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What Alcoa wants Alcoa gets?

What Alcoa wants Alcoa gets?

Julian Kenny

Ultimately, of course, Alcoa's performance in Trinidad and Tobago will be judged by what we do, not by what we say. -Wade Hughes, Alcoa T&T Team Sunday Express, December 4.

For all the sovereignty and independence we supposedly have, many accept that we are merely a client state of the United States of America, whose interests are our energy resources. Readers will have noted over the past two decades the use of the media by US authorities in promoting the interests of that country. The US Ambassador frequently does this. We had Mr Overbey of Alcoa not long ago, telling us that Alcoa would integrate their smelter into the ecosystem of Cap de Ville/Chatham.

Remember also that he could not tell us what would be done with spent potliners (they still don't). Then there were the full-page spreads in all the print media. Now we have the Hughes thousand-word letter seeking to discredit Mark Meredith. I am sure that Mr Meredith can take care of himself, but readers will note that the letter deals only with three sites, and indeed the bulk is devoted to Iceland.

Many Icelanders are opposed to Alcoa's proposal, even though the Government of Iceland approves. But the headline says it all-Alcoa seeking best for T&T. This is so typical of the United States multinational corporations. Bring on the PR, put some spin on it to influence the semi-literate natives and attack the critics, and, above, all keep the CIA presence in Trinidad and Tobago in the foggy background to protect American interests. If the natives get out of line there are ways of dealing with them.

But citizens must surely understand the simple fact that Alcoa, a vital part of the United States military industrial complex, like any other comparable corporation, is first concerned with profitability and dividends for shareholders.

Surely, citizens must also know that when an American multinational finds itself in difficulty the first response is layoff, followed by Chapter 11 protection. Surely they must understand that the political pillar of the United States is... it's the US economy, stupid! Nothing must hurt it. No, Alcoa is here in the interests of Alcoa and Alcoa shareholders, and the world-wide need for aluminium products from cooking pots to door frames, from electricity transmission cables to roofing sheets, from aircraft to the aluminium rocket casings that their helicopters use in Iraq collateralising many innocent men, women and infants. It is here purely and simply to take advantage of cheap energy, cheap labour and minimal environmental standards and their enforcement, in a system of governance dominated not by service to citizens, but the ego-politics of seeking and retaining power at any cost to our national patrimony.

But, Mr Hughes, your position is understandable. You have to write what you do in the interests of your employers, Alcoa. This is natural. The officialdom that you are dealing with also has its interests. Their bosses need the revenues for political survival. But there are citizens in this country who think beyond themselves and about the welfare of citizens of this generation and future generations.

Yvonne Ashby is one-a humble retired district nurse who has given her life of selfless service to citizens of this country. Write a thousand words to her and carefully explain to her, and to Fr Wilfred John, the parish priest of the peninsula, and the parents, staff and pupils of Vance River Primary School, and especially the citizens of Union Village, about the benefits to accrue to their communities.

But, at the same time, answer just a few questions for her. Exactly what is Alcoa paying for the enormous quantities of natural gas that will be burnt to generate electricity for the smelter over its life? Is it US market price? Is it fixed for any period? How much gas is to be used over the life of the smelter? What are the emissions? Effluents?

Give actual projected quantities. And a definitive statement on a tested method of disposal of potliners! And explain why the Cedros Peninsula United development proposal is not in the interests of Cedrosians. And while you are at it, explain to her, and all Cedrosians and citizens of this country, why Alcoa needs such a large tract of designated agricultural and forest lands for its operations.

If your operations are as benign as you suggest there should be no need for so much land. Is the park surrounding the smelter a real park, or cordon sanitaire? Your smelter could easily be accommodated in Chaguaramas! And if Alcoa is so committed to the interests of Trinidad and Tobago, confirm it will pay US market prices for our wasting national patrimony, natural gas. And finally, confirm that Alcoa has never been fined for breaches of US environmental law. Cedrosians are already judging Alcoa by what it is doing.

Trinidad and Tobago News

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