I had an Ecuadorian Spanish teacher in the 9th grade at Alliance Academy in Quito, Ecuador, class of 1971-2. She seemed friendly and accepting of Americans living and working in her country. Then one day, the Ecuadorian Navy intercepted and detained American fishing vessels off of the Pacific coast. At the time, the United States recognized Ecuador’s right to a 12 mile boundary from the coastline while Ecuador laid claim to a strip 200 miles wide. I was surprised at her defensive posture and the support she had for her country’s position in the conflict.
I mean, after all, we were there to help them out of poverty and a backward lifestyle, were we not? Like any other American kid, I knew America was the best country in the world and that our motives were good. What did a few fish matter?
My dad worked for a tiny international oil company (Cayman International). He had almost single handedly fought for and procured a concession for a small block of ground in the Oriente, (Eastern part of the country), then entered into a deal with the government to explore and exploit oil from the ground. The deal required Cayman to do seismographic studies, drill a number of wells, and if oil was found, to develop production facilities to extract the oil. The cost of the lease was nothing (at the time), but the cost of doing the exploration, drilling the wells and building production facilities would be high. If any oil was found, Ecuador would receive 25% of the oil, right off of the top, at no cost to the government. Free and clear money.
Dad approached New York banks on behalf of Cayman and received financing for the project.
There were no roads into the region, commonly known as the Putamayo basin. Trocha crews cut paths through the jungle by hand and American seismograph companies ran lines, drilled holes, packed them with explosives, set off the dynamite and recorded the sonic rebounds. An area was cleared by hand for a base camp. A runway was constructed of chonta bark strips laid side by side on the ground and lashed together. Drilling sites were selected and cleared. Helicopters and a DeHavilland Twin Otter began ferrying parts and pieces of oil rigs and supplies into the jungle. The rigs were assembled and drilling began. Exciting times for a teen-aged boy.
The first well flowed 3,500 barrels of oil a day. The second, 2,500 barrels a day. Six out of seven wildcat wells he drilled made producing wells. Exceptionally good wells. Some still produce to this day.
Cayman financed a professional soccer team””The Aucas. They weren’t so good, but were regarded as the people’s team. I took pride in this. Something else to help relieve the misery so pervasive in the country.
I saw the poverty and living conditions of people in the Oriente and knew we were going to bring a better life to these people. Better paying jobs. The money the government received for the oil would go to build schools and provide modern conveniences. Things like roads and cars and electricity and running water. Sewer systems, schools. Better food. All that good stuff I grew up with and took for granted until we moved to Ecuador.
While my dad hunted oil, I met poor native people in the jungle, tried to work alongside them (but wasn’t really allowed to””I had no idea how ingrained the class system could be at the time””even the poor were resistant to allowing those from the ruling class to do actual physical labor). I felt good thinking about all the things we were going to bring these people.
Now, all these many years later, I look at scenes from the region and wonder what went wrong. How many barrels of oil have come from that ground and how much money failed to find its way to the people that should have benefited from this activity? As Solomon Burke would sing, Honey, I don’t care where the lovin went, where did the money go?
I watch movies like Pilger’s War on Democracy and groan. Was I a fool?
If so then no more so than the poor innocent Ecuadorians that welcomed us into their country. We all were deceived by greedy bastards with ulterior motives, both in our country and theirs, saying one thing, doing another.
Many good people in the United States and abroad (among them a bunch of naieve young soldiers) continue to buy the lies of a multinational group of bloodsucking lying elitists. While the United States may be home base to many managers of the empire, their reach extends to the ends of the earth and they are not all Americans. Innocent blood, both our own and that of others, flows daily around the world for their benefit. We are told it’s for our own good.
I beg to differ.
Republicans may have been the biggest among American offenders in this mess, but until I see Democrats concern themselves with something more than just a better division of the spoils, I say all our politicians are guilty as charged. Much of the wealth we enjoy was stolen from someone else.
Open your eyes. Look at what your government is doing and then find the courage to say no. Not in my name!
No more lies. No more killing. No more torture. No more deceptive economic practices. Even if we must do without some of the luxuries we have come to expect as citizens of the United States.
Shut down the military bases and bring the troops home. Not just in Iraq but around the rest of the world as well. Stop interfering with politics of other sovereign nations. And stop lying to us.
We may not be able to stop evil around the world, but we can and must do what we can to stop it at home.