July 28, 2011
Wikileaks Cables Reveal US Obstruction of Haiti-Venezuela Oil Deal

Analyzing recently released Wikileaks diplomatic cables concerning Haiti, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs published yesterday an analysis shining a spotlight on three areas of US interference in Haitian affairs:


  • “The U.S. tried to undermine Haiti’s oil deal with Venezuela in order to protect the vested interests of U.S. oil corporations.
  • “Under the Obama administration, the U.S. embassy worked with major textile companies to cap the minimum wage in Haiti at 31 cents per hour.
  • “Election monitors from the U.S. and the international community knowingly supported elections that did not remotely follow accepted democratic standards of procedure.”


Excerpts follow related to the US obstruction of Haitian President Rene Preval’s attempt from 2006-2008 to secure a contract with Venezuela for discounted oil.  At the behest of oil companies Chevron and ExxonMobil, the US Embassy opposed the oil deal.  Sadly, the 40% discount would have enabled the Government of Haiti to fund medical and educational programs to meet her people’s needs.  While Chevron eventually conceded in 2008 to the importation of Petrocaribe oil, the pattern of US violation of Haitian sovereignty was exhibited once again.  Rebuilding a sovereign Haiti must now be our moral imperative.


From the expose:


René Préval became president of Haiti in 2006 and immediately attempted to improve U.S.-Haiti relations. U.S. Ambassador Sanderson reported in a cable that Préval “wants to bury once and for all the suspicion in Haiti that the United States is wary of him. He is seeking to enhance his status domestically and internationally with a successful visit to the United States.”[3] Yet despite his desire to improve relations, newly elected President Préval unintentionally began alienating the United States on the very day of his inauguration. On this day, Préval signed a deal with Venezuela to join the Caribbean oil alliance, Petrocaribe, which allowed Haiti to buy subsidized oil from Venezuela. The government of Haiti would pay only 60 percent up front and then pay the rest at 1 percent interest over the next 25 years.[4] This payment schedule would save the Haitian government USD 100 million per year, with which the government planned to supply basic needs and services to 10 million Haitians and increase investment in social projects like hospitals and schools.[5] Additionally, the Petrocaribe deal would help lower and stabilize the cost of oil in Haiti after several years of high prices.


“However, the new Haiti-Venezuela alliance unnerved Washington, and Ambassador Sanderson abetted U.S. interests in Haiti. Apparently determined to hold a tough stance against the oil deal, she wrote in a cable on April 19, 2006, that ‘Post [the Embassy] will continue to pressure Préval against joining Petrocaribe.[6] For two years, the U.S. government worked with ExxonMobil and Chevron, the two U.S. oil companies operating in Haiti, to undermine the new deal between Petrocaribe and Venezuela. The U.S. oil companies feared that they would have to buy their oil directly from the government of Haiti and would lose their profit margins as a result. As Thomas C. Tighe, a U.S. official in Haiti, wrote in a cable, ‘Chevron country manager Patryck Peru Dumesnil confirmed his company’s anti-Petrocaribe position and said that ExxonMobil, the only other U.S. oil company operating in Haiti, has told the Government of Haiti that it will not import Petrocaribe products.’[7] Because Chevron and ExxonMobil controlled shipping and distribution channels, these two companies were able to prevent the Petrocaribe deal for two years simply by refusing to transport Petrocaribe oil and blocking their shipments. Throughout this time, Tighe said the Haitian government was ‘enraged that “an oil company which controls only 30% of Haiti’s petroleum products” would have the audacity to try and elude an agreement that would benefit the Haitian population.’[8] Chevron eventually signed the agreement in 2008, but the two-year fight against the deal exemplifies Washington’s willingness to disregard Haiti’s interests for its own economic and political agenda.”


For the full article see <http://www.coha.org/wikileaks-cables-show-haiti-as-pawn-in-u-s-foreign-policy/>


Thanks to Elaine Zukerman of Gender Action, a member of the Haiti Advocacy Working Group for circulating the report from the Center on Hemispheric Affairs