An investor standoff in Georgia brings workers, US congressmen into conflict

According to OpenSecrets.org, Frontera company executives have spent a sizable amount on lobbying in recent years – $230,000 in 2018 and $150,000 in 2019. These lobbying funds have been matched by political contributions, with company executives on donations spending $201,600 since 1998, according to OpenSecrets.org. In 2017, a US congressman proposed a bill to impose possible financial and visa sanctions on the Georgian government in cases where American businesses were undermined. As reported by iFact.ge, this bill followed a lobbying campaign on behalf of Frontera.

According to OpenSecrets.org, the two Texas congressmen who mentioned Frontera in their letters (Congressmen Markwayne Mullin and Brian Babin) have received donations ($5,700 and $5,500 respectively) from Frontera company executives in recent years. Texas congressman Pete Olson, who made a speech in support of Frontera on 28 January, received $9,200 in donations from Frontera executives between 2016-2018, according to OpenSecrets.org. It looks to me as if these statements of support, alongside the 2017 sanction bill, are meant to frighten the Georgian government into inaction more than anything else.

Meanwhile, families in Dedoplistskharo are worried about their uncertain future. They have gone into 2020 penniless and wondering if the Georgian government has any bargaining chip – or willpower – left to defend itself against multinational corporations. Speaking to openDemocracy in January, four workers in Dedoplistskharo reported that Frontera had contacted about 20 former employees in order to load up the remaining barrels of oil that were to be sold. According to the four workers, these former employees wrote a formal letter to accept employment, but they were never contacted again.

Generally, Frontera transports supplies via rail, but Georgian Railways has deemed the relevant section of track unsafe. These workers report that they heard there were further plans to remove reserves via truck, and in response have vowed to stop any oil trucks from leaving Dedoplistskharo. Given their deteriorating relationship with the company, workers in the town believe that Frontera has little intention of ever paying their salaries. The whole town, they claim, is unified in stopping the company from taking out the rest of the reserves.

openDemocracy contacted Frontera Resources for comment, but did not receive a response.

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» An investor standoff in Georgia brings workers, US congressmen into conflict | Sopiko Japaridze | Radio Free | https://www.radiofree.org/2020/01/28/an-investor-standoff-in-georgia-brings-workers-us-congressmen-into-conflict/ | 2021-06-17T23:44:13+00:00
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