Over 50 prominent figures representing a wide section of British society have signed a statement raising concern over legal action taken by oil giant ExxonMobil to prevent the Venezuelan government from exercising its right to control its natural resources. They have urged ExxonMobil to work for "the amicable settlement" of its dispute with the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA through international arbitration.
The statement is published as Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA goes to the High Court to appeal an English court's decision to freeze its assets in England and Wales.
The statement points out that "The action by ExxonMobil was in response to the policy of the Venezuelan government to take back majority control of their own oil resources. Unlike other international oil companies, where some 30 out of 32 contracts have been successfully renegotiated and amicable agreements and compensation terms reached with the Venezuelan government, ExxonMobil refused the terms offered."
The statement concludes "We further restate our support for Venezuela's national sovereignty, including the right to determine its own policy in relation to its oil and natural resources in favour of the people of that country, rather than in the interests of multinational companies."
Signatories to the letter included writer and film-maker John Pilger, veteran political activist Tony Benn, Bruce Kent, Vice President of CND, Ann Pettifor, founder of Jubilee 2000, Brian Wilson, Chair of the Scottish Venezuela Society, an MEP and many MPs from 5 parties, a number of leading writers, artists and academics and many senior national trade union leaders.
Colin Burgon MP, Chair of Labour Friends of Venezuela group of parliamentarians said: "Millions of Venezuelans are now benefiting from free healthcare and education thanks to the Chavez government's greater control over that country's oil resources. Government's must have the right to be able to put the interest of people ahead of company's profits".
UNISON Deputy General Secretary Keith Sonnet, added that, "This sends a clear message internationally, including to the Bush administration, that Venezuela's right to self-determination must be respected, rather than the wishes of multinational companies to make profits."
Gordon Hutchison, Secretary of the Venezuela Information Centre, said "There are many voices in Britain who strongly oppose ExxonMobil's attempts to undermine the right of Venezuela's democratically elected government to control its own resources."
The full text of the statement and full list of signatures is as follows:
STATEMENT RE EXONNMOBIL AND PDVSA
We note with deep concern that on 7 February an English court granted an injunction to US multinational oil company ExxonMobil freezing the assets of the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA in England and Wales. The order covered assets to the value of US$12 billion.
The Venezuelan Government was given no notice of the case and was not afforded any opportunity to be represented at the hearing.
This week PDVSA will appeal the decision in the High Court and seek to revoke the injunction.
The action by ExxonMobil was in response to the policy of the Venezuelan government to take back majority control of their own oil resources. Unlike other international oil companies, where some 30 out of 32 contracts have been successfully renegotiated and amicable agreements and compensation terms reached with the Venezuelan government, ExxonMobil refused the terms offered.
We believe that the action by ExxonMobil, and the ruling by the court, contravenes the right of the democratically elected government of Venezuela to exercise sovereignty over its natural resources. The nationalisation of Venezuela's state oil company, holder of some of the world's largest oil reserves, under the government of President Hugo Chavez has allowed Venezuela to tackle a range of social inequalities, by taking back the oil wealth and redistributing it to benefit the Venezuelan people.
We urge the amicable settlement of this dispute through arbitration under the auspices of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, a body of the World Bank, as sought by the Venezuelan government in compliance with the terms of the contract signed between PDVSA and ExxonMobil in 1995.
We further restate our support for Venezuela's national sovereignty, including the right to determine its own policy in relation to its oil and natural resources in favour of the people of that country, rather than in the interests of multinational companies.
Diane Abbott M.P (Labour)
Caroline Lucas MEP
Gordon Hutchison, Secretary, Venezuela Information Centre (VIC)
Brian Wilson, Chair, Scottish Venezuela Society
Ann Pettifor, Fellow, New Economics Foundation
Neal Lawson, Compass
Graeme Smith, General Secretary. STUC
Keith Sonnet, Deputy General Secretary, UNISON
Colin Burgon M.P (Chair, Labour Friends of Venezuela)
Jon Cruddas M.P (Treasurer, Labour Friends of Venezuela)
Mike Hancock M.P (Liberal Democrat)
Adam Price M.P. (Plaid Cymru)
Angus MacNeil M.P. (Scottish National Party)
Jon Trickett M.P (Secretary, Labour Friends of Venezuela)
Jeremy Corbyn M.P
Graham Goddard, Deputy General Secretary, UNITE
Billy Hayes, General Secretary CWU
Owen Tudor, Head of European Union and International Relations, TUC
Sue Branford, Chair, War on Want
Doug Nicholls, National Secretary CYWU/UNITE
Derek Wall, Green Party
Cllr. Salma Yaqoob
Hazel Marsh, University of East Anglia
Andy Bain, President TSSA
Maggie Bowden, General Secretary, Liberation
Ruqayyah Collector, Black Students Officer, NUS
Marie Daley, UCU National Executive Committee
Michael Derham, Northumbria University
Bill Greenshields, Vice-President NUT
Chris Kitchen, General Secretary NUM
Matt Wrack, General Secretary FBU
Dr Mandy Turner, University of Bradford
Dr Kaveh Moussavi, University of Oxford
Gerry Doherty, General Secretary TSSA
Baljeet Ghale, President NUT (personal capacity)
Joe Marino, General Secretary, BFAWU
Dr. Francisco Dominguez, University of Middlesex
Doreen Massey, Open University
Martin McIvor, Editor, Renewal
Gerry Morrissey, General Secreary, BECTU
Linda Newman, President UCU
Diana Raby, University of Liverpool
Mick Shaw, President, FBU