The United States’ support for Saudi Arabian has been largely (though unjustly) forgiven because the amount of oil coming our way from that regime is astronomical. Human rights abuses are glossed over because we can’t imagine living without their oil. Would this be the case if the oil being pumped were just a drop in the barrel?
Sadly, it seems even the smallest amount of oil for the US is the cause for the greatest blindness towards human rights abuses. The US, eager to diversify its sources of oil, is looking towards Africa as its next major source of oil. Countries like Sudan and Nigeria are getting a free pass from the US government; they are becoming major sources of potential oil for the US. But even the smaller sources of oil in places like Equatorial Guinea are proving enough to stifle any objection to human rights abuses that run rampant.
Equatorial Guinea is a country smaller than Maryland, with a population of less than a million people. President Obiang has been in power since 1979, exerting almost complete control over the political system. He has proclaimed himself a god, with the power to kill with impunity.
Sixty percent of the population lives on a dollar a day. More than half of the population has no access to clean drinking water. Twenty percent of children die before the age of five. It is a destination country for children and women trafficked for forced labor and sexual exploitation. Forced evictions, disappearances and inhumane prisons are the norm. Since petroleum was discovered there, the GDP has increased more than 5000 percent; at the same time, infant and child mortality has increased as the money flows in.
This oil has made the country the third largest oil producer in Sub-Saharan Africa. American oil firms, including Exxon Mobil, have invested $10 billion in extracting the oil. All of this money has clearly not made it to the people. In fact, Equatorial Guinea is one of the top ten most corrupt countries in the world. Obiang even has two mansions in Washington DC, courtesy of the oil wealth flowing in from the US.
Clearly, a corrupt, human rights violating, repressive government…whose president enjoyed a meeting with former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and was called a friend of the US a few years ago. The abuses are well documented, the mansions are a stone’s throw from the White House and the destructive cycle of profits over humanity continues. Is the US so desperate for any last drop of oil that will systematically ignore the humans who live about it? Where is the change?