A truly bizarre international incident has gone largely unnoticed, even though it is one of the most shameless shakedowns of an American company by another country in recent memory. What is happening now in Brazil could easily scare off U.S. companies that may be looking to do business overseas.
What happened was that a small amount of oil seeped from cracks in the ocean floor near an oil well that was operated by Chevron off Brazil’s coast. This oil seep occurred some 200 miles offshore, was successfully stopped in four days, has been fully contained, and caused no harm to the environment, wildlife or human health. The amount of oil that leaked from the cracks in the ocean floor was less than 0.1 percent the size of the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Instead of sitting down with Chevron in candid talks to find preventive measures against future incidents, discuss reasonable reparations and additional cleanup, Brazil’s prosecutors went after Chevron like a rabid hound lunging after a hotdog.
After oil bubbled up from the ocean floor, Brazil’s prosecutors issued indictments seeking criminal charges, actual jail time for several company executives and fines large enough to fuel the economies of most Central American nations. Even more egregious is the fact that in 2010 Brazil’s own state-run oil company, Petrobras, spilled almost double the amount Chevron did in this incident and no one from Brazil’s oil company is facing charges or jail time.
When President Obama visited Brazil late last year, he promoted the partnership between America and the South American nation, saying: “We want to work with you. We want to help with technology and support to develop these oil reserves safely, and when you’re ready to start selling, we want to be one of your best customers.”