Columbia gets sued by dollar-crazed American mining company

Author: Ben Kench   |  Tags:

What’s more important? Rainforests or gold? Depends who you ask I suppose. Most sane people would say rainforests – but American corporations aren’t sane, they are money crazed, to the point of it being a mental illness. American capitalist culture is so fixated with money that the big picture seems to be really fuzzy to them. In fact, I’d say they have ‘big picture blindness.’

Hence their national obsession with suing people. If you’ve been wronged, injured or had your feelings hurt, does a sum of money make everything ok again? In the country where you can sue someone because they said you looked like Susan Boyle, apparently it does.

So it’s only natural to them, that companies can sue countries if the numbers stack up.

US mining giant, Tobie, has chosen to throw its weight around, threatening to sue Columbia for a crazy amount, thereby proving themselves a global stage heavyweight bully. When a company thinks it’s ok to bully a country that wants to make part of its land a national park, an area of natural beauty, a place that indigenous wildlife can survive and thrive, we know that as a planet, things are rapidly flushing down the pan.

Oh, let’s not forget that the Amazon rainforest is pretty much the lungs of the world too – breathing out billions of gallons of the delicious, refreshing oxygen we’d all die without. But oh no, the Tobie Mining Company doesn’t give a damn about that. All it knows it’s knows that it has to get paid.

And boy does it want to get paid – it’s filed a suit to the tune of $16.5 billion dollars, over a fifth of Columbia’s national budget.

If it were successful, it would cripple Columbia – how can a developing nation take a hit of 20% of its budget? Probably the only way would be to hand over the keys to the kingdom to whichever billionaire narco-trafficker wants to bail them out – what would happen to the American-Columbian free trade agreement then? Relations would definitely sour. Wars have started over less.

It’s not the first time a scummy cash-crazy American corporate behemoth has got too big for its boots on the world stage:

Occidental Petroleum took on Ecuador. Ethyl Corporation, SD. Myers and Dow Agrosciences all successfully sued Canada (Canada needs to get better lawyers). And the list will grow and grow.

The worst part is, to the letter of the law, these companies do have a right to sue – US companies quite regularly seek compensation not just for the expropriation of land and factories, like the Columbian case, but for a huge range of things which they state infringe on their rights. Shockingly, this includes environmental and health and safety regulations.

Most international free-trade deals grant foreign investors the right to challenge government decisions affecting their investments via a system called ‘investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS).’  This law was created to give foreign investors’ confidence in their host nations – but give them an inch and they want a mile.

Should a foreign investor be able to force a government to change its laws to please them? Should they be able to insist that health and safety regulations and environmental policies be bent to their will?

The current law is ridiculous because it puts material possessions as more important than the health of the planet and its people – we should do more to fight these horrendously short-sighted American bully-boy tactics. Signing a petition is a start, refusing to buy American would be better.

How can host nations have any confidence in letting American companies plot up on their land? Particularly as the US government is fighting to secure these sorts of terms and conditions as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Obama is quite open about saying is basically a bid to see off its new greatest foe (they do seem to collect them, don’t they) – China.

America’s big picture blindness, where money talks and everything else cowers before it, is a rotten approach to life, business, and politics.

But speaking as someone who hasn’t got big picture blindness, I ask you – Should we be mining in the Amazon rainforest in the first place?

I beseech you to sign the petition here.

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