Gustavo Coronel, a Venezuelan oil oligarch associated with Cato has written to let me know how much he despises Ecuador's President Rafael Correa. Coronel serves as his own "official scorer" so he has declared that one of my columns "made a failed attempt to whitewash the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, who is violating environmentally fragile areas of the Amazonia to drill for oil." This is a passing strange comment from a man whose professional life was spent growing wealthy by "violating environmentally fragile areas of the Amazonia [and elsewhere] to drill for oil." You may think that Coronel reached a late-life epiphany and is seeking to make up for a life violating environmentally fragile areas, but no such transformation occurred. Coronel simply sees an opportunity to attack Correa, and Coronel has dedicated his remaining life to attacking any Latin American leader who opposes the oligarchs.
Coronel was the campaign manager for the oligarch's candidate who was defeated in the election that brought President Hugo Chavez to office. Coronel did not accept the legitimacy of the democratic process in Venezuela. He describes himself as the "founding member of the Board of Directors of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA)." While PDVSA was owned by Venezuela, the Board acted like oligarchs. They became such virulent opponents of Chavez that they locked-out the workers in order to extort the government by denying it vital oil revenues. The Board went so far as to institute a sabotage campaign damaging government equipment to try to cause such economic chaos that it would topple the democratically-elected government of Venezuela. Coronel continues to defend the campaign that caused enormous damage to the economy and people of Venezuela.
"As a member of the group of "coup plotters' I think that we were acting in defense of PDVSA as an institution and in defense of the national interest. Chavez had placed a president who was totally inept and hated the managers he was called to supervise."
Coronel seriously claims that he and his fellow PDVSA oligarchs were legally entitled to sabotage the national economy because the government official appointed to run a government-owned agency was their political opponent.
When the early attacks on the Venezuelan economy in their overall campaign of extortion failed, the PDVSA leaders supported the coup that briefly removed Chavez from power. The coup plotters installed an oligarch with close ties to a PDVSA leader as the new ruler of Venezuela.
Coronel denies that there was any coup. He claims that the PDVSA had the legal right to lead an insurrection against the democratically-elected government of Venezuela.
"Those of us who are in the opposition still fervently hope to see Chavez out as quickly as possible. Gott obviously does not know that Article 350 of the current Venezuelan Constitution gives Venezuelans the right to rebel against an illegitimate regime that violates the laws of the land. This would not be "overthrowing' a president but simply exercising a constitutional dictum. I happen to believe that a well documented legal, political, economic and social case can be made to prove that Chavez is no longer a legitimate president."
Coronel is not a lawyer and the Venezuelan Supreme Court unsurprisingly rejected his claim that anyone in Venezuela has a constitutional right to stage a coup against the Nation's elected leaders.
Chavez' political foes ran a clever attack on him that disgraced Transparency International (TI). Chavez' most virulent opponents, including Coronel, ran Venezuela's branch of TI. They proceeded to use TI-Venezuela as cover for their partisan attacks on their political opponents who the Venezuelan people elected to office. TI-Venezuela gave the PDVSA the lowest rating on transparency claiming that it failed to make key information publicly available. TI's claim was false. When the claim was exposed as false TI claimed that the data were not available at the time they wrote their report. That claim was also exposed as false. TI refused to correct its false attacks.
Coronel does not simply disagree with the policies of the heads of state elected in Latin America because they promised to end the rule of the oligarchs -- he despises these elected officials and the people who voted them into office. His rhetorical attacks on the elected leaders are vibrant. He has nothing good to say about them, their policies, or their supporters.
Coronel's response to my article strikes me as odd because he appears to agree with much of what I wrote. What I stressed in my piece was that Correa's policy proposal -- Ecuador would not produce the Yasuni oil if developed nations would share in the opportunity cost of the revenue that producing the oil would provide to Ecuador -- was the best available policy. The point of my article, however, was to emphasize the revulsion we should display for The Economists' malicious glee in the misfortune that could be caused to the environment of Ecuador and its indigenous people by producing the Yasuni oil. I stressed that once the developed nations rejected Correa's innovative plan Ecuador was left with no good policy choices about the Yasuni oil field. Whatever policy Ecuador chose would have severe drawbacks.
Coronel postures himself as an environmentalist who is aghast that Correa would decide to produce the Yasuni oil because the developed nations would not agree to share in the opportunity cost to Ecuador of not producing the oil. Coronel's hypocrisy reeks of the high-sulfur oil he developed in environmentally sensitive areas all over the world for five decades.
But Coronel's hypocrisy is even greater in a related portion of his response to my article. Coronel's real passion is denouncing Correa for purportedly extorting the developed world.
"Correa's money demands sounded very similar to that of a kidnapper who demands a ransom not to harm the kidnapped. It is actually worse, since the kidnapped is a member of the kidnapper's own family. His attitude and double standards made it impossible for him to receive any money. He, then, full of spite, authorized the drilling in the Yasuni Park"."
Coronel does not deny that there would be an enormous opportunity cost to Ecuador of not developing the Yasuni oil field. He does not deny that Correa's offer to the developed world was that Ecuador would share that opportunity cost rather than try to shift it entirely to the developed nations. Correa did not place an oil field in the Yasuni -- nature did. There was no "spite" involved. There were no "double standards that made impossible for him to receive any money." If "kidnapping" were an applicable metaphor, neither "attitude" nor "double standards" on the part of the purported kidnapper would be relevant to receiving a ransom. The entire passage is logically incoherent. Coronel, an oil guy, simply ignores the reasons that nations develop oil fields because they need revenue. The ludicrous kidnapping metaphor demonstrates Coronel's spite, not Correa's.