Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.), expressing growing bipartisan sentiment in Congress, called Wednesday on Chevron Corp. to relinquish its oil production rights in Angola on grounds that the firm is helping to support the Marxist government there.
Dole, in a speech at a so-called summit of representatives of Third World insurgencies, asserted that Chevron support of the Angola government conflicts with the Reagan Administration’s decision earlier this year to provide covert military aid--including deadly Stinger anti-aircraft missiles--to the anti-government insurgents headed by Jonas Savimbi.
“Maybe it’s time Chevron ought to go--get out of there,” he declared.
The Luanda government earned about $600 million in foreign currency last year from oil produced by Chevron. In addition, about 60 smaller American companies are involved in oil-related business in Angola.
Dole’s remarks reflect increasing sentiment among Democrats as well as Republicans in Congress that U.S. firms no longer should be permitted to do business with the Angolan government. A number of legislative measures designed to penalize Chevron for continued involvement in Angola are now under consideration in Congress.
“There’s been no end to these bills,” Steve North, international public affairs adviser for Chevron, said in a telephone interview. Even without Chevron, he added, oil production in Angola would continue at its current pace and “there wouldn’t be a hiccup in the flow of oil revenues to the government.”
Speaking to the same group as Dole, Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) said he will press for an early Senate vote on his measure, which calls on President Reagan to use his emergency powers to require Chevron to leave Angola. He said the measure has a long list of co-sponsors, including at least six Democrats.
“Here is a situation where U.S. business interests are in blatant conflict with U.S. foreign policy interests,” DeConcini said. “Angola is a situation in which we are trading with the enemy.”
DeConcini’s resolution, which he intends to offer as an amendment to a bill raising the national debt ceiling, calls on the President to use against Chevron the same emergency powers that he used to stop U.S. firms from doing business in Libya and Nicaragua.
Measure Called Too Harsh
A spokesman for Dole said that, while the Senate majority leader views DeConcini’s measure as too harsh--"like a baseball bat to swat a fly"--he is prepared to do whatever is necessary to persuade Chevron to leave Angola. “Dole’s intention is to try to work it out,” he said.
Dole is known to be interested in arranging a meeting among Secretary of State George P. Shultz, top Chevron officials and interested members of Congress to discuss a solution to the problem. If that approach fails, he then would consider a legislative solution.
In addition to DeConcini’s bill, other measures being considered include:
--A possible amendment to the Senate tax reform bill that would deprive Chevron of any tax benefits for business conducted in Angola. Sens. Alfonse M. D’Amato (R-N.Y.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) previously have authored versions of this amendment, and some senators are hoping to revive it in a House-Senate conference committee that begins meeting today.
--A measure recently adopted by the Democratic-controlled House Armed Services Committee by a vote of 24 to 8 that would block Defense Department purchases of oil from any company that produces it in Angola. Rep. Jim Courter (R-N.J.), author of the amendment, estimates that it would deprive Chevron of $382 million in Pentagon contracts.
--A bill passed by the House on a voice vote earlier this week that would prohibit Export-Import Bank loans for non-agricultural exports to Angola until that country has expelled all foreign troops, including an estimated 35,000 Cubans.
Supported in Past
North said that Chevron is particularly concerned by the House Armed Services Committee measure and noted that Administration policy in the past has been to support Chevron’s role in Angola.
“It’s hitting us for doing something that is lawful today,” he said. “It seems strange that our lawful actions in Angola should render us ineligible to do business with the Defense Department.”
Although the Administration is believed to oppose all of the legislation now being considered by Congress, Dole’s decision to get involved in the controversy could bring about a change in the government’s current position. Dole is credited with persuading the Administration to begin providing support to Savimbi.
The United States is understood to be giving Savimbi’s National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) about $15 million in covert aid, including shoulder-held Stingers intended to be used in Angola against Soviet-made helicopters.
Jeremias Chitunda, UNITA’s chief spokesman, told the rebel summit meeting that the U.S. aid already has succeeded in helping to convince the Angola government that it cannot defeat the rebels. He said that in the last 10 days, UNITA has received signals from the government that it is ready to begin peace negotiations.
DeConcini also is the author of a measure that would deprive UNITA and other Third World anti-Communist insurgencies of Stingers unless the rebels agree to store them under the same security precautions used by North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries. The amendment, which DeConcini intends to offer in the Senate within the next few weeks, would effectively halt the supply of Stingers to Savimbi.