The emphasis of both conferences is a familiar one to American voters – change. Soros wants to begin changing the global economy in one event. In the other, his flunkies want to “Change the world. Change the media.”

Now that is change you can believe in. Sadly, those who actually report the news must believe in it because they sure as heck aren’t reporting on Soros or either event. And that’s even though staffers or even executives from Reuters, the Financial Times, NPR, PBS, The Washington Post and other major media outlets are speaking at one event or the other.

The first gathering in Bretton Woods, N.H., is an economic conference Soros once described as “a grand bargain that rearranges the entire financial order.” In October 2009, Soros committed $50 million to the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET). A week later, the glib lefty investor wrote a column calling for a new Bretton Woods event, to recreate the one that helped design the post-WWII economy. Only he wants this one to knock America down a peg or three.

Now, it’s been a little over a year later and the group he funded is making King George’s wish come true – bringing together a whole slew of important people to discuss how to change the global economy. In Soros speak, that means “establish new international rules” and “reform the currency system.”

The announced speakers include a lot of prominent lefties, globalists and economists on the board of the organization he has throwing the event – more than two-thirds of the overall total have ties to Soros. To underscore their connection to history, INET is hosting the conference at the Mount Washington Resort, the very same hotel that held the first gathering.

[…]

Just down the road in Boston, a Soros-funded media conference is trying to manipulate that emerging order as well. Close to 350 left-wingers from a variety of organizations are gathering there for the National Conference for Media Reform.

That “change the world” conference includes two commissioners from the FCC, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Bernie Sanders, four Democratic representatives, the head of Columbia University, and assorted left-wing journalist types, from Salon’s Glenn Greenwald to disgraced former MSNBC host David Shuster, who now works for a Soros-funded investigative operation.

Apparently, megalomaniacs need schedulers.

Just ask George Soros. The left-wing billionaire is helping fund two major conferences that start on the same day, in two different locations just a three hours apart by car. Two liberal events packed into one long weekend. God created the world in six days. Apparently, Soros, who sees himself as “some kind of god,”needs just a long weekend to start remaking today’s world in his image.

The emphasis of both conferences is a familiar one to American voters – change. Soros wants to begin changing the global economy in one event. In the other, his flunkies want to “Change the world. Change the media.”

Now that is change you can believe in. Sadly, those who actually report the news must believe in it because they sure as heck aren’t reporting on Soros or either event. And that’s even though staffers or even executives from Reuters, the Financial Times, NPR, PBS, The Washington Post and other major media outlets are speaking at one event or the other.

The first gathering in Bretton Woods, N.H., is an economic conference Soros once described as “a grand bargain that rearranges the entire financial order.” In October 2009, Soros committed $50 million to the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET). A week later, the glib lefty investor wrote a column calling for a new Bretton Woods event, to recreate the one that helped design the post-WWII economy. Only he wants this one to knock America down a peg or three.

Now, it’s been a little over a year later and the group he funded is making King George’s wish come true – bringing together a whole slew of important people to discuss how to change the global economy. In Soros speak, that means “establish new international rules” and “reform the currency system.”

The announced speakers include a lot of prominent lefties, globalists and economists on the board of the organization he has throwing the event – more than two-thirds of the overall total have ties to Soros. To underscore their connection to history, INET is hosting the conference at the Mount Washington Resort, the very same hotel that held the first gathering.

INET Executive Robert Johnson defended his event in a March 31 interview with Lou Dobbs. Johnson, a former managing director at Soros Fund Management, who is on the Board of Directors for the Soros-funded Economic Policy Institute, avoided saying “Soros” despite Dobbs mentioning Johnson’s boss several times. In his last response, he tried to rationalize the Soros connection, by saying “I have a group of funders including George Soros.” With $50 million, Soros alone makes a pretty big group. Of course, Soros will also be speaking in Bretton Woods about The Emerging Economic and Political Order.”

Just down the road in Boston, a Soros-funded media conference is trying to manipulate that emerging order as well. Close to 350 left-wingers from a variety of organizations are gathering there for the National Conference for Media Reform.

That “change the world” conference includes two commissioners from the FCC, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Bernie Sanders, four Democratic representatives, the head of Columbia University, and assorted left-wing journalist types, from Salon’s Glenn Greenwald to disgraced former MSNBC host David Shuster, who now works for a Soros-funded investigative operation.

The rest of the list reads like a “Who’s Who” of left-wing organizations and talking heads, including the president of PBS, a senior vice president with American Public Media, an Al Jazeera English executive, the president of the Newspaper Guild – CWA and Washington Post columnist Rob Pegoraro. Many others have Soros connections, such as:

Common Cause, which has been going after conservative Supreme Court justices who have some connection to the Koch brothers. Common Cause seems immune to similar investigations of their own gravy train.

Columbia Journalism Review’s Dean Starkman. He is chief of the review’s “The Audit” section and a 2006 Katrina Media Fellow with the Open Society Institute, the primary Soros charitable foundation.

Free Press, which is holding the conference. Free Press has received more than $1 million from Soros since 2003 and has 18 presenters pushing for things like “strong public media” or an extremely expensive national broadband plan they quaintly describe as “universal access to communications.”

Think Progress’s Koch-hating Lee Fang. Think Progress is a project of Democrat John Podesta’s Center for American Progress, which was founded with Soros money. Fang is on the panel for: “Real Issues vs. Astroturf: Confronting the Koch Brothers,” and makes the laughable claim “this is not about liberals versus conservatives” when the entire goal of the left is to shut down the Kochs to defund the right.

Everywhere you they go in Boston, they’ll be making more left turns than NASCAR. It’s an event filled with lefties dissatisfied that the news media aren’t even more liberal, and their goal will be to make that happen. Whether it’s “Beyond Pronouns: Creating Real Stories About Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People” or pushing for illegal immigrant rights, the conference is a predictable liberal take on pretty much everything.

But the over-arching theme is getting government to fix the media. Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, whose school also includes the well-known and partly Soros-funded Columbia School of Journalism, is one of several speakers advocating for increased government funding for media. He called for federal funding of the media in a 2010 Wall Street Journal piece with the terrifying headline: “Journalism Needs Government Help.” Bollinger pushed for the creation of a public media that combines NPR, PBS and Voice of America. He also wants to “end to the regulation of ‘indecent’ language and images in broadcast programming” and return to the Fairness Doctrine.

Two other speakers, Free Press founder Robert McChesney and co-author John Nichols, have been pushing for $35 billion a year to fund media. Though their solution has gone from $20 billion a year for three years to $35 billion indefinitely, they are consistent in wanting U.S. media to be more like it is in Europe and oppose the “fantasy of a free-market solution.”

That’s not surprising. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who is speaking at both conferences, is wildly critical of people who support free markets, or what he calls “free market fundamentalists.” Free markets are directly in opposition with the Soros-funded group think that sees Big Government as merely a starting point for Ever Bigger Government.

This weekend, we get two visions of taxpayer-funded solution, only most in the news media are too short-sighted to see them.

Dan Gainor is the Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center’s Vice President for Business and Culture. He writes frequently for Fox News Opinion. He can also be contacted on FaceBook and Twitter as dangainor.

( Original Article )

foxnews.com

Main Brazilian bourgeois paper attacks Hugo Chavez and Alan Woods

February 10th, 2010

A HIGHLY INFLUENTIAL – and right-wing Brazilian bourgeois commentator wrote an article for O Estado de Sao Paulo attacking Chavez from the right, tracing his evolution from his early days to his latest turn to the left. In doing so the author names the editor of Marxist.com, Alan Woods as one of the main influences responsible for Chavez’s move to the Left. Here we publish the original article and a reply from Alan Woods.

On Thursday 4th February an article was published in the leading bourgeois newspaper in Brazil O Estado de Sao Paulo. The writer is considered one of the 100 most influential people of Brazil, adviser to former presidents, international lecturer, etc. He is obviously a right winger who hates Chavez and is worried about the growing influence of Marxism in the Bolivarian Movement.

The article names the editor of Marxist.com, Alan Woods as one of the main influences responsible for Chavez’s move to the Left, and Alan has sent a reply to O Estado de Sao Paulo, which is a shortened version of the piece we publish below.

The Third Chavez

By Demétrio Magnoli

Karl Marx created the 1st International, Friedrich Engels participated in the founding of the 2nd, Lenin established the 3rd, Leon Trotsky founded the 4th and Hugo Chávez has just raised the banner of the 5th. “I take responsibility before the world, I think it is time to rally the 5th International and dare to make the call,” he said in a speech lasting five hours, at the opening session of the extraordinary congress of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) to the applause of 772 delegates in red shirts.

The congress was held in November. Then Chavez imposed energy rationing in the country, devalued the currency and introduced a dual exchange rate, nationalized a supermarket chain, suspended cable TV broadcasts and unleashed a bloody crackdown on student protests. The Chavista International will see the light of day at a world conference in Caracas in April, and the Venezuelan parliamentary elections are scheduled for September. But the future of the man who wants to succeed Marx, Lenin and Trotsky will be shaped by an event completely outside his influence: the Brazilian presidential election of October.

Chavez is living his third incarnation, which is also the last. The first Chavez emerged after the failed coup of 1992, in the guise of nationalist and anti-American warlord mesmerized by the image of an imaginary Simón Bolívar. Under the influence of Argentine sociologist Norberto Ceresole, that original Chavismo flirted with anti-Semitism and dreamed of the establishment of an authoritarian, fascist-style state, which would reunify Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador in a restored Great Colombia.

A second Chávez could be discerned in outline in the spring of the first term in 1999, after the break with Ceresole, when the Leader drew close to Heinz Dieterich, a German Professor of Sociology in Mexico who came out of obscurity to formulate the concept of “socialism of the 21st century.” Chavismo reinvented itself and acquired left-wing collaborators, formed an alliance with Cuba and engaged in the project of building a state capitalism that was presented as a long transition towards a kind of socialism untainted by the Soviet legacy.

Brandishing a copy of The State and Revolution by Lenin, the Chavez of the extraordinary congress of the PSUV announced his conversion to the programme of the destruction of the “bourgeois state” and the building of a “revolutionary state.” This third Chavez was already implied in 2004, when the Leader got to know the British Trotskyist Alan Woods, and was fully manifest by the time of his defeat in the referendum of December 2007, shortly after the break with Dieterich. The PSUV is a result of Chavismo of the third period, as is also the proclamation of the 5th International.

The word palimpsest comes from the Greek words palin (again) and psao (to scratch or wipe out). A palimpsest is a manuscript rewritten on several times, the superposition of successive layers of text, in which the ancient layers do not disappear completely and maintain a complex relationship with the later writing. To the horror of the sophisticated Woods, Chavismo is a palimpsest of a doctrine that represents a bizarre mixture of the Bolivarian Patria Grande, a strategic alliance with Iran, the barbaric impulses of Leaderism and a difficult learning of the language of Marxism. The most recent text, however, takes precedence over the old and indicates the direction in which the “Bolivarian revolution” is moving. Chavez reacts to the crisis caused by his own regime, tightening the screws of the dictatorship and launching wildly on a campaign of expropriation.

Chavismo is a revolutionary regime, not a traditional populist government or a mere “Caudillo” phenomenon. The PSUV has, on paper, 7 million members, of which 2.5 million participated in the election of delegates to the extraordinary congress. The decline of Chavez, aggravated by the ongoing economic crisis, lends support to the predictions of his electoral defeat in September, but revolutionary regimes are not thrown out of power by votes. “I will not allow my leadership to be challenged, because I am the people, dammit!” the warlord of Caracas roared weeks ago. This man will not allow the people to contradict him at the polls. The inexorable decline of Chavismo will be bitter, dramatic, perhaps bloody. But its duration will depend essentially on the direction of the foreign policy of the new Brazilian government.

Several times Brazil spread a net under Chavez. Lula and Amorim protected the Venezuelan when he closed RCTV, when he was defeated in the constitutional referendum, during the Colombian hostage crisis, and the controversy over U.S. bases, and in the failed adventure of the return of Zelaya in Honduras. On behalf of the interests of Chavismo, the Brazilian president has wasted the opportunity of strategic cooperation with Barack Obama.

In the course of stabilization of the “Bolivarian revolution”, Brazil regionally isolated the Venezuelan opposition, helping to consolidate the regime of Chavez. Now begins another cycle: the dismantling of the political and social bases of Chavismo. In the new scenario, Brazil becomes essential: only the South American power has the means and influence to carry for at least a few kilometres the coffin of this irascible Leader.

The government majority in the Senate approved Venezuela’s entry into Mercosur, under the cynical argument that democracy in the neighbouring country would be better preserved by the virtual abolition of the democratic clauses of Mercosur. In meetings of the OAS, Brazilian diplomacy manoeuvres to avoid a clear condemnation of the Chavista offensive against the students and press freedom. In Caracas, a technical mission sent by the Brazilian government articulates a plan to rescue the Venezuelan electricity grid from collapse. The statement of support by Chavez for Lula’s re-election was greeted with scorn by the revolutionary Chávistas. Today, even Woods must be secretly praying for the triumph of Dilma Rousseff.

Reply of Alan Woods – For the attention of Demétrio Magnoli

Dear Sir,

In your article of 4th February, you present an apocalyptic picture of President Chavez, who you say has experienced “three incarnations”. By this, you presumably mean that his views have evolved in recent years – to the left. That is a fact, but whether you see this change as good or bad will depend on your political standpoint and the interests you defend.

From the content of your article, I conclude that you stand on the right politically and are trying to defend the status quo, whereas as a Marxist I stand for socialist revolution. It is therefore quite natural that our attitudes towards Chávez will be radically opposed. Now there is nothing wrong in defending opposite points of view, but let us at least base ourselves on fact, not fiction.

You write: “original Chavismo flirted with anti-Semitism and dreamed of the establishment of an authoritarian, fascist-style state”. There is no basis whatever for making such assertions. One of his first actions Chávez took after winning the 1998 elections by a landslide was to hold a referendum on the Constitution, which remains the most democratic Constitution in the world. This is hardly the action of someone who wishes to establish a fascist-style state.

During the past decade Chávez has won more elections and other popular consultations than any other political leader in the world. Nor can it be argued that these elections and referenda were rigged. In no other country have elections been subjected to closer international scrutiny than in Venezuela. Yet nobody has been able to produce the slightest evidence that the elections were rigged.

What about the “democratic” opposition, for which you show such tender sympathy? In 2002 the Venezuelan oligarchy overthrew the democratically elected government in a coup, which was immediately recognized by Washington. Had the opposition succeeded, Venezuela would have ended up like Chile.

This is not the place to deal with the false notions of Heinz Dieterich, which you mention. I have dealt at length with that subject in my book Reformism or Revolution, which has recently been published in Brazil. It is sufficient to say that the basic mistake of Dieterich and other reformists is to assume that it is possible, to achieve socialism without expropriating the land, the banks and the major industries. This idea (which is shared by some people in Brazil) is a recipe for disaster.

You write that the “third Chavez was already implied in 2004, when the Leader got to know the British Trotskyist Alan Woods, and was fully manifest by the time of his defeat in the referendum of December 2007, shortly after the break with Dieterich. The PSUV is a result of Chavismo of the third period, as is also the proclamation of the 5th International.”

I am gratified with this statement, but in all honesty, I believe that you greatly overestimate my influence over the President, who has a mind of his own and is accustomed to making his own decisions. My own views on the revolutionary process can be summed up as follows: It is not possible to make half a revolution. Either the Revolution will take the economic power out of the hands of the landlords, bankers and capitalists, or it will fail. Either the Revolution will defeat the oligarchy, or the oligarchy will destroy the Revolution.

I have stated these views many times in Venezuela and they are well known to many people, including Hugo Chavez. But I have never presumed to tell anybody what to think. On the basis of experience, the working people of Venezuela can decide for themselves who is right and who is wrong, and they are doing so. The reformist wing, which represents the influence of the bourgeoisie within the Bolivarian Movement, is losing support, while the audience for revolutionary Marxist ideas is growing. You naturally see this as a bad thing, while I see it as extremely positive.

You contradict yourself when you write: “Chavismo is a revolutionary regime, not a traditional populist government or a mere ‘Caudillo’ phenomenon”. But three-quarters of your article is precisely intended to present Chavez as a mere Caudillo, an authoritarian, if not an outright fascist. You talk about Chavez “tightening the screws of the dictatorship and launching wildly on a campaign of expropriation”, about “destroying the bourgeois state” and so on. This is enough to make the hair of respectable Brazilian bourgeois stand on end. But I believe that many Brazilian workers and peasants will see things differently.

You complain about the measures taken against RCTV, the ultra-right TV station that actively prepared the coup in April 2002. I am not well acquainted with the laws concerning the mass media in Brazil, but I can say this. In my own country (which is generally regarded as having a long democratic tradition), if any TV station actively supported sedition, including advocating the assassination of the head of state, it would have its license immediately withdrawn and those responsible would find themselves in prison.

You eagerly anticipate “the inexorable decline of Chavismo”, which you claim, “will be bitter, dramatic, perhaps bloody”. Yes, for years all the reactionaries in North and South America have been hoping for this. But at every stage their hopes have been frustrated by the movement of the workers and peasants of Venezuela.

Can it be that this time the hopes of the imperialists will be justified? It is impossible to say. The Venezuelan Revolution, like all revolutions, is a struggle of living forces. It can be influenced by many factors, such as the present worldwide economic crisis, the exhaustion of the masses after over a decade of struggle, the immense pressure of imperialism, and last but not least, the mistakes of the leadership.

You say that the duration of Chavismo “will depend essentially on the direction of the foreign policy of the new Brazilian government”. What is the meaning of this cryptic and mysterious statement? You criticize the Lula government for not joining in the attacks against the Venezuelan Revolution. You say: “On behalf of the interests of Chavismo, the Brazilian president has wasted the opportunity of strategic cooperation with Barack Obama.” [my emphasis, AW]

The hatred of the imperialists for Hugo Chavez has nothing to do with his alleged “authoritarianism” (since when has Washington been afraid of authoritarian regimes?). It is because he has courageously stood up to them and denied the big transnational companies the right to continue their uncontrolled plunder of Venezuela’s oil. For generations US imperialism has exercised a brutal stranglehold over the mighty continent of Latin America, exploiting its people, draining its resources, interfering in its internal affairs, overthrowing democratically elected governments and installing dictatorships.

The Brazilian bourgeois are content to play the role of the local office-boys of imperialism, the local agents of the big American transnationals. They hate Hugo Chavez for the same reason as their masters in Washington. But when the workers and peasants of Brazil see what is happening in Venezuela, they will say: thank God somebody is prepared to stand up to these bloodsuckers! And they will add: when are we going to do something similar in Brazil?

Brazil, with its huge population and vast resources, is destined to play a key role in shaping the future of Latin America. The people of this great country must decide what kind of government they want and what kind of system they wish to live under. The massive vote for Lula showed that the Brazilian people want a fundamental change – just like the people of Venezuela.

I firmly believe that the future for Brazil, for Latin America and the whole world, can only be socialism – not the bureaucratic caricature of Stalinism, but a healthy and vibrant socialist democracy, when the land, the banks and the major industries are in the hands of the state, and the state is in the hands of the working people.

It is the great merit of the Bolivarian Revolution that it showed the people of Latin America that it is possible for the masses to bring about change through a great and powerful movement from below. The workers have shown that it is possible to take over the factories and run them under workers’ control.

It is the great merit of Hugo Chavez that he was prepared to tell the whole world that capitalism is a rotten and corrupt system that cannot serve the interests of humanity; that it cannot be reformed, but must be overthrown; and that the only alternative before humanity is socialism or barbarism. I understand, Senhor Magnoli, that this message is not at all to your liking. But that does not mean it is not true.

Finally, you say that “even Woods must be secretly praying for the triumph of Dilma Rousseff.” It is a very long time since I have prayed for anything, whether secretly or in public, but it goes without saying that I will support the candidate of the PT against the right wing bourgeois parties, just as it goes without saying that I will support the PSUV in Venezuela against the counterrevolutionary opposition.

But just as in Venezuela I will fight for the PSUV to carry out a genuinely socialist programme, so in Brazil I expect the candidate of the PT, elected by the votes of the workers and peasants, to carry out a policy in the interests of those who elected her, not those of US imperialism and the Brazilian capitalists. And there is nothing secret about that.

Yours faithfully,

Alan Woods, London, 8th February, 2010

ALAN WOODS is a leading British Marxist theoretician and activist.

( Original Article )

greanvillepost.com

Obama has U.S. over a barrel (of oil)

by AWR Hawkins

The world is in turmoil. In the Middle East there are uprisings, in Japan natural disasters, in Mexico blatant lawlessness, and in Europe the slow but certain death of Western Civilization at the hands of Muslims who have learned to use a combination of fear tactics and appeals to western guilt to their advantage.

As a result of these things, there is international uncertainty that has caused commodities like silver, gold, and black gold (crude oil), to skyrocket in value. And although this isn’t a bad thing for investors who began stockpiling gold when it was $200 an ounce and silver when it was $14, this is an absolutely terrible thing for lower and middle class families who have to fill up the SUV with gasoline twice a week in order to get to work, church, school, and the grocers.

In other words, while rising gold and silver prices may contribute to the increased wealth of a few, rising crude prices threaten to decimate the savings (and savings plans) of the many. (As I type, crude is approximately $108 a barrel, but predicted by some to go as high as $200-300 a barrel if Middle East unrest continues.)

Sadly, in the midst of these rising crude prices, and the resulting higher gas prices Americans have faced at the pump, Obama has stayed the course on green energy alternatives with bans on offshore drilling and a continued refusal to broaden onshore domestic production. Remember, oil formations in North Dakota alone contain enough crude to raise that state to the status of one of “the 13 or 14 largest producing countries [in the world].” And the amount of oil lying in Alaska’s outer continental shelf (OCS) is so great that tapping into it “would make Alaska the eighth largest oil province in the world – ahead of Nigeria, Libya, Russia, and Norway.”

I hate to say it folks, but Obama doesn’t want us paying cheaper prices. If he did, we’d not only be drilling in North Dakota and on Alaska’s OCS, but we’d also be constructing pipelines like the Keystone XL, “a…feed [36 inches in diameter] linking Alberta’s oil sands fields to the refineries of Texas’ Gulf Coast.” The Keystone XL would transport more oil into the U.S. each day than we currently import from either Saudi Arabia or Venezuela. (All that needs to happen to get the XL up and running is for the president to issue a directive to the State Department, but don’t hold your breath.)

Obama has this nation over a barrel (of oil). The candidate who admitted that his green approach would cause energy prices to skyrocket has become the president who’s proving the veracity of his admission. As a result, we are at the mercy of the tyrants and terrorists who use OPEC to control the flow of oil into the world because our own president is denying us access to abundant resources of oil here at home.

By the way, the socialist paradise called Cuba is slated to start drilling in the Gulf of Mexico soon. They anticipate having five deepwater wells in place by 2013. We, on the other hand, are still wondering if Obama is ever going to allow American companies to open new leases in the Gulf again.

( Original Article )

biggovernment.com

Petroleos Mexicanos May Increase Jack-Ups in Gulf of Mexico to 40 in 2011

By Carlos Manuel Rodriguez and Rodrigo Orihuela

Petroleos Mexicanos, Latin America’s largest oil producer, plans to operate “around 40” shallow- water drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico as it aims to boost annual output for the first time in seven years.

The Mexico City-based company will lease 15 more jack-up rigs and renew contracts to operate offshore drilling equipment in the Gulf of Mexico, said Carlos Morales, head of production and exploration at Pemex. Jack-ups are units with retractable legs that extend as much as 400 feet to the sea floor.

“We’re ramping-up our leasing of jack-ups,” Morales said yesterday in an interview in Buenos Aires. “We’re going to renew lease contracts and we’re going to add new rigs.”

Pemex, the state-owned oil company, is targeting 85 percent of its $23 billion investment budget for exploration and production as it seeks to boost output for the first time since 2004. Morales said in August the company planned to lease rigs to get newer equipment and better prices.

A U.S. ban on Gulf of Mexico drilling that halted rig use in the region was lifted in October. The U.S. froze deep-water drilling permits after BP Plc (BP/)’s Macondo well exploded in April 2010, causing the largest U.S. offshore oil spill.

“Hopefully, we will see some jack-ups return to work in Mexico very quickly,” Noble Corp. (NE) Chief Executive Officer David Williams, said at a Feb. 9 energy conference. “Pemex has said they’re committed to the jack-up business, they keep telling us, we keep telling you, but it remains to be seen whether or not they can actually do that.”

Noble owns the world’s second-largest fleet of offshore drilling rigs.

( Original Article )

bloomberg.com

Rush to Use Crops as Fuel Raises Food Prices and Hunger Fears

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By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL

Published: April 6, 2011

The starchy cassava root has long been an important ingredient in everything from tapioca pudding and ice cream to paper and animal feed.

But last year, 98 percent of cassava chips exported from Thailand, the world’s largest cassava exporter, went to just one place and almost all for one purpose: to China to make biofuel. Driven by new demand, Thai exports of cassava chips have increased nearly fourfold since 2008, and the price of cassava has roughly doubled.

Each year, an ever larger portion of the world’s crops — cassava and corn, sugar and palm oil — is being diverted for biofuels as developed countries pass laws mandating greater use of nonfossil fuels and as emerging powerhouses like China seek new sources of energy to keep their cars and industries running. Cassava is a relatively new entrant in the biofuel stream.

But with food prices rising sharply in recent months, many experts are calling on countries to scale back their headlong rush into green fuel development, arguing that the combination of ambitious biofuel targets and mediocre harvests of some crucial crops is contributing to high prices, hunger and political instability.

This year, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported that its index of food prices was the highest in its more than 20 years of existence. Prices rose 15 percent from October to January alone, potentially “throwing an additional 44 million people in low- and middle-income countries into poverty,” the World Bank said.

Soaring food prices have caused riots or contributed to political turmoil in a host of poor countries in recent months, including Algeria, Egypt and Bangladesh, where palm oil, a common biofuel ingredient, provides crucial nutrition to a desperately poor populace. During the second half of 2010, the price of corn rose steeply — 73 percent in the United States — an increase that the United Nations World Food Program attributed in part to the greater use of American corn for bioethanol.

“The fact that cassava is being used for biofuel in China, rapeseed is being used in Europe, and sugar cane elsewhere is definitely creating a shift in demand curves,” said Timothy D. Searchinger, a research scholar at Princeton University who studies the topic. “Biofuels are contributing to higher prices and tighter markets.”

In the United States, Congress has mandated that biofuel use must reach 36 billion gallons annually by 2022. The European Union stipulates that 10 percent of transportation fuel must come from renewable sources like biofuel or wind power by 2020. Countries like China, India, Indonesia and Thailand have adopted biofuel targets as well.

To be sure, many factors help drive up the price of food, including bad weather that ruins crop yields and high oil prices that make transportation costly. Last year, for example, unusually severe weather destroyed wheat harvests in Russia, Australia and China, and an infestation of the mealy bug reduced Thailand’s cassava output.

Olivier Dubois, a bioenergy expert at the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, said it was hard to quantify the extent to which the diversions for biofuels had driven up food prices.

“The problem is complex, so it is hard to come up with sweeping statements like biofuels are good or bad,” he said. “But what is certain is that biofuels are playing a role. Is it 20 or 30 or 40 percent? That depends on your modeling.”

While no one is suggesting that countries abandon biofuels, Mr. Dubois and other food experts suggest that they should revise their policies so that rigid fuel mandates can be suspended when food stocks get low or prices become too high.

“The policy really has to be food first,” said Hans Timmer, director of the Development Prospects Group of the World Bank. “The problems occur when you set targets for biofuels irrespective of the prices of other commodities.”

Mr. Timmer said that the recent rise in oil prices was likely to increase the demand for biofuels.

It can be tricky predicting how new demand from the biofuel sector will affect the supply and price of food. Sometimes, as with corn or cassava, direct competition between purchasers drives up the prices of biofuel ingredients. In other instances, shortages and price inflation occur because farmers who formerly grew crops like vegetables for consumption plant different crops that can be used for fuel.

China learned this the hard way nearly a decade ago when it set out to make bioethanol from corn, only to discover that the plan caused alarming shortages and a rise in food prices. In 2007 the government banned the use of grains to make biofuel.

Chinese scientists then perfected the process of making fuel from cassava, a root that yielded good energy returns, leading to the opening of the first commercial cassava ethanol plant several years ago.

“They’re moving very aggressively in this new direction; cassava seems to be the go-to crop,” said Greg Harris, an analyst with Commodore Research and Consultancy in New York who has studied the trade.

In addition to expanding cassava cultivation at home, China is buying from Cambodia and Laos as well as Thailand.

Although a mainstay of diets in much of Africa, cassava is not central to Asian diets, even though the Chinese once called it “the underground food store” because it provided crucial backup nutrition in lean harvest years. So the Chinese reasoned that making fuel with cassava would not directly affect food prices or create food shortages, at least at home. The proportion of Chinese cassava going to ethanol leapt to 52 percent last year from 10 percent in 2008.

More distant or indirect impacts are considered to be likely, however. Because cassava chips have been commonly used as animal feed, new demand from the biofuels industry might affect the availability and cost of meat. In Southeast Asian countries where China is paying generously for stockpiles of cassava, farmers may be tempted to grow the crop instead of, for example, other vegetables or rice.

And if China turned to Africa as a source, one of that continent’s staple food crops could be in jeopardy, although experts note that exporting cassava could also become a business opportunity.

“This is becoming a more valuable cash crop,” Mr. Harris said. “The farmland is limited, so the more that is devoted to fuel, the less is devoted to food.”

The Chinese demand for cassava could also dent planned biofuel production in poorer Asian nations: in the Philippines and Cambodia, developers were recently forced to suspend the construction of cassava bioethanol plants because the tuber had become too expensive.

Thailand’s own nascent biofuel industry may have trouble getting the homegrown cassava it needs because it may not be able to match the prices offered by Chinese buyers, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

Biofuels development in wealthier nations has already proved to have a powerful effect on the prices and the cultivation of crops. Encouraged by national biofuel subsidies, nearly 40 percent of the corn grown in the United States now goes to make fuel, with prices of corn on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange rising 73 percent from June to December 2010.

Such price rises also have distant ripple effects, food security experts say. “How much does the price of corn in Chicago influence the price of corn in Rwanda? It turns out there is a correlation,” said Marie Brill, senior policy analyst at ActionAid, an international development group. The price of corn in Rwanda rose 19 percent last year.

“For Americans it may mean a few extra cents for a box of cereal,” she said. “But that kind of increase puts corn out of the range of impoverished people.”

Higher prices also mean that groups like the World Food Program can buy less food to feed the world’s hungry.

European biofuels developers are buying large tracts of what they call “marginal land” in Africa with the aim of cultivating biofuel crops, particularly the woody bush known as jatropha. Advocates say that promoting jatropha for biofuels production has little impact on food supplies. But some of that land is used by poor people for subsistence farming or for gathering food like wild nuts.

“We have to move away from the thinking that producing an energy crop doesn’t compete with food,” said Mr. Dubois of the Food and Agriculture Organization. “It almost inevitably does.”

( Original Article )

nytimes.com

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