Thursday, February 21, 2008

Freeport McMoran's

You know Halliburton. You’ve probably heard of Bechtel. But until today, I’ll bet most of you had never heard of Freeport McMoRan, formerly Freeport Sulphur. Today, the New York Times printed a massive story on Freeport McMoRan, the American-owned New Orleans-based corporation that mines the world’s largest gold reserve. The article charges Freeport with spying on environmental organizers, making large payoffs to individuals in the Indonesian security forces, and polluting groundwater supplies. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.I’ve written extensively about the sordid history of this company both in Cuba and Indonesia.

Freeport ran a huge nickel mining operation at Moa Bay in Cuba when Castro came to power. Castro offered to buy the plant from its owners for the price the owners had valued it on their taxes. Say what you want about his politics, but Castro is a damn smart man. Of course the owners had undervalued their property for years, and couldn’t bear to sell for such a low price when it was worth much more. They refused to sell, so Castro appropriated it. And a VP of the company started talking about Castro assassination plots. In addition, the company ended up providing a link in the chain between David Atlee Phillips, long suspected, with a good amount of evidence, of being Lee Harvey Oswald’s CIA handler, and Clay Shaw, the man New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison prosecuted as a conspirator in the assassination of President Kennedy.

Do you remember the downing of the “Brothers to the Rescue” plane in 1996? How the Cubans supposedly shot a bunch of innocent Cubans out of the sky over international waters? That was a deliberate provocation led by longtime CIA operative Jose Basulto. Basulto had leafleted Havana just prior to the incident. The Cuban security forces worried that if he could drop leaflets, he could drop bombs, and they weren’t about to give him a second chance. And Basulto was really taunting them. He issued a challenge by radio to the MIG pilots to give to Castro, whom he had already tried to kill before while working for the CIA. He admonished them to “Tell him [Castro] Basulto is coming.” I took Barbara Crosette to task for her inaccurate reporting of this incident in the New York Times and pointed out it was not the first time she had misinformed the public to aid the government.

At the time of the incident, Clinton had been threatening to veto the Helms-Burton Act, an act which, among other provisions, enabled American corporations to sue foreign companies over formerly owned properties. The result? Clinton signed the Helms-Burton act into law. Many at home and abroad considered a step in the wrong direction for America. Guess who acted immediately when the act became law? Freeport McMoRan. This was a clear example of how CIA employees run covert operations to benefit the interests of private corporations. There are many more such examples.

Robert Bryce of the Austin Chronicle has written extensively about Freeport McMoRan’s actions in Indonesia for years. If you’ve never heard of this company, start reading. What they’ve done to West Papua, previously known as Irian Jaya, is devastating. Freeport McMoRan is “infamous for its alleged desecration of Papuan sacred sites, environmental and human rights abuses.” (Source)Freeport turned a lovely mountain, the Grasberg -- called "Copper Mountain" because of its rich copper vein -- into a pit so large it shows on satellite photos. As they mined for copper, they found an incredible bounty of gold. In 1997, the mine produced a million a day in profits. Goodness knows how much it produces now.

This company is linked to a larger chain of events that caused the overthrow of the popular Sukarno and the installation of the murderous Suharto in Indonesia, a move that as a side effect resulted in Indonesia’s bloody invasion of East Timor. Freeport has what can only be described as an incestuous relationship with the security forces in Indonesia in order to protect the mine’s riches from the natives to whom the riches should belong. Instead, shareholders and a select few in the military profit wildly, even as the mining operation is leaching acid into the groundwater serving the island containing the nations of West Papua and Papua New Guinea.

Political activists put a lot of time into learning about Bush, Rumsfeld, Rove, Cheney. But we should look a little further to see whom these people really serve. Freeport is a much bigger player in international politics than most people know. Board members have included Henry Kissinger and Admiral Arleigh Burke, as well as several prominent members of the Rockefeller clan.I understand that a Frontline special on this company is in the works as well. Heads up. These companies are the real government. Until we understand who they are and what they do, we’ll never be able to control them. And we must control them, before they destroy whole portions of our planet

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