population. Roldos was a tirm believer in the state`s obligation to assist the poor and disenfranchised. He expressed hope that the Hydrocarbons Policy could in fact be used as a vehicle for bringing about social reform. He had to walk a fine line, however, because he knew that in Ecuador, as in so many other countries, he could not be elected without the support of at least some of the most influential families, and that even if he should manage to win without them, he would never see his programs implemented without their support.
I wras personally relieved that Carter was in the White House during this crucial time. Despite pressures from Texaco and other oil interests, Washington stayed pretty much out of the picture. I knew this would not have been the case under most other administrations — Republican or Democrat.
More than any other issue, I believe it was the Hydrocarbons Policy that convinced Ecuadorians to send Jaime Roldos to the Presidential Palace in Quito — their first democratically elected president after a long line of dictators. He outlined the basis of this policy in his Au-gust 10,1979, inaugural address:
We must take effective measures to defend the energy resources of the nation. The State (must) maintain the diversification of its exports and not lose its economic independence... Our decisions will be inspired solely by national interests and in the unrestricted defense of our sovereign rights.2
Once in office, Roldos had to focus on Texaco, since by that time it had become the main player in the oil game. It was an extremely rocky relationship. The oil giant did not trust the new president and did not want to be part of any policy that would set new precedents. It was very aware that such policies might serve as models in other countries.
A speech delivered by a key advisor to Roldos, Jose Carvajal, summed up the new administration`s attitude:
If a partner [Texaco] does not want to take risks, to make investments for exploration, or to exploit the areas of an oil concession, the other partner has the right to make those investments and then to take over as the owner...
144 Part III: 1975-1981
Who believe our relations with foreign companies have to be just; we have to be tough in the struggle; we have to be prepared for all kinds of pressures, but we should not display fear or an inferiority complex in negotiating with those foreigners.3
On New Year`s Day, 1980,1 made a resolution. It was the begin-ning of a new decade. In twenty-eight days, I would turn thirty-five. I resolved that during the next year I would make a major change in my life and that in the future I would try to model myself after mod-ern heroes like Jaime Roldos and Omar Torrijos.
In addition, something shocking had happened months earlier. From a profitability standpoint, Bruno had been the most successful president in MAIN`S history. Nonetheless, suddenly and without warning, Mac Hall had fired him.
Ecuador`s President Battles Big Oil 145
Mac Hall`s firing of Bruno hit MAIN like an earthquake. It caused turmoil and dissension throughout the company. Bruno had his share of enemies, but even some of them were dismayed. To many employees it was obvious that the motive had been jealousy. During discussions across the lunch table or around the coffee wagon, people often confided that they thought Hall felt threatened by this man who was more than fifteen years his junior and who had taken the firm to new levels of profitability.
"Hall couldn`t allow Bruno to go on looking so good," one man said. "Hall had to know that it was just a matter of time before Bruno would take over and the old man would be out to pasture."
As if to prove such theories, Hall appointed Paul Priddy as the new president. Paul had been a vice president at MAIN for years and was an amiable, nuts-and-bolts engineer. In my opinion, he was also lackluster, a yes-man who would bow to the chairman`s whims and would never threaten him with stellar profits. My opinion was shared by many others.
For me, Bruno`s departure was devastating. He had been a per-sonal mentor and a key factor in our international work. Priddy, on the other hand, had focused on domestic jobs and knew little if any-thing about the true nature of our overseas roles. I had to question where the company would go from here. I called Bruno at his home and found him philosophical.
"Well, John, he knew he had no cause," he said of Hall, "so I
demanded a very good severance package, and I got it. Mac controls a huge block of voting stock, and once he made his move there was nothing I could do." Bruno indicated that he was considering several offers of high-level positions at multinational banks that had been our clients.
I asked him what he thought I should do.
"Keep your eyes open," he advised. "Mac Hall has lost touch with reality, but no one will tell him so — especially not now, after what he did to me."
In late March 1980, still smarting from the firing, I took a sailing vacation in the Virgin Islands. I was joined by "Mary," a young woman who also worked for MAIN. Although I did not think about it when I chose the location, I now know that the region`s history w~as a factor in helping me make a decision that would start to fulfill my New Year`s resolution. The first inkling occurred early one afternoon as we rounded St. John Island and tacked into Sir Francis Drake Chan-nel, which separates the American from the British Virgin Islands.
The channel was named, of course, after the English scourge of the Spanish gold fleets. That fact reminded me of the many times during the past decade when I had thought about pirates and other historical figures, men like Drake and Sir Henry Morgan, who robbed and plundered and exploited and yet were lauded — even knighted — for their activities. I had often asked myself why, given that I had been raised to respect such people, I should have qualms about ex-ploiting countries like Indonesia, Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador. So many of my heroes — Ethan Allen, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Lewis and Clark, to name just a few —had exploited Indians, slaves, and lands that did not belong to them, and I had drawn upon their examples to assuage my guilt. Now, tacking up Sir Francis Drake Channel, I saw the folly of my past rationalizations.
I remembered some things I had conveniently ignored over the years. Ethan Allen spent several months in fetid and cramped British prison ships, much of the time locked into thirty pounds of iron shackles, and then more time in an English dungeon. He was a pris-oner of war, captured at the 1775 Battle of Montreal while fighting for the same sorts of freedom Jaime Roldos and Omar Torrijos now sought for their people. Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and all the other Founding Fathers had risked their lives for similar ideals.
I Quit 147
Winning the revolution was no foregone conclusion; they understood that if they lost, they would be hanged as traitors. Daniel Boone, Daw Crockett, and Lewis and Clark also had endured great hardships and made many sacrifices.
And Drake and Morgan? I was a bit hazy about that period in his-tory, but I remembered that Protestant England had seen itself sorely threatened by Catholic Spain. I had to admit to the possibility that Drake and Morgan had turned to piracy in order to strike at the heart of the Spanish empire, at those gold ships, to defend the sanctity of England, rather than out of a desire for self-aggrandizement.
As we sailed up that channel, tacking back and forth into the wind, inching closer to the mountains rising from the sea — Great Thatch Island to the north and St. John to the south — I could not erase these thoughts from my mind. Mary handed me a beer and turned up the volume on a Jimmy Buffett song. Yet, despite the beauty that surrounded me and the sense of freedom that sailing usually brings, I felt angry. I tried to brush it off. I chugged down the beer.
The emotion would not leave. I was angered by those voices from history and the way I had used them to rationalize my own greed. I was furious at my parents, and at Tilton — that self-righteous prep school on the hill-—for imposing all that history on me. I popped open another beer. I could have killed Mac Hall for what he had done to Bruno.
A wooden boat with a rainbow flag sailed past us, its sails billow-ing out on both sides, down-winding through the channel. A half dozen young men and women shouted and waved at us, hippies in brightly colored sarongs, one couple stark naked on the foredeck. It was obvious from the boat itself and the look about them that they lived aboard, a communal society, modern pirates, free, uninhibited.
I tried to wave back but my hand would not obey. I felt overcome with jealousy.
Mary stood on the deck, watching them as they faded into the distance at our stern. "How would you like that life?" she asked.
And then I understood. It was not about my parents, Tilton, or Mac Hall. It was my life I hated. Mine. The person responsible, the one I loathed, was me.
Mary shouted something. She was pointing over the starboard bow. She stepped closer to me. "Leinster Bay," she said. "Tonight`s anchorage."
148 Part III: 1975-1981
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