PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay, coming to you from Washington DC. And joining us now from Frankfurt, Germany, is William F. Engdahl. He’s the author of Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order. Thanks for joining us, William.
WILLIAM F. ENGDAHL, ECONOMIST AND AUTHOR: Thank you, Paul.
JAY: So, William, you’ve written recently about the possibility of a massive oil find underneath Haiti and how this might connect to US strategy in the Caribbean. Talk a bit about what you’ve written.
ENGDAHL: Well, if you look at a geophysical map of Haiti and the Caribbean, it jumps out that Haiti and Port-au-Prince, Haiti, lies right along the conjunction of what are called tectonic plates, but three separate tectonic plates. If you can imagine a China vase that falls off the table and gets broken in many pieces and you glue it back together, well, these tectonic plates are a bit similar in terms of images. But three of those converge right at the land area that’s called Haiti, and generally where we have such a conversion of tectonic plates, we have a great amount of geophysical motion, energy, and so forth. They tend to be along—in the Pacific you have the Ring of Fire, which is literally the ring of vulcanic activity—. Indonesia is in one such zone; Saudi Arabia and the giant oil fields of the Middle East, from Kuwait and so forth, the Persian Gulf, are another such convergence of such plates. And up until now there’s been very little talk about petroleum and Haiti, but it’s not because there hasn’t been interest in petroleum in Haiti. My take on it is that there are—according to geophysicists knowledgeable about the geophysics of the Caribbean basin—you probably have large multinational oil companies, US, British oil companies and their allies, who are aware that with a little bit of exploration onshore and offshore, that there are probably enormous oil finds. And you just had, two years ago, offshore Cuba, just north of Haiti, a giant—supergiant, actually, oil discovery, with several billion barrels of believed reserves of oil there that the Russians are helping the Cubans to exploit. So it stands to reason that the same geological fault line of these tectonic plates—the Caribbean plate, the North American plate, and the South American plate—they all converge north of Venezuela and in the area that’s called Haiti. That also makes Haiti ripe for other unusual minerals, such as uranium, gold, and so forth. And my own sense from talking with geophysicists on this whole Haiti question is that Haiti is probably one of the undeveloped treasures of mineral wealth on the planet.
JAY: Now, why do think it’s been so undeveloped for so long? Because there’s been some suggestions of oil and perhaps other minerals, if I understand correctly, even as far back as the 1970s.
ENGDAHL: I think for the following reason: As I wrote in an earlier book, A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics, the question for the United States and Britain since World War II, the question of oil reserves around the world, has not been an economic question, a business question of developing new oil fields, to sell it at so many dollars a barrel for the profit of Exxon Mobil, Chevron, whatever, but it has been a geopolitical question. It’s been one of the power pillars, if you want to call it that, of the United States’ power projection in the post-World War II world. The United States, through its control of the Middle East oil supplies, especially Saudi, Kuwait, earlier control of Iran when the Shah was in power, that gave the United States an enormous weapon over the European economies, over the world economy, actually, and over the Soviet Union during the Cold War era, because they had the power, by controlling the quantities of oil in the world market, to raise the price of oil at their behest, and also, as they did in 1986, to collapse the price of oil. Why has Haiti not been exploited? I think the very reason the world is swimming in oil, and the US oil multinationals, and the US government that works intimately with them around the world, wants to prevent that anyone else develops the oil resources of a place like Haiti. They’re extremely unhappy, no doubt, about the discovery in Cuba, and I think they would like to keep this oil off the market as long as possible. Haiti for them is a stone’s throw away, and they could develop it any time they have need. But to keep it off the development market, I think, is their strategy—strategic denial of those oil resources.
JAY: Now, certainly while Aristide was in power, but even some of the Caribbean countries have very good relations with Venezuela, with Bolivia, some of the CARICOM [Caribbean Community] countries actually get cheap oil from Venezuela. So in terms of the geopolitics of the region, what would the significance be of Haitian oil? And how would that affect US strategy in the region?
ENGDAHL: Well, I think the answer to that depends on who’s controlling the government of Haiti, and by all accounts, the Préval government that’s been essentially put into power with US backing since they ousted Aristide in 2004 and put him into exile in South Africa, the government has been intimately tied to the five families (as they call it in Haiti, the "little mafia" that run Haiti). And these five families are like in Russia after the collapse of communism, like the oligarchs in Russia: they literally control the economy of Haiti like their own plantation. And the question is: who would control, and for what purposes, the oil resources? If those five families are in control and Préval is doing their bidding, then, by all accounts I’ve seen, it wouldn’t matter, because it wouldn’t benefit the economy and the livelihood of the ordinary Haitians. So if that were to be developed as a national resource in a way that could benefit the overall economy of the Haitian people, then that would be a different question. So I think it’s a question of who controls the politics of Haiti.
JAY: Which must be somewhat in flux when you have the country in such chaos and all the normal infrastructures of the state in disarray, other than—I guess the US military is kind of taking up the role of the state, other than the private armies that work for these five, six families. So the real issue connected to oil is going to be: Is this kind of tradition of popular politics in Haiti going to be able to assert itself? Or do they get back to politics as usual?
ENGDAHL: Yeah, that I have no means of calling. I think the fact that the latest figures are 13,000 US troops on that tiny little island, that’s quite a lot of military power. I think probably the need is for less military projection and more humanitarian—food, water, and shelter aid from—. And this is what the Haitian websites have been pleading for ever since the January earthquake. But I’m a little bit uneasy about the agenda of the Pentagon in Haiti, with their overwhelming military presence. The Doctors Without Borders in Geneva protested immediately after the quake that their planes, their transport planes, were turned back from Haitian airports by US soldiers who refused them landing rights—and they had emergency humanitarian aid. This wasn’t some kind of a, you know, Soviet, Cold War-era spy game; this was a humanitarian effort, and they protested quite loudly that the US was hindering that. So it’s unclear at this point what the US agenda is for Haiti, but the signs and the fact that George W. Bush was appointed special envoy, along with Bill Clinton as UN envoy, gives one grounds for pause here, I think.
JAY: Well, where George W. Bush seems to be, there usually is oil. Thanks very much for joining us, William.
ENGDAHL: Thank you.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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