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Ames reports: "Last Friday in Kazakhstan, riot police slaughtered up 70 striking oil workers, wounding somewhere between 500 and 800, and arresting scores. Almost as soon as the massacre went down in the western regional city of Zhanaozen, the Kazakh authorities cut off access to twitter and cell phone coverageÐeffectively cutting the region off from the rest of the world, relegating the massacre into the small news wire print."

Striking oil workers were massacred by police forces in Kazakhstan where the Western-backed president-for-life owns KazMunaiGaz, the statist oil company closely partnered with Chevron, 12/21/11. (photo: Youtube)
Striking oil workers were massacred by police forces in Kazakhstan where the Western-backed president-for-life owns KazMunaiGaz, the statist oil company closely partnered with Chevron, 12/21/11. (photo: Youtube)



The Massacre Everyone Ignored: Chevron, Kazakhstan and a US-Backed Dictator

By Mark Ames, The Exiled

21 December 11

 

ith violence and government crackdowns making headlines from so many familiar parts of the world, there's hardly been a peep in the media about the biggest and ugliest massacre of all: Last Friday in Kazakhstan, riot police slaughtered up 70 striking oil workers, wounding somewhere between 500 and 800, and arresting scores. Almost as soon as the massacre went down in the western regional city of Zhanaozen, the Kazakh authorities cut off access to twitter and cell phone coverage - effectively cutting the region off from the rest of the world, relegating the massacre into the small news wire print.

But not before someone was able to get a video out to YouTube last Friday, showing the moment when the striking oil workers rushed the barricades. They've had to have put up with inhuman, medieval abuse for months now, culminating with the murders a few months back of a striking oil worker and the 18-year-old-daughter of another union organizer, as well as the jailing of a labor lawyer working with the striking oil workers.

Keep in mind, the oil company whose workers are striking for better pay and union recognition, KazMunaiGaz, is "owned" by the billionaire son-in-law of Kazakhstan's Western-backed president-for-life. Among Kazakhstan's leading American partners are Chevron, whose website boasts, "Chevron is Kazakhstan's largest private oil producer" - adding this bit of unintentional black humor:

"In Kazakhstan, as in any country where Chevron does business, we are a strong supporter of programs that help the community."

Indeed. First, here is a video showing striking oil workers last Friday breaking up the totalitarian-state's official celebration of its "Independence Day" (Kazakhstan was one of the 15 Soviet republics that declared independence in 1991; the republic's Communist Party leader, Nursultan Nazarbaev, stayed on as the "democratic" ruler ever since). At about the 3:30 mark you'll hear and see gunfire as the massacre is in full-swing:

Here is another video, the one that first went around last Friday that is more dramatic, showing the moment when the striking oil workers stormed the barricades and tore down their hated autocrat's Independence Day stage…ending with gunfire and riot police moving into the square:

That went down on Friday. We know very little even today because the government clamped down on all communication with the outside world, cutting off cell phone communications and Twitter, imposing martial law, and bringing in special forces and riot police to terrorize Zhanaozen and other cities in the oil-rich west where sympathy strikes and protests have broken out. Journalists have been barred, and two reporters from reputable Russian online media outlets have been arrested. The government claims 15 dead; strikers, who have proven far more reliable, say at least 70 are dead and 500 wounded.

Even the brief and highly controlled "tour" arranged by the authorities for a handful of reporters in the aftermath produced this gruesome account:

Rights activists will likely also be concerned by what appeared to heavy-handed treatment of detainees at Zhanaozen’s main police station Sunday evening. Journalists at the station reported hearing screams coming from what appeared to be interrogation rooms, while a number of men with bloodied faces were lined up in a row in the corridors with their faces against the wall.

Reporters visiting the town under close supervision were not freely permitted to speak with detainees or residents.

Oil workers have been striking since the beginning of summer for the right to unionize, and for better pay. In response, the state-run oil company has already fired hundreds of workers for "violating labor laws," while dividing up communities and the workforce. By September, workers who held out with the strike were on the verge of starvation; marriages were breaking up, and tensions were growing hotter. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch came out criticizing the Kazakh authorities for their harsh treatment of the strikers and labor organizers. (Read this excellent English-language account here.)

While the brutality translates into living Hell or violent death for locals, keeping those labor costs down has worked wonders for Chevron's profits, as Forbes recently reported:

Chevron Rises To $104 As Kazakhstan Kicks Up Production

10/13/2011

Chevron, the second largest vertically integrated oil major, has been expanding its operational foothold in the oil rich state of Kazakhstan over the past few years.

The nation’s vast unexplored resources of oil and gas have become a attractive destination for companies such as Chevron, Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips seeking new frontiers for oil and gas exploration.

Chevron has taken the early lead in establishing operations in the former Soviet republic with two major upstream projects as well as a manufacturing facility. The future expansion of operations in Kazakhstan is expected to add greatly to Chevron’s overall production output.

We have a $104 price estimate for Chevron which is a 6% premium over its current market price.

The oil majors' fondness for Kazakhstan's highly profitable oil may also explain photographs like this, showing Kazakh "SpetzNaz" or special forces troops sent in to crush protests - wearing helmets and brandishing shields that read, in English, "Police":

Here is a video of the Kazakh SpetzNaz sent in to quash sympathy protests in the nearby city of Aktau:

Reports of torture are filtering in…and of roaming undercover police death squads in white jeeps hunting the streets for working-age males to pick up and intern.

Meanwhile, the protests are still going on throughout the country, the police crackdown is getting more vicious, and almost no one outside of Kazakhstan knows a thing about what's going on there, because there are too many uprisings going on all around the world, uprisings that are twittered and cell-phone-cammed and YouTubed…and if your massacre and your oppression doesn't make it to Twitter or isn't uploaded onto YouTube, then it doesn't exist, and you are all alone.

 

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+15 # Activista 2011-12-21 20:19
I am sure that UN will provide "estimates" killed like it does in Syria or Liberated Libya.
It is the same power - police state - principle around the World - unfortunately Americans are still mostly brainwashed.
 
 
+9 # Michael_K 2011-12-21 21:36
This has been a long time coming. You can see the Clinton (both Billy-Jeff and Hilarious) paw prints all over that dictatorship set-up, as well as tons of BP money some of which was even delivered by that Heute Bourgeoisie bag-woman, Maggie Thatcher.

I'm betting the O'Bama administration will treat this as "quite different" from the Syrian crisis, because "our president" is very sensitive to oil industry desires...
 
 
+13 # wrodwell 2011-12-22 02:42
More working people getting screwed and killed; what else is new? Hopefully, Kazakhstan's workers, along with the entire world's working class, will rise up and destroy the oppressor class, replacing them with fair governments that work for the people, not against them. The goal should be to make the government fear the people, not vice-versa. If the ruling classes don't get it, let there be Revolution everywhere!
 
 
+3 # RMDC 2011-12-22 07:42
This is really horrifying but not new. This is how oil companies always operate in most countries where they control both the government and the natural resources.

I just want to quote Andrew Bacevich from another article on RSN --

"The disastrous legacy of the Iraq War extends beyond treasure squandered and lives lost or shattered. Central to that legacy has been Washington's decisive and seemingly irrevocable abandonment of any semblance of self-restraint regarding the use of violence as an instrument of statecraft. With all remaining prudential, normative, and constitutional barriers to the use of force having now been set aside, war has become a normal condition, something that the great majority of Americans accept without complaint. War is US."

Welcome to the Pox Americana, welcome to hell on a global scale. All of this lies at the very heart of American foreign policy. Only when the US empire collapses will the world return to some "semblance of restraint regarding the use of violence as an instrument of statecraft." That is, only after the US collapses will there be any chance for peace in the world and any chance for people to live decent lives. The US is the rogue state of the world.
 

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