Brazil: Nuts to Chevron

Why would any U.S. business want to invest a nickel in Brazil? An ambitious federal prosecutor there, Eduardo Santos de Oliveira, channeling Eliot Spitzer, is pursuing criminal charges, and an $11 billion (yes, billion) fine, against Chevron executives over a small offshore spill last November. Chevron’s Brazil chief George Buck and 16 others, including several American citizens, have been ordered to surrender their passports and remain in the country. Reuters reporters Chris Swann and Jeff Goldfarb explain the outrageous jihad against Chevron:

Seems that not all spills are created equal, especially if one is done by a Yanqui. By recent standards, Chevron’s Brazil spill (plugged and cleaned up in four days) is mucho modest. The November leak in one of its deepwater wells released some 2,400 barrels into the Atlantic. You could compare that to the more than 4.9 million barrels in BP’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico blowout, but I prefer a more local comparison: Per Reuters, oil giant Petrobras, part state-owned and Brazil’s most profitable company, has had numerous (and far worse) spills in recent years, but has received only wrist slaps from Rio authorities.

And get this: Petrobras is a partner with Chevron in the “criminal” project but, amazingly, no Petrobras officials are being charged by Prosecutor de Oliveira. Somewhere in his flabbergasting antics there’s a line about crying over milked spills.

American technology, know-how, and business, if only through off shore oil exploration and drilling, has been a huge boost to the Brazilian economy. Chevron is finding out (again, as it has in Ecuador) that when you deal with liberal governments in South America, no favor goes unpunished.