Earlier this week, The Nation magazine and the Haitian weekly newspaper Haïti Liberté announced a partnership whereby they would work together to publish findings from 1,918 U.S. embassy cables — dated between 2003 and 2010 — from Haiti.
Now, the two papers have released their first article about the cables. In “The PetroCaribe Files,” Dan Coughlin and Kim Ives review an ordeal discovered within the cables involving an oil and development deal Haiti was negotiating with Venezuela and Cuba between 2006-2007.
As a part of the deal struck that year, Haiti would join the Venezuelan-led oil alliance known as PetroCaribe and it would purchase oil “only 60 percent up front with the remainder payable over twenty-five years at 1 percent interest” — a remarkably good deal for the Western hemisphere’s poorest country.
The U.S. embassy at the time noted that Haiti would save a hundred million U.S. dollars a year under the terms of the PetroCaribe deal; the saved dollars would then be earmarked for development in schools, health care, and infrastructure. Yet, under the charge of ambassador Janet Sanderson, the embassy immediately set out to sabotage the deal.
In a classified cable, Sanderson noted that the embassy started to “pressure” Haitian leader Rene Preval from joining PetroCaribe, saying that it would “cause problems with [the United States.]” Major oil companies — such as ExxonMobil and Chevron — began threatening to cut off ties with Haiti, and Sanderson repeatedly met with the energy firms to assure them that she would pressure Haiti at the “highest levels of government.” The U.S. embassy also continually warned Preval against traveling to Venezuela and collaborate with other left-wing governments in the region.
Despite this intimidation campaign, Haiti successfully completed its deal with PetroCaribe, rebuking both its superpower neighbor and the combined threats of the world’s most powerful oil corporations. Yet the story of the PetroCaribe deal outlined in the cables is a powerful tale of how multinational corporations have exerted pressure on the U.S. government to undercut development in the emerging world economies.
On Wednesday, The Nation and Haiti Liberte will publish articles detailing a campaign by the United States that pressured the country against bringing its minimum wage to $5 dollar a day. This campaign was allegedly waged under the Obama administration, where Sanderson currently works as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.