Leave it to Hugo Chavez to make people actually feel sympathetic for Exxon Mobil. Cementing his reputation as an enemy to the rule of law, Chavez is threatening the United States with an oil cutoff if the company wins in a court of law over Chavez’s effort to seize billions of dollars in assets. Since taking over as Venezuelan president, Chavez has tried to model himself after Fidel Castro, including the latter’s contempt for checks on his power and the independence of the court system.
Whatever the merits of the Exxon Mobil action (and there are obvious merits), the company has a right to seek relief in court and to have any ruling enforced under international law. The company is seeking the assets of state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA in U.S., British and Dutch courts after Chavez nationalized the industry assets. A British court froze $12 billion in assets.
Chavez is not simply fighting the legal process, but he is showing (again) a moronic element. The worst thing for the country is to tell a court that it will not yield to the law. Yet, Chavez was again pounding his chest in response to the filing:”If you end up freezing (Venezuelan assets) and it harms us, we’re going to harm you, . . Hello, President.” “Do you know how? We aren’t going to send oil to the United States. Take note, Mr. Bush, Mr. Danger. . . . I speak to the U.S. empire, because that’s the master: continue and you will see that we won’t sent one drop of oil to the empire of the United States . . . The outlaws of Exxon Mobil will never again rob us.”
Besides making a strong case for therapy, Chavez is threatening to go to war not with Bush but a host of international principles. It is rather strange to call anyone an outlaw when you are saying that you will go to war rather than yield to the law.
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