Sizaltina Cutaia, Program Manager at Open Society Institute in Angola on the impact of Chevron
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore.
On May 30, the Chevron annual shareholders meeting took place in a community named San Ramon just outside of San Francisco. Protesters outside and inside the shareholders meetingâ€”and many of them came from around the world to talk about what they said is the true cost of Chevron.
Now joining us is one of those protesters, Sizaltina Cutia, from Angola. She’s a program manager at Open Society Institute in Angola and works on human rights issues. Thanks very much for joining us.
SIZALTINA CUTIA, PROGRAM MANAGER, OPEN SOCIETY INSTITUTE: Thank you for having me.
JAY: So tell me, why did you travel so far to go to a Chevron shareholders meeting?
CUTIA: Because there are some things that need to be told, some truth that need to be told to Chevron’s shareholders. For years and years Chevron has been operating in Angola, and it is operating in an irresponsible way as far as the environment is concerned, and while throughoutâ€”all along it claims to be respecting laws in countries. So that’s why we traveled.
JAY: So what are examples of what you’re talking about?
CUTIA: I’m talking about the environmental law. Chevron is responsible for constant oil spills in Cabinda, where they operate offshores. The practice that they do is that they do not report on those spills. And whenâ€”the way the communities get to hear about it is through the fishermens. They are the ones that are reporting on the oil spills. When Chevron does report, which is not a very common thing for them to do, they never take responsibilities; they blame it on other companies. And that is affecting the livelihood of those communities.
JAY: And how is it affecting it, and to what extent?
CUTIA: To the extent that accessing resources is becoming very difficult. You know, Chevron has got too many platforms in the seas. So right now, the fisher communities are fighting to access those resources. It’s difficult for them with the boats they use for the fishing, which are not very sophisticated. It’s difficult for them to go further into the sea. And Chevron’s operation prevents them from accessing some [fishing zones].
The other thing has to do with the impact that the spill has into the sea livelihood. Accessing the fish is difficult, and people areâ€”get in contact with contaminated fish. These are some of the impacts that are having atâ€”that Chevron’s operations do have in communities in Cabinda.
JAY: Now, I guess Chevron would argue that they pay some kind of royalties to Angola and that the Angolan government should be responsible for these problems.
CUTIA: That’s true. Chevron does pay money to the Angolan government. But, unfortunately, Angola is regarded as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
And, also, the problem that we have right now is that there is not much available information on the amounts that are paid. And Chevron has been one of the companies that advocates for the secrecy of the amount of money that they pay to the Angolan government. That’s also an issue. It’s an issue to the extent that being oil the backbone of the Angolan economy, it’s very important that there is transparency in the way that its money is handled, in order for the people of Angola to benefit from the resources.
So Chevron is currentlyâ€”two years ago, the United States department adopted a law which mandates companies that are registered in the United States to disclose the payments they make to governments, governments such as Angola and Nigeria and other governments. Well, Chevron is being one of theâ€”is beingâ€”advocating very heavily to weaken that law. And the allegations that they’re using is that that law goes against the Angolan legislations. Well, that’s not entirely true. So the fact that Chevron refuses to release, to disclose information is also something that has an impact in the way issues around corruption and transparency are dealt with in Angola.
JAY: So Chevron’s argument, I guess, is also that they do follow Angolan law, and as long as they do, what’s the problem? I mean, I guess your answer to that is that it’sâ€”I mean, when you say that corruption’sâ€”is the problem, so these laws don’t get enforced, whose fault is that?
CUTIA: The power that the oil has. Oil companiesâ€”you know, Chevron is a very powerful company, and oil dictates a lot in terms ofâ€”as far as politics are concerned. So when Chevron practices secrecy in terms of providing information, it is not helping, it’s not contributing, also. I think when Chevron says, “We agree,” when Chevron says that it cares for communities, it shouldâ€”I think it should be acting, conducting itself in a way that it helps communities, that it helps countries and citizens to benefit from the revenues of this, of the soil and of the waters and of the country.
So it’s not entirely true that they do follow the legislation, because they do pollute the sea, they do pollute the areas where community live, and that violates the environmental laws that we have in Angola. It’s true that weâ€”the state has got very limited capacity also to monitor the enforcement of such laws. But it is also true that Chevron is in bed with a corrupt government, and it is contributing for the entrenchment of that authoritarian and corrupt government that we have in Angola.
JAY: Alright. Well, thanks very much for joining us.
CUTIA: Okay. Thank you.
JAY: And thanks very much for joining us on The Real News Network.
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