Sunday, August 10, 2008

Ecuador: Chevron battles government, indigenous people

International oil giant Chevron is lobbying the US government to cancel trade deals with Ecuador over a court case where it faces a US$16 billion fine for polluting the Amazonian rainforest.

Chevron is accused of dumping over 18 billion gallons of toxic oil waste into the Ecuadorian jungle, in what many are calling a "rainforest Chernobyl" and maybe the biggest environmental court case in history.

The pollution has caused thousands of birth defects and deaths, and incalculable environmental damage — poisoning animals, plants and the water table.

The court case, on behalf of over 30,000 affected residents — many of them indigenous — was initiated in 1993 in the US. Chevron spent 10 years arguing it should be heard in Ecuador, renowned for it institutionalised corruption.

Having succeeded, however, they are now stuck in an Ecuador where left-wing President Rafael Correa has pledged to root out all corruption. Correa argued earlier this year that "Ecuador is no longer on sale".



Apparently fearing that they will now lose the case, Chevron is calling on the US government to cancel favourable trade deals with the small Andean country unless Ecuador's government forces its citizens to drop the case.

This is only the latest attempt by Chevon to derail the case. Activists in the campaign have been bullied, beaten, and even killed in an attempt to stop the case. To avoid having to pay any damages awarded against it, Chevron has pulled almost all of its assets out of Ecuador.

In response, Correa has threatened to set up an international tribunal to ensure Chevron pays up if required.

According to a July 26 Newsweek article, one of Chevron's lobbyists in Washington put the company's position point blank: "We can't let little countries screw around with big companies like this."

However, the "little country" of Ecuador is refusing to lie down before one of the world's biggest companies.

[For more information on the campaign, visit http://www.chevrontoxico.com.]

First published in Green Left Weekly, 10 August, 2008.

No comments:

Post a Comment