Published On: Mon, May 14th, 2018

Open letter to ConocoPhillips

Maria Liberia PetersI feel very much obliged to let my voice be heard on behalf of the concerned people of Curaçao, in particular those who are directly or indirectly dependent on the Refinery of Curaçao for their daily basic needs and their survival.

In general, I am also obliged to express my great concern for the overall well being of the people of our islands who are living moments of a challenging financial and economic situation. Let me state firmly that in no shape or form am I attempting to defend or protect neither PdVSA as a company nor Venezuela as a country.

With 300 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, both PdVSA and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela should be able to look after their own. Following years of failed negotiations and litigation between two giants in the oil industry, ConocoPhillips has won arbitration against PDVSA. The details of the war, at this point, for us are not relevant. What is relevant is where ConocoPhillips has elected to ‘pursue enforcement and financial recovery of its award to the full extent of the law’.

Both ConocoPhillips and PdVSA are present and effective in the global oil industry. They both have oil processing, refining and storage facilities throughout the entire world. Both have an extensive gasoline station network throughout the US continent. PdVSA sells gasoline through its Citgo gas stations while ConocoPhillips does the same through it’s Philips 66 gas stations. Both ConocoPhillips and Citgo’s headquarters are located in ‘Houston’s Energy Corridor District’.

ConocoPhillips lawyers could easily hop over and place their embargos on PdVSA’s Citgo assets within the United States. ConocoPhillips however chose not to fight this war on their home turf, but has chosen to fight this war in the Dutch Caribbean, namely Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao and Sint Eustatius respectively.

ConocoPhillips has shown no regard what-soever for the consequences these actions may have on the already fragile economies of Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao and Sint Eustatius. During the eighties the American Government launched the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), with all its good intentions. It then was also in the interest of the United States not to have impoverished nations due to weak economies in America’s then so-called backyard.

For certain items that were part of the initiative, the lobby distance between Texas (Houston) and Louisiana had proven to be very short. What we are experiencing now is in line with the blatant selfishness and disregard that communities have learned to expect from such multinationals and or interest groups.

When you choke some of the largest flows of cash in a small economy; you inadvertently choke that economy. Conoco- Phillips has never created or maintained one single job on our island. Yet ConocoPhillips sees it fit to put thousands of jobs in the small fragile economy and labor market at stake. If all goes according to plan, ConocoPhillips will get its cheque, PdVSA will collapse and the score will have been settled. ConocoPhillips might tell us … ‘nothing personal, just business!’.

A salient side effect will be the fact that thousands of Dutch Caribbean Nationals will have to move on or even migrate to find a new job.

A bloody shame that our people will have to pay such a high price for a relative small amount of a company with 73 billion in assets. Shame on you ConocoPhillips for choosing not to fight this war on your own turf in the Energy Corridor in Houston; Shame on you for the anguish you have poured in the hearts and homes of Dutch Caribbean families; Shame on you for choosing to victimize innocent bystanders who have nothing to do with the conflict between ConocoPhillips and PdVSA.

You are acting like a bull that is out to destroy our economies without regard. ConocoPhillips please find a different ball field on your own turf and leave us in the Dutch Caribbean alone!

Mrs. Maria Liberia-Peters is former Prime Minister of the Netherlands Antilles in Curaçao.

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