Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ecuadorian President Calls for Boycott Against Chevron

The President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, called for an international boycott against U.S. oil giant Chevron.

“We will not allow to an abusive, corrupt and polluting company to fool the world,” declared Correa regarding the company that has been accused of polluting Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest region.

“Thirty years later, Chevron said it cleaned up the contamination, but what it did was to damage the jungle even more by using the worst methods. That was not a solution, but a cover-up of the contamination with layers of earth,” said Correa on Tuesday during a visit to an oil well in the province of Sucumbios.

It was in Sucumbios where a court ruled last year that Chevron was liable for environmental damage caused by Texaco when it operated from 1964 to 1990 and prior to its purchase by Chevron. 
The court fined Chevron $18 billion, which the company has yet to pay for despite losing judicial appeals in the U.S.

The plaintiffs accused Texaco of causing higher rates of illnesses like cancer among locals by dumping drilling waste in unlined pits. Chevron rejected the accusations and blamed state-run Petroecuador for causing pollution at sites after Texaco left the country.

Correa’s remarks came on the same day that an international arbitration tribunal issued a partial award in favor of Chevron. The panel concluded that Chevron isn't liable for environmental damage claims in Ecuador though the plaintiffs have filed lawsuits in Brazil and Canada in a bid to enforce the ruling,

Among the actions taken during the two-decade long legal battle was the secret videotaping of the judge overseeing the case who, depending on which side you choose to believe, admitted to taking bribes and false evidence or “was entrapped in a dirty-tricks campaign by Chevron.”

Recently an article in the Ecuadorian press accused Chevron of appealing to the White House with the goal of pressuring Correa into dropping a lawsuit against the firm:
According to El Telegrafo, Chevron…authorized a lobbying company to contact Arturo Valenzuela, the U.S. Undersecretary of State at that time, who was supposed to send guidelines to Correa.

El Telegrafo published a copy of a confidential company document dated Oct. 22, 2010, signed by Alec Watson, director of the Hill & Company consulting firm, and addressed to Chevron's Bill Irwin.

It tells of a meeting Watson held with Valenzuela, the Undersecretary of State for the Western Hemisphere at that time.

The pretext to get closer to Correa was the supposed intention of the U.S. government to improve relations with Ecuador, the El Telegrafo article said.

The company was avoiding compliance with an Ecuadorian court finding, with the goal of not tarnishing its international image, the article said.
The case has attracted the attention of musician Cher who recently produced a video backing the Ecuadorian plaintiffs.  

Last August several hundred Ecuadorians took part in protests against Correa's decision to drop his Yasuni-ITT initiative to persuade wealthy countries to pay not to drill for oil in a nature reserve.

Video Source– YouTube via EFE

Online Sources – Huffington Post; The Latin Americanist; Bernama; New York Times;; Reuters

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