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Andrew Grathwohl

Venezuela Votes to Nationalize US Oil Rigs

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Lawmakers loyal to President Hugo Chavez authorized the nationalization of 11 oil rigs owned by U.S. driller Helmerich & Payne on Tuesday, saying the move was necessary to put the idled rigs back into operation. The predominantly pro-Chavez National Assembly declared the rigs "of public utility," clearing the way for the government to seize permanent control of the rigs used to extract heavy crude from oil fields.

The Tulsa, Oklahoma-based company shut the rigs down last year because Venezuela's state oil company, PDVSA, was behind on payments. The company said last week that PDVSA's debt was $43 million as of June 14.

The shutdown angered PDVSA officials, spurring the announcement last week that Chavez's government would nationalize the rigs because Helmerich & Payne had rejected demands to resume drilling for more than a year.

Venezuela's oil production has dropped by 300,000 barrels a day in the oil-producing states of Monagas, Anzoategui and Zulia since Helmerich & Payne shut the rigs down, according to the state-run AVN news agency.

It reported that pro-Chavez lawmaker Jesus Graterol justified the takeover, saying: "This company has refused to discuss service contacts with PDVSA."

Chavez's government has nationalized dozens of privately owned companies in recent years as the socialist leader seeks to expand the state's role in the economy.

http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9GL7LI00.htm

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Should the US government do something to protect H&P's property?
Obviously yes. The proper response would be to give them 12 hours to return the property, or face major military action. Since the commander in chief is Mr. "I'm so sorry, I apologize for being American", it's obvious that this will not happen.

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Should the US government do something to protect H&P's property? If so, what?

Of course, the protection of rights (of which right to property is major)is one of governments only legitimate functions.

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Just to clarify, it is the US government's obligation to protect the rights of Americans outside of its jurisdiction, not just within its borders? How does this compare to those who didn't want Bill Clinton to go get those two journalists from North Korea? My understanding was "the US can't protect you when you're outside of the US." What should have been done instead?

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Should the US government do something to protect H&P's property? If so, what?

No, it's not the government's role to apply U.S. property law to other countries.

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Just to clarify, it is the US government's obligation to protect the rights of Americans outside of its jurisdiction, not just within its borders? How does this compare to those who didn't want Bill Clinton to go get those two journalists from North Korea? My understanding was "the US can't protect you when you're outside of the US." What should have been done instead?
Tne comparison, I suppose, would be that the US should have sent armed troops to North Korea. I've heard people say "the US can't protect you when you're outside of the US", but that's clearly false. What is true is that you can't count on the US to protect you when you're outside of the US, since if the country in question won't respond politely to diplomatic requests, the US government, generally speaking, does not have the balls to protect the rights of our citizens from evil governments. Once in a while, but not often.

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Just to clarify, it is the US government's obligation to protect the rights of Americans outside of its jurisdiction, not just within its borders? How does this compare to those who didn't want Bill Clinton to go get those two journalists from North Korea? My understanding was "the US can't protect you when you're outside of the US." What should have been done instead?

If a government states it will not protect the rights of its citizens outside its borders, then it declares open season on all its citizens traveling abroad. This wouldn't be a problem in civilized countries like much of Europe, Israel, South Korea, Japan, other parts of Asia and parts of Latin America, where you know you can count on some protection by the local government. But it would be a major issue in many countries, particularly in uncivilized kleptocracies like Cahvez's Venezuela, lots of Arab countries, etc.

Though given the current US government, Obama is just as likely to extort money from the victim to give to the agressor to appease him.

If the company can move the rigs before they're seized, it should.

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Obviously yes. The proper response would be to give them 12 hours to return the property, or face major military action. Since the commander in chief is Mr. "I'm so sorry, I apologize for being American", it's obvious that this will not happen.

What I'm going to say is harsh but necessary. I have considered that you're the moderator and that I should use my words carefully, but as two individuals with whom mutual respect should be shared I am going to have to also be honest. What you have suggested is evil.

I'm sorry I have to contradict you, but this isn't a matter of national security. The military should only be used in emergency, not as a way to protect rights in a region that is not our own territory or under rightful sovereign jurisdiction. The private individuals who committed themselves to a country where their rights weren't going to be respected should have simply refused to do business in those kinds of areas in the first place.

What, should we use military action against Canada if they decide to imprison people in their country who use hate speech, simply because some of those people happen to be American? Because that is just as reasonable, or unreasonable, as what you are suggesting.

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I'm sorry I have to contradict you, but this isn't a matter of national security. The military should only be used in emergency, not as a way to protect rights in a region that is not our own territory or under rightful sovereign jurisdiction. The private individuals who committed themselves to a country where their rights weren't going to be respected should have simply refused to do business in those kinds of areas in the first place.
I don't particularly care if you're harsh, as long as you're not rude of disruptive, so don't give me any crap about being a moderator. So, I have to say that your position is what is evil. It denies the function of government, which is to protect the rights of individuals, especially the rights of a nation's own citizens. Property rights are rights, and they are the most fundamental rights with respect to man's existence and thus purpose behind government. So to advocate that a government should not perform its function is truly evil. To grant the right of a thug to confiscate the property of our citizens is truly evil. At heart, you are saying "The government of Venezuela has a right to do anything they want to us", which is evil. With all due respect.

The point that you seem to have missed is about the proper role of government: which is not, "to protect the rights of citizens as long as they are within territorial boundaries".

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Just to clarify, it is the US government's obligation to protect the rights of Americans outside of its jurisdiction, not just within its borders? How does this compare to those who didn't want Bill Clinton to go get those two journalists from North Korea? My understanding was "the US can't protect you when you're outside of the US." What should have been done instead?

The difference being is contract. The two journalist went to North Korea and China despite warnings from the State Department and the US Embassies. They ignored those warnings and through their own actions put themselves in peril.

The Oil rigs were purchased and licensed with the Venezuelan government and had contracts with the same. Venezuela then violated those contracts and sized the property of US citizens. Its imperative that the US protect and enforces contracts for its foreign commerce. Without which foreign trade would be impossible.

The Journalist went to a place were they were not supposed to be and were warned so by all parties involved. Where as the US oil company had peaceful agreements made with good faith between two foreign parties. The Journalist in their case were willful violators of agreement and policy. The government of Venezuela in their case were the violators. The journalist took a risk as interlopers where the oil companies had their rights violated through breech of contract. That's the difference.

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I agree with David's assessment of the principals involved but those principals only serve to raise another question. The question is, is it in the interest of the USA to invade or to carry out offensive operations to recoup the property/deny the use of the property to Chavez?

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The question is, is it in the interest of the USA to invade or to carry out offensive operations to recoup the property/deny the use of the property to Chavez?
This is the perennial and difficult question, because people rarely think about what is "in the interest of the US", as distinct from "in the interest of this individual". Is a fundamental principle "in the interest of the US", or for that matter in the interest of any individual in the US? Clearly, it is in the interest of anyone in the US whose property has actually been expropriated, thus the shareholders of the company. There is no way to know how many individuals that is in this case, but there are over a hundred million shares, more than half of which are owned by people outside the company. So I think it's fair to conclude that it is at least in the interest of "many thousands" of individuals. Now, "many thousands" is also the ballpark of the number of individuals who were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, and I do not generally see doubts raised about whether it is in the interest of the US to pursue those who enabled that attack.

The reason is simple, I think. In fact, the interest of the US is to protect the rights of all Americans, not just "the majority of Americans" or "at least 10,000 Americans". Just as it is the interest of your local government to protect you, your child, your mother, your wife and your milkman from assault or theft by thugs, it is the interest of the US government to protect you, your child, your mother, your wife and your milkman from attack on your rights by foreign thugs. (You're not still Canadian, eh?)

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I agree with David's assessment of the principals involved but those principals only serve to raise another question. The question is, is it in the interest of the USA to invade or to carry out offensive operations to recoup the property/deny the use of the property to Chavez?

This gets to the heart of why I posed the question. I've read from some Objectivists on other posts that the US should intervene with foreign violations of American citizens' rights only if it is in the interests of the US government. For example, the government may decide to attack Venezuela over this issue, but if China did it "strong diplomatic words" would be used to express our "displeasure." The gist being that Venezuela presents little military threat, while China needs to be handled differently. I don't understand that.

If the government should only perform one of its proper functions (protecting the rights of its citizens) when it suits those in positions of power, then what good is such a government? It becomes a government of men, rather than a government of laws.

I'll make your questions more general, Zip: If a foreign government violates the rights of an American citizen, should everything within the government's power be brought to bear in order to protect the rights of that citizen?

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I think that people need to negotiate with the government about these kinds of things in advance. As it was mentioned above by Rearden Steel, the state department wasn't listing Venezuela as a dangerous country or anything like that, and the company did make contracts with those people.

On the other hands, the company should have known better than to try to negotiate with vipers. Like any company who gets into bed with any government willingly, I have no sympathy for them.

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I would say I support the threat of a military response if the rigs aren't given back to their owners. A foreign government has initiated force against Americans. If not a military response, then what kind of response is possible? Police?

The police are here to retaliate against the initiation of force from American citizens against other American citizens. The military is here for the same purpose, but for foreign powers initiating force against American citizens, rather than criminals.

Do we have to respect another country's right to be sovereign when it conflicts with our citizens' rights?

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I would say I support the threat of a military response if the rigs aren't given back to their owners. A foreign government has initiated force against Americans. If not a military response, then what kind of response is possible? Police?

In the current wolrd there are a number of other options available. You can choose an ineffectual UN resolution condemning Venezuela's actions, you can try to impose economic sanctions, stop FMI loans, establish a trade embargo, expel the Venezuelan ambassador, etc, etc.

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I would imagine that breaching contract would be the major offense involved in this scenario.

Imagine if we took this idea seriously and the military got involved every time the rights of a U.S. citizen abroad were violated. It would in effect be the creation a global military dictatorship. The U.S. government would have to topple or threaten the government of every country with the laws of which we disagreed, since a citizen could potentially be affected by these laws anywhere in the world.

Since every single nation today violates people's rights in numerous different ways, all of them would be in a state of perpetual war or at least total submission to American military might. Perhaps they would try to ban any American citizen from entering their territory. But even then, U.S. citizens could sneak into the country illegally, break the law, and use that as justification to topple that country's government. It's not farfetched - it's happened many times in history - Hawaii, Texas, South Ossetia, etc. (Edit: in the case of Nazi Germany and Russia, no one had to move - they simply granted people in a bordering country passports, said that their rights were being violated, and used that to justify invading and annexing that country's territory.)

That's why a basic principle of international law is that when you visit another country, you agree to obey its laws. You don't get to bring your own laws and military forces with you.

Edited by GreedyCapitalist

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