FEBRUARY 1982 - VOLUME 3 - NUMBER 2
Guatemala's Largest Oil Driller Defends Military Rule
The major foreign oil investor in Guatemala, Basic Resources International, has taken an unusual step in justifying its presence in a country ruled by a repressive military regime. The oil company has published its own version of the Guatemalan-political situation as part of a newsletter on the company's operations which is sent periodically to the company's 75 stockholders.
Basic Resources, a Luxembourg-based firm whose mineral and oil investments are limited to Guatemala, printed a modest disclaimer in the first newsletter, sent out last September. "We do not involve ourselves in local politics and do not profess to be political science experts," the company wrote.
In portraying the political situation in Guatemala, the latest newsletter glosses over the widespread repression the government practices. Amnesty International reports that since 1978, well over 5,000 people have been murdered in political violence, and at least 615 others have disappeared. Most of the killings were condoned, if not ordered, by the government of General Romeo Lucas Garcia, according to human rights groups.
From the company's perspective, however, Guatemala has a fine democratic record. "During the period of our operations, the President and Congress have been elected in freely contested elections in which all principal political parties participate. A new election is scheduled for March, 1982, and the campaign is now in full swing with seven political parties participating." The company's claim about "freely contested elections" is a curious one, since more than 100 mayors, representatives, and officials of the nation's principal moderate party, the Christian Democrats, have been killed in the last 12 months, according to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a Washington-based human rights organization.
The company newsletter also' has a kind word for the new U.S. policy in the region. "The Reagan administration has drawn the line" (a favorite phrase of U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig) "of interest vital to the U.S. south of El Salvador which, of course, includes Guatemala. We consider this to be an important stabilizing factor."
Basic Resources shares more than just philosophy with the Reagan administration. One of the architects of Reagan's Central America policy, retired general Vernon Walters, worked as a consultant for the company until early 1981. Walters, who was hired by Basic Resources to use his influence with Guatemala's military rulers to get permission for the company to increase oil production there, now serves as an ambassador at large and senior advisor to Haig.