Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Former U.S. ambassador Hans H. Hertell and Barrick Gold/Goldcorp in Dominican Republic, etc.

The recently released wikileaks cables on the Dominican Republic, have again switched the spotlight on the controversial and colorful figure of former U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic Hans H. Hertell , and his somewhat mercantilist tenure as imperial proconsul in Santo Domingo for the period 2001-2007.  If alleged political and judicial corruption acts within D.R. were not juicy enough subjects for many of these cables, try on for size the bizarre and almost anachronic image of an imperial proconsul resembling those nostalgic bygone years of gunboat diplomacy, when U.S. ambassadors indeed wielded more local power than some presidents in the Central American-Caribbean basin.  If this weren't enough, picture a Republican presidential fund raiser cum lobbyist, who has taken the revolving door concept to the Nth degree, by lobbying while holding diplomatic office for the signing of the de facto neocolonial contract, between Barrick Gold/Goldcorp and the Dominican Republic, not to mention using strong arm tactics to persuade key Dominican officials into signing an extraction contract, amply criticized by many sectors of Dominican society, including some deputies in the national congress..

The genesis of Barrick Gold/Goldcorp's presence in D.R. takes us back to 2005, when in November of that year Barrick Gold acquired the rights of Placer Dome at the Pueblo Viejo open pit mine, actually retaining 60% ownership of the mining rights while the other 40% was granted to Goldcorp.  It is noteworthy that there is a tacit media blackout in the D.R. concerning Goldcorp's presence at Pueblo Viejo, with the notable exception of English-speaking online media.  To this writer's best knowledge since researching this subject, neither the Dominican state, nor Dominican Spanish language media either mainstream or online, have openly divulged the presence of Goldcorp at Pueblo Viejo, in the same manner as Barrick Gold.  Thusly whenever  news break out in D.R. concerning the Pueblo Viejo Dominicana (PVDC) mining complex, located within the municipality of Cotui, province of Sanchez Ramirez, the Stalinist standing order for Dominican mainstream media has been to mention Barrick Gold exclusively in the bylines, as though Goldcorp's 40% interest at PVDC and thusly the contract, undergoes some sort of strange metamorphosis, becoming an invisible alien entity.  No reasonable observer of these inexplicable media manifestations, regarding the Barrick Gold/Goldcorp tandem in D.R., could conclude that there wouldn't be some sort of a muzzle clause in the aforementioned neocolonial contract with the Dominican state, regarding the unsavory presence of Goldcorp at PVDC.  The most reasonable inference that could be drawn from such a convenient blackout might be among others, the recent Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) order, to suspend operations of Goldcorp's Marlin mine in Guatemala,, as a result of its gross and continuous human rights violations and environmental harms, against the indigenous Mayan people.  It is open knowledge that assassinations of anti-mining activists, including the recent brutal killing of a 16-year old anti-mining activist, is but one of the tactics employed by Goldcorp in Guatemala, as a recent report confirms.  However, to hear about such brutal tactics on the part of Goldcorp in Guatemala within Dominican media is practically unheard of.  Thusly, this de facto media blackout on Goldcorp, gives more credence to the theory that Barrick Gold/Goldcorp indeed must control portions of local media.

Naturally, even if Hertell didn't know about such distasteful shenanigans courtesy of his dubious clients from  Barrick Gold/Goldcorp, which is rather doubtful, not only in Guatemala but other points of the planet as well, Hertell's innate proclivities as an imperial carpetbagger and Republican fund raiser, clearly would impede him to aspire as champion of human rights and environmental responsibility on behalf of Canadian criminal mining emporiums.  On the other hand, a rather folksy description of Hertell's well known Caribbean palatine personality during his tenure as imperial ambassador in the D.R., ranges anywhere from being a modern version of a bucaneer like Francis Drake, to engaging in "devilish pranks" while serving as a diplomat.  These comments amusing as they may seem, are not to be taken lightly. Their author is none other than the President of the Dominican Republic's Anti-Corruption and Ethics Commission, seasoned attorney Marino Vinicio Castillo, an old veteran warhorse of the rough and tumble of Dominican politics, whose impressive resume goes back to the latter part of the Trujillo Era and the tenure of President Balaguer.  Additionally, Mr. Castillo has gone on record stating that proconsul Hertell was a chum of Jose David Figueroa Agosto, a sort of Caribbean "Pablo Escobar", captured in 2010 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, by federal authorities in an international dragnet, and suspected of being the mafia Don of a drug cartel based in D.R.  Mr. Castillo has further stated that "he has sufficient evidence that a Volvo vehicle allegedly belonging to (Figueroa Agosto) was seen at the U.S. embassy in Santo Domingo, during Hertell's tenure".  And to give an Edward G. Robinson slant to this story, Mr. Castillo characterized proconsul Hertell as a "gangster".

As to Hertell's lobbying abilities on behalf of Barrick Gold/Goldcorp in D.R., he projects a grandiose geopolitical scenario in order to secure their comfy presence in Cotui.  Hertell's panoramic view of the Cotui gold mining complex, appears as if focused within the prism of 19th century European imperialism.  Thusly, the mayor of Cotui stated in Dominican media in 2010 that Hertell made ominous pronouncements to him, that "the interests of great powers were being affected by the obstacles the mayor was placing, so that (Barrick Gold/Goldcorp) may operate freely in that city."  Interestingly enough, proconsul Hertell in this particular instance, appeared as if to climb inside a time machine, playing the part of a Roman provincial governor during the reign of Emperor Trajan in the Second Century A.D. At this time, Hertell, as the mayor of Cotui recalled to the press, stated that "England, the U.S. and Canada were very worried and they were losing money."  And still not being content playing the imperial worrywart card to Cotui's mayor, Hertell even had the audacity of calling the good mayor "the Chavez of Cotui", in obvious reference to Venezuela's president anti-imperialist policies.

Regarding Hertell's resume and professional background, among the feathers in his cap is none other than as associate at powerhouse law firm Arnold & Porter LLP, of Washington, D.C.  These are the same hardy folks which like Atlas, have taken upon their shoulders the rather burdensome task of representing none other than Rupert Murdoch's oligopoly of News Corporation, in connection with its recent salacious phone hacking scandal.  Plus, if you happen to be a Fortune 500 Corporation, looking to navigate through the loopholes of the gargantuan Frank-Dodd Act you've come to the right shyster, since Hertell's colleagues at Arnold & Porter seem to have the right artillery to hook you up.  And since among his various and sundry practice areas we've also discovered environmental law, including tenure as Executive Director of  the Georgetown International Environmental Law Review, we could safely assume that Hertell's clients from Barrick Gold/Goldcorp,  must obviously have a sinless  track record in human rights and environmental responsibility.  Unfortunately, those of us who follow the news about these criminal Canadian mining emporiums, know that the opposite is true.  The final outcome of this Caribbean pirate story, where former imperial proconsul Hans Hertell is in front stage and in the leading cast, will ultimately unravel as the four autoclaves installed at PVDC will begin to vomit their sulphuric acid by-products, poisoning the soils adjacent to the open pit and tailings dam, in that agricultural and cattle raising region of the Dominican Republic, and threatening the adjoining aquifers, rivers and lakes of a country, where about 20% of the population have no access to potable water.  Stay tuned then for the next chapter of Barrick Gold/Goldcorp's version of Pirates of the Caribbean, with our good friend former imperial proconsul Hans Hertell in a leading role.