NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I spent a year living in an apartment that overlooked Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro. It featured the picture postcard view of Sugarloaf Mountain, but another view too: An unending, year-long parade of oil rigs being floated out into the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
As the pre-salt boom in Brazil's offshore oil industry took shape in 2007, I had a front row seat (literally). Local papers like O Globo had some fun with the story, too, as the eye-popping statistics came in on how much oil might be trapped beneath the ocean and Brazil came of sudden age as an oil giant: Venezuela's Hugo Chavez began referring to former Brazilian president Lula as "Sheikh Lula" and an image along those lines appeared in print.
Now the ugly side of the pre-salt Brazilian oil boom has been exposed. The spill that occurred late last year in Chevron's (CVX - Get Report) Frade field has resulted in an increasingly hostile battle pitting the oil giant and rig operator Transocean (RIG) against the Brazilian federal government.
The latest development is the barring of 17 Chevron and Transocean officials implicated in the spill from leaving Brazil as they face criminal charges.The decision to hold the oil executives captive can't be a surprise given the rhetoric that has developed over this oil spill. The Brazilian government is already trying to
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