FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from freestats.com
(DV) Jacobs: Undoing a History of Robbery







Undoing a History of Robbery 
by Ron Jacobs 
May 15, 2006

Send this page to a friend! (click here)


Isn't it ironic how when the tables are turned, what was once justified and merely business becomes theft, murder and robbery? If one needs an example of this type of incident, they need look no further than the recent decision by Bolivia to nationalize its natural gas industry. Private corporations (and public ones historically controlled by the owning state's elites) moved into Bolivia decades ago and connived deals that essentially robbed the Bolivian nation and its people. Now that the popular anti-corporate government of Evo Morales has turned the tables on the previous owners by nationalizing the industry with no intention of compensating the losing entities, those who stole the resource from Bolivia in the first place are now calling it theft. 

What we have here is a case of duplicity and hypocrisy. It's okay for the corporations of the world (and the governments that work for them) to force free trade deals down smaller and less powerful nations throats -- deals whose only intention is to expropriate the weaker nations resources and people while creating a market that makes locally grown products unprofitable for the locals to grow or buy. This dynamic locks the less powerful nations in these so-called trade agreements into a cycle of greater and greater impoverishment and an accompanying destruction of their social and cultural fabric, leaving them with an empty capitalist approximation of culture and no money to buy that culture's trinkets. Bolivia's history is not unusual. Indeed, it is the history of most nations in the Americas. However, the movement that Evo Morales represents is tired of the rip-off and is taking back what was theirs to begin with. 
In those countries where free trade deals won't work -- say Iraq or Iran -- that's where the murder comes in. Instead of robbing the people of these countries with a fountain pen, the world's richest robbed (and continue to rob, in the case of Iraq) them at gunpoint. After an initial massacre or two, there are those in the countries under attack who throw their lot in with the invaders. Backed by the invader's army, these men and women sell off resources that aren't theirs to sell and stuff their part of the profits in their bank accounts. Then they kill and imprison their countrymen that oppose the theft, calling them traitors and worse on their way to the torture chambers. 
Of course, the acts of betrayal described above can only be maintained by force and intimidation, at least for a generation or two. By then, the thieves hope their power will be firmly ensconced and their history will be considered the one truth. If the books can be rewritten and the teller of the legends dispensed to the museum of irrelevance, then the robbers have won. Their murder and theft becomes the story of national pride and the gods of profit and exploitation the national religion. Those who lived before and fell before the invaders and their accomplices are dispelled to the category of savage -- romantic or otherwise. Simpler men and women, they just had to make way for the tides of history. History driven by the desire to destroy and conquer in 
the name of acquisition. 
So, while the US media tries to compare the liberal-minded and popularly elected Morales to the worst of the world's strongmen because his government wants to renegotiate contracts with outside energy companies on terms favorable to the Bolivians and not the corporations, Washington and its northern allies struggle to intimidate Iran into conceding its independence in energy matters. It's not that nuclear power is a good way to go, but any national leadership worth its salt knows that long-term energy independence is essential to survival in the world of the future. This is what the politicians in Washington claim to want for the US, yet when the rulers in Tehran claim the same for the Iranians, they are threatened with war. 
The common denominator between Morales' Bolivia and Tehran is their insistence that they owe those that have historically exploited their resources nothing. Morales stated as much when he told the world that he would not provide compensation to those companies that used to control Bolivia's energy industry. It is Morales' contention that those corporations have already received such compensation over the years that they have exploited trade deals that were very favorable to those corporate groups. Even Petrobas, the Brazilian resource group that is calling foul the loudest, has been party to this. It is important to remember that until recently Brazil was a textbook case of foreign exploitation and rampant with corruption and military repression. Social Democrat Lula's election has changed that somewhat, but it takes more than an election or two to change a country as manipulated by (and integrated into) the international capitalist system as Brazil was. Despite the hopes of the US press, the debate between the Bolivian and Brazilian governments over compensation for Petrobas' holdings in Bolivia is not the beginning of the end of Latin America's recent rejection of northern imperialism. It was primarily the previous governments of Brazil that robbed Bolivia, not Lula's government. In all likelihood, most of those monies are no longer in the Brazilian treasury, just like the monies made by pre-Chavez Venezuela were taken out of the hands of the Venezuelans. 
Indeed, to provide further compensation would be comparable to a robbery victim signing over their bank account to the person who beat and robbed them after the thief was arrested. Time and the force of arms were what legitimized the theft of their resources in the first place, and their actions are a provocative attempt to undo the lies that time created. 
Ron Jacobs is a writer and library worker. He lives in Asheville, NC

Other Articles by Ron Jacobs

* Neil Young Kicks Out the Jams!
* How Does One Convince The Occupied That This Mayhem Is For Their Own Good?
* Resistance: The Rx for Fear
* Why Leaving Iraq Now is the Only Sensible Step to Take
* Capital is Not God
* This Ain't No Video Game: A Review of Jeffrey St. Clair's Grand Theft Pentagon