Despite Chevron’s best efforts to hide, ignore, and drag-out the restitution-making process for its crimes in Ecuador, it looks like the country will stand strong in it’s attempt to bring the oil giant to justice.
In February, 2011, an Ecuadorian Court ordered Chevron Corp to $8.5 in environmental damages in a case stemming from Texaco’s operations in Ecuador around 30 years ago (Texaco was later acquired by Chevron.) The 47 plaintiffs, acting on behalf of some 30,000 farmers and members of indigenous Amazon tribes, had asked for $27 billion in damages. The company caused one of the worst environmental disasters in world history, decimating five indigenous groups and causing an outbreak of cancer.
“Billions of gallons of toxic waste from oil drilling in the 1960s, 70s and 80s has polluted streams and rivers in the province of Sucumbios, used by indigenous communities for drinking water, bathing and fishing. More than 900 waste pits are reported to lie abandoned within the region, filled with oil sludge that continues to contaminate soils and groundwater and there is an ongoing legacy of higher cancer rates.”
Because the country has long since sold its assets in Ecuador, it has been quite resistant to paying out these damages. But the Ecuadorian government isn’t giving up its fight.
“In addition to re-affirming an earlier ruling, the latest judgement increased the fine from $8.5 billion to $18 billion to cover ‘moral damages’ for threatening the court and repeatedly trying to delay the case,” writes Tom Levitt of The Ecologist.
“The appellate court relied on a record that proved that Chevron has violated the rights of the communities where it operates, disrespected local laws, intimidated community leaders and judges, lied about basic evidence, tried to defraud the court with junk science, and launched an international lobbying campaign to taint the reputation of Ecuador’s government for allowing its citizens to use their legally-protected right to seek accountability in their own courts,” said Karen Hinton, the U.S. spokesperson for the 30,000 Ecuadorians who have accused the oil giant of dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into their ancestral lands.
“We also note that after destroying the environment and the entire way of life of five indigenous groups to maximize its profits, Chevron sold almost all of its assets in Ecuador and essentially fled the country. Chevron now has an opportunity to show the world, especially in Latin America where it faces numerous environmental problems, that it respects the laws and courts of other countries. If it does not, the communities will take all measures allowed by law to secure their legally entitled right to a clean-up.”
The decision came just weeks after Chevron was exposed for trying to bribe Ecuador’s government to quash the case by making a “donation” to an environmental project and reports surfaced that the company tried to corrupt the court process in Ecuador by using a secret lab.
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