French government bribes in our backyard

The French have been up to their old tricks, all around the world these days. Anyone who thinks their UN Oil for Food bribery scandal involving its corporations is the beginning and end of it is a hopeless naif. French corruption, particularly through multilateral bureaucracies, has spread to every corner of the earth. Now, it's hit the OAS, the multilateral organization commissioned with keeping the peace in the Americas.

Miguel Angel Rodriguez, the sitting secretary—general of the Organization of American States, and a former president of Costa Rica, has been pretty seriously accused of taking a $140,000 bribe last year from Alcatel, the big French electronics (especially telephones) company with close ties to the French government, in exchange for a lucrative contract. He's going back to Costa Rica to answer allegations and last Friday his own political party kicked him out. The current president of Costa Rica has demanded he resign.

This isn't the whole story. Total, the big French oil company, is being investigated for millions in bribes in Russia and Iraq, in order to obtain oil exploration rights. Even bigger allegations are rolling out now, about million—dollar bribes — not just from the French, but from President Chavez of Venezuela's political machine as well, which was instrumental in mobilizing the Caricom vote that ensured his victory.

But about this Alcatel kickback... what did Rodriguez of Costa Rica use the money for? Not for yachts. Specifically, he applied the funds to his effort to run for OAS president, a position he won on Sept. 15. Which brings to mind the question: How useful would it be for the French to a have in their hip pocket the man leading the Western Hemisphere's leading multilateral organization? The man whose campaign costs they fronted. Would they consider that kind of control to be in their national interest? The answer is obvious.

The French government has notoriously close ties to its major corporations. Those enormously moneyed corporations, in turn, uncannily keep turning up around multilateral institutions — whether the United Nations, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund or now, the Organization of American States. Multilateral officials, in turn, often get caught with their hands in the till. And we know about only those few unlucky enough to get caught.

Why do the French do this? It's the logical extension of their history — under Louis XIV,  the French literally invented centralized government bureaucracy as we know it today in the West. This is their game. And modern multilaterals are nothing if not the big bureaucracies the French know how to get manipulate, bribe, coerce, flatter, and blackmail.
But what's news is that they have extended their strategy everywhere, even deep into the Americas.

A French source tells me that, in fairness to the French, power abhors a vacuum and the absence of U.S. interest in the affairs of the Americas is the main reason behind the striking French powerplay. Who knows what the French want in this hemisphere? Their influence yet to be felt. Given what we have seen of their activities in other multilateral institutions, it's unlikely to be in America's interest.

The French have been up to their old tricks, all around the world these days. Anyone who thinks their UN Oil for Food bribery scandal involving its corporations is the beginning and end of it is a hopeless naif. French corruption, particularly through multilateral bureaucracies, has spread to every corner of the earth. Now, it's hit the OAS, the multilateral organization commissioned with keeping the peace in the Americas.

Miguel Angel Rodriguez, the sitting secretary—general of the Organization of American States, and a former president of Costa Rica, has been pretty seriously accused of taking a $140,000 bribe last year from Alcatel, the big French electronics (especially telephones) company with close ties to the French government, in exchange for a lucrative contract. He's going back to Costa Rica to answer allegations and last Friday his own political party kicked him out. The current president of Costa Rica has demanded he resign.

This isn't the whole story. Total, the big French oil company, is being investigated for millions in bribes in Russia and Iraq, in order to obtain oil exploration rights. Even bigger allegations are rolling out now, about million—dollar bribes — not just from the French, but from President Chavez of Venezuela's political machine as well, which was instrumental in mobilizing the Caricom vote that ensured his victory.

But about this Alcatel kickback... what did Rodriguez of Costa Rica use the money for? Not for yachts. Specifically, he applied the funds to his effort to run for OAS president, a position he won on Sept. 15. Which brings to mind the question: How useful would it be for the French to a have in their hip pocket the man leading the Western Hemisphere's leading multilateral organization? The man whose campaign costs they fronted. Would they consider that kind of control to be in their national interest? The answer is obvious.

The French government has notoriously close ties to its major corporations. Those enormously moneyed corporations, in turn, uncannily keep turning up around multilateral institutions — whether the United Nations, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund or now, the Organization of American States. Multilateral officials, in turn, often get caught with their hands in the till. And we know about only those few unlucky enough to get caught.

Why do the French do this? It's the logical extension of their history — under Louis XIV,  the French literally invented centralized government bureaucracy as we know it today in the West. This is their game. And modern multilaterals are nothing if not the big bureaucracies the French know how to get manipulate, bribe, coerce, flatter, and blackmail.
But what's news is that they have extended their strategy everywhere, even deep into the Americas.

A French source tells me that, in fairness to the French, power abhors a vacuum and the absence of U.S. interest in the affairs of the Americas is the main reason behind the striking French powerplay. Who knows what the French want in this hemisphere? Their influence yet to be felt. Given what we have seen of their activities in other multilateral institutions, it's unlikely to be in America's interest.