Indigenous Ecuadorian Village Battles Oil Giant—and Army January 14, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Energy, Environment, First Nations.
Tags: amazon watch, Ecuador, ecuador indigenous, ecuador oil, Ecuador petroleum, environment, fossil fuels, petroamazonas, petroecuador, rainforest, roger hollander
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‘We may die fighting to defend the rainforest’
An indigenous community in the Ecuadorian rainforest says they “will die fighting to protect the rainforest” after they say they were swindled by an oil company into signing away rights to 70,000 hectares of one of the most biodiverse areas in the world.
An Amazonian species of dragonflies with iridescent wings is among the species found in Yasuni national park in Ecuador, the most biodiverse region on Earth, under siege by the state-backed Petroamazonas oil company. (Photograph: Kelly Swing/Estacion Tiputini Colegio de Ciencias Biológicas y Ambientales/Universidad San Francisco de Quito)
But the state-backed oil company, PetroAmazonas—backed by the Ecuadorean army—plans to begin prospecting the Kichwa village on the Napo River on Tuesday, The Guardian reports.
PetroAmazonas, one of the biggest oil companies in South America, originally offered the village a new school, university places for village children and better healthcare, but dropped those provisions before the chief of the village signed away the rights to the land for $40 per hectare.
But the community secretary, Klider Gualinga, said 80 percent of the village opposes the deal, which he says has not yet been finalized. He told The Guardian, “People think it is dishonest and the oil company is treating them like dogs. … They’re very upset and worried. We have decided to fight to the end. Each landholder will defend their territory. We will help each other and stand shoulder to shoulder to prevent anyone from passing.”
“If there is a physical fight, it is certain to end tragically,” Shaman Patricio Jipa said. “We may die fighting to defend the rainforest.”
It makes me feel sad and angry. Sad because we are indigenous people and not fully prepared to fight a government. And angry because we grew up to be warriors and have a spirit to defend ourselves. I wish we could use this force to fight in a new way, but our mental strength is not sufficient in this modern world.
There is huge concern the oil company will move quickly to clear the land. When that happened elsewhere, they used armed troops, beatings and abductions to remove those who stood in their way.
Jipa and his wife, Mari Muench, a British businesswoman, are fighting the plan.
Scientists say a single hectare in this part of the Amazon contains a wider variety of life than all of North America. The Amazon rainforest and other tropical forests are also among the earth’s best defenses against climate change, absorbing some 20 percent of carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels.
“Protecting the Amazon basin, which contains the largest tropical rainforest on the planet, is critical to our planet’s climate stability,” according to Amazon Watch.
Court Ruling Backs Ecuadorian Effort to Hold Chevron Accountable for Amazon Pollution September 21, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Environment, Latin America.
Tags: amazon rain forest, amazon watch, atossa soltani, belo monte, Brazil, brazilian amazon, chevron, chevron texaxo, dilma rousseff, Ecuador, ecuador rainforest, ecuadorian amazon, environment, environmental contamination, oil spillo, roger hollander
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www.democracynow.org, September 21, 2011
A U.S. appeals court has ruled oil giant Chevron cannot escape an $18 billion fine for massive pollution of the Amazon rain forest. Amazonian residents won the damages in an Ecuadorian court earlier this year, and Chevron says it will appeal the decision. It is the latest development in a complex, 18-year legal battle that has gone before judges not just in Ecuador and the United States, but also The Hague. We speak with Atossa Soltani, executive director of Amazon Watch, which has worked closely with the Amazon residents suing Chevron. Atossa Soltani is in New York City this week to draw attention to environmental causes in the Amazon in conjunction with two major gatherings, the Clinton Global Initiative and the United Nations General Assembly.
AMY GOODMAN: The oil giant Chevron has been dealt a setback in its bid to escape responsibility for massive pollution in Ecuador’s rain forest. On Monday, a U.S. appeals court vacated a ruling that allowed Chevron to avoid enforcement of a fine of up to $18 billion. Amazonian residents won the damages in an Ecuadorian court earlier this year. Chevron is appealing the decision in Ecuador, and in March won a U.S. court order blocking the plaintiffs from claiming their damages abroad, including in the United States. Monday’s ruling freezes that judgment until the appeals court is able to weigh in on the case.
It’s the latest development in a complex, 18-year legal battle that’s gone before judges not just in Ecuador and the United States, but also at The Hague. Chevron has also filed counter-suits in the case, accusing the plaintiffs and their attorneys of fraud. In a statement, Chevron said, quote, “[We] remain confident that once the full facts are examined, the fraudulent judgment will be found unenforceable and those who procured it will be required to answer for their misconduct.”
Well, we’re joined right now by Atossa Soltani, executive director of Amazon Watch, which has worked closely with the Amazon residents suing Chevron. Atossa Soltani is in New York this week to draw attention to environmental causes in the Amazon in conjunction with two major gatherings, the Clinton Global Initiative and the United Nations General Assembly.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Atossa.
ATOSSA SOLTANI: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about this ruling that just came down.
ATOSSA SOLTANI: Well, I think this ruling affirms what we’ve been saying and what the plaintiffs have been saying for a decade, that—for over a decade, that Chevron is guilty of massive environmental contamination in the Ecuadorian Amazon. A decision was handed down in February against Chevron, ruling that Chevron is guilty and ordering the company to pay $18 billion in damages. And what Chevron did is run to find a sympathetic venue—in this case, Judge Kaplan’s court here in New York—that would protect it from justice. And what we saw yesterday was a decision that blocks the injunction against the Amazonian communities and their legal team to be able to enforce this judgment against Chevron.
And I think what it says is that it’s really time—it sends a message. It’s a legal victory. It’s a victory for rule of law. It’s a victory for the communities that are fighting against Chevron for the last two decades, that Chevron needs to stop its abusive PR tactics and deceitful PR and its legal fireworks, and address the health and environmental catastrophe that it created in the Amazon, and pay up. And, of course, this is not yet—you know, it’s not yet ready for—we have one more hurdle to go, which is the appeals court, the appeal—Chevron’s appeal of the decision in the Ecuadorian court. So we’re still waiting for that decision. But really, this is a—you know, wipes off two years of, you know, legal—backhanded legal maneuvering by Chevron in the U.S.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what happened. Chevron bought Texaco, so this is when Texaco was in the rain forest.
ATOSSA SOLTANI: That’s right.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain what actually took place. What areas are we talking about?
ATOSSA SOLTANI: We’re talking about the northern Ecuadorian Amazon, where Texaco arrived in the late ’60s and started drilling for oil in a way that would have been illegal to do in the United States, dumping huge amounts of production waters and drilling waste and causing a significant area—18 billion gallons of toxic waste and over 20 million gallons of crude waste that was spilled in this area. Some 30,000 people live here, including five indigenous tribes, who have been systematically poisoned over the last 30 years. And there is a public health crisis. There’s epidemics of cancer, birth defects, all kinds of health problems related to the oil pollution. People here don’t have drinking water, so every day they’re drinking the water from the rivers and streams and poisoning themselves in the process.
So, the case was brought initially in the New York courts against Chevron. And for nearly a decade, Chevron argued that this case should be heard in Ecuador. And then it went to Ecuador. Once Chevron bought Texaco, it assumed the liabilities. The case was taken to Ecuador, and that’s where it’s been for the—since 2003. So now it’s ironic that after nearly, you know, a decade of arguing the case should be heard in Ecuador, Chevron is back in the New York courts looking for a sympathetic judge to block enforcement. It’s lost the first round of this historic trial. And we believe that Chevron needs to, you know, stop its tactics of trying to allege fraud, and address the real health crises that are facing the communities in the region.
AMY GOODMAN: During arguments on Friday, U.S. Circuit Judge Gerard Lynch asked a Chevron lawyer, quote, “Are you saying that a New York court is in charge of deciding that we will not tolerate a South African judgment, procured by fraud, and enforced in Russia?” What does that mean?
ATOSSA SOLTANI: Well, basically, you know, Judge Kaplan was giving a global injunction to prevent lawyers for the communities in the Amazon to enforce this decision that the Ecuadorian judge made against Chevron. So it’s basically legal imperialism, preventing—basically saying that a U.S. district court could—you know, a U.S. district court could prevent a sovereign court in another country from finding an American company guilty of crimes. And that is legal imperialism, and I think that’s what the district court—the court of appeals found yesterday.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to Brazil. You’re here at the United Nations. What is happening in Brazil? Talk about your work there?
ATOSSA SOLTANI: Well, two-thirds of the Amazon rain forest is in Brazil. And currently, there’s a triple threat in Brazil coming initially from the Belo Monte Dam, which would be the third-largest dam in the world, planned for the Xingu River. You have also a big debate happening in the Brazilian congress over the forestry code, which rules how much a landowner can clear of its forests, under law. And there’s a backsliding. There’s a proposed law that would, you know, rule back the forest code. And then you have a rise, a significant rise, in murders and death threats against activists. So this is a triple threat. It is a critical moment for the Amazon. And the Amazon is important to the entire planet. It is really the engine of the global weather system. It’s the rain machine for the planet. And we cannot afford to lose the Amazon at the rate that it’s going. We’re approaching the tipping point of ecological collapse.
So you have President Dilma Rousseff, who’s the first woman president of Brazil. She’s actually opening up the General Assembly here tomorrow for the first time a woman head of state has done that. And under her, you know, current administration, we’re seeing a significant rise in deforestation rates, in crimes against activists. And now, with the—in June, the license for the Belo Monte Dam was issued, and this is causing significant environmental damage. This dam would be—would destroy 60 miles of the Xingu River. It would displace some 40,000 people. The bulldozers have started to arrive in the city of Altamira. There is chaos ensuing. People are being displaced from their land without compensation or even consent. Their homes are being destroyed. Actually, just recently, there have been people whose houses have been burned by the police. And you have a situation of significant conflict in an area that already has the highest deforestation rate, and crime is up. You know, there’s literally chaos ensuing in the cities and the towns around this dam. And there are many promises the government made that this dam—the environmental impacts of this dam would be addressed, that haven’t been met, and those promises haven’t been met. So, just yesterday, the municipality of Altamira called on the Dilma government to suspend this dam project. And this is a municipality that was previously in favor of the dam. So what we have is, you know, we have a crisis. We have—in this area, which is Pará, the state of Pará, you also have the heightened—where the activists were murdered a few months ago. Six people have already been murdered in recent months.
AMY GOODMAN: Atossa, I wanted to break in, because we’ve just gotten this breaking news from Georgia. Clemency has been denied for Troy Davis. The Board of Pardons and Parole has denied clemency, which means, unless anything changes, he will be executed on September 21st—that’s Wednesday night—7:00 Eastern Standard Time in Jackson, Georgia. Again, clemency has been denied for Troy Anthony Davis.
We’re going to wrap the show right now. I want to thank you very much, Atossa Soltani, for joining us. Latest news out of Brazil is that Brazilian authorities have arrested two brothers in connection with the murders of two Amazon environmental activists, José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife, Maria do Espírito Santo. He predicted he would be killed when he went back to Brazil. He said, “I will protect the forest at all costs. That is why I could get a bullet in my head at any moment.” Those are the words of José, who was executed.
That does it for our broadcast. Again, the latest news in this country, Troy Anthony Davis’s appeal for clemency has been denied. He is set to be executed September 21st, Wednesday, at 7:00 p.m. in Georgia.
Tags: alan garcia, amazon rainforest, amazon watch, human rights, indigenous protest, indigenous rights, milagros salazar, Peru, peru agribusiness, peru amazon, peru biofuel, peru environment, peru free trade, peru human rights, peru indigenous, peru logging, peru massacre, peru mining, peru neo-liberal, peru oil, roger hollander
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LIMA – There are conflicting reports on a violent incident in Peru’s Amazon jungle region in which both police officers and indigenous protesters were killed.
The authorities, who describe last Friday’s incident as a “clash” between the police and protesters manning a roadblock, say 22 policemen and nine civilians were killed.
But leaders of the two-month roadblock say at least 40 indigenous people, including three children, were killed and that the authorities are covering up the massacre by throwing bodies in the river.
And foreign activists on the scene in the town of Bagua, in the northern province of Amazonas, report that the police opened fire early in the morning on the unarmed protesters, some of whom were still sleeping, and deliberately mowed them down as they held up their arms or attempted to flee.
In response, the activists quote eyewitnesses as saying, another group of indigenous people who were farther up the hill seized and killed a number of police officers, apparently in “self-defense.”
National ombudswoman Beatriz Merino reported Sunday night that at least 24 police and 10 civilians had been killed, and that 89 indigenous people had been wounded and 79 arrested. But the figures continue to grow.
“We have killed each other, Peruvians against Peruvians,” lamented indigenous leader Shapion Noningo, the new spokesman for the Peruvian Rainforest Inter-Ethnic Development Association (AIDESEP) – which groups 28 federations of indigenous peoples – said Sunday night.
AIDESEP has led the protests that began two months ago, which have included blockades of traffic along roads and rivers and occupations of oil industry installations in various provinces.
A few hours earlier, President Alán García had said there was “a conspiracy afoot to try to keep us from making use of our natural wealth.” He was referring to the fierce opposition by the country’s native peoples to 10 decrees issued by his government that open up indigenous land to private investment by oil, mining and logging companies and to agribusiness, including biofuel plantations.
The decrees, which were passed by the government under special powers received from Congress to facilitate implementation of Peru’s free trade agreement with the United States, are considered unconstitutional by the indigenous protesters. A legislative committee also recommended last December that they be overturned.
On Thursday, Jun. 4, governing party lawmakers suspended a debate on one of the decrees, the “forestry and wildlife law”, fueling the demonstrators’ anger.
“In whose interest is it for Peru not to use its natural gas; in whose interest is it for Peru not to find more oil; in whose interest is it for Peru not to exploit its minerals more effectively and on a larger-scale? We know whose interests this serves,” said García. “The important thing is to identify the ties between these international networks that are emerging to foment unrest.”
The president blamed the conflict on “international competitors,” but without naming names.
Two neighboring countries that are major producers of natural gas and oil, Venezuela and Bolivia, are governed by left-wing administrations that have been vociferous critics of “neoliberal” free trade economic policies like those followed by the García administration.
“We will not give in to violence or blackmail,” said the president, who maintained that Peru “is suffering from subversive aggression” fed by opponents who “have taken the side of extreme savagery.”
A large number of the traffic blockades on roads and rivers are in the northern and northeastern provinces of Loreto, San Martín and Amazonas, which have large natural gas reserves.
According to the 1993 census, indigenous people made up one-third of the Peruvian population. But more recent estimates put the proportion at 45 percent, with most of the rest of the population of 28 million being of mixed-race heritage.
In Loreto, indigenous protesters reportedly attempted to occupy installations belonging to the Argentine oil company Pluspetrol. The company said it had closed down activity on its 1AB lot, to avoid violent clashes.
Business associations estimate the losses caused by the protests at more than 186 million dollars.
The government is broadcasting a television spot showing images of dead policemen, along with messages like: “This is how extremism is acting against Peru”; “extremists encouraged from abroad want to block progress in Peru”; and “we must unite against crime, to keep the fatherland from backsliding from the progress made.”
Leaders of the indigenous protests say the government is manipulating information and blaming them for incidents that could have been avoided if Congress had repealed the decrees that sparked the first native “uprising” in August 2008, which flared up again in April this year.
“The government is underreporting the number of indigenous people killed and missing. It is insulting us and treating us like criminals, when all we are doing is defending ourselves and our territory, which is humanity’s heritage,” Walter Kategari, a member of the AIDESEP board of directors, told IPS.
Kategari forms part of AIDESEP’s new leadership, which was formed when the group’s top leader, Alberto Pizango, went into hiding after a warrant for his arrest was put out on Saturday. Pizango said he fears for his life.
The leaders of the indigenous movement are demanding that the curfew prohibiting people from leaving their homes in Bagua between 3:00 PM and 6:00 AM be lifted. According to Kategari, the curfew is being used to conceal the bodies of the Indians who were killed.
“Our brothers and sisters in Bagua say the police have been collecting the bodies, putting them in black bags and throwing them in the river from a helicopter,” Kategari told IPS. “The government cannot make our dead disappear.”
There is great insecurity and fear in the jungle, he added. “People are calling us on the telephone, desperate.” He said he is preparing a list of victims based on the names he has been given by people in Bagua, to counteract the official reports.
Gregor MacLennan, program coordinator for the international organization Amazon Watch, said “All eyewitness testimonies say that Special Forces opened fire on peaceful and unarmed demonstrators, including from helicopters, killing and wounding dozens in an orchestrated attempt to open the roads. “It seems that the police had come with orders to shoot. This was not a clash, but a coordinated police raid with police firing on protesters from both sides of their blockade,” added the activist, speaking from the town of Bagua. “Today I spoke to many eyewitnesses in Bagua reporting that they saw police throw the bodies of the dead into the Marañon river from a helicopter in an apparent attempt by the government to underreport the number of indigenous people killed by police,” said MacLennan, in an Amazon Watch statement.
“Hospital workers in Bagua Chica and Bagua Grande corroborated that the police took bodies of the dead from their premises to an undisclosed location,” he added.
According to MacLennan, shortly before the killings in Bagua, the police chief and mayors met with the indigenous leaders, and the police chief said he had orders to dismantle the roadblock.
Early Friday morning, the activist told Amy Goodman in an interview on the Democracy Now radio program, an estimated 500 police bore down on the protesters at the roadblock, some of whom were still sleeping, and opened fire.
MacLennan said a local leader told him that demonstrators kneeling down with their hands up were directly shot by the police. After that, he said, the police continued firing as the demonstrators attempted to flee.
With respect to the deaths of the policemen, he said “All the indigenous people I’ve spoken to are very upset about that equally…they say…they’re all Peruvians, and they all have families. It appears that as the police were attacking this huge group of indigenous people…some people came down from the mountains, who were sleeping up there, and jumped on the police and killed some of the police in self-defence, an act that’s understandable, but, as the leaders I’ve spoken to say, not excusable.”
He said the indigenous leaders want a “transparent” investigation and for all of those responsible for the killings to be brought to justice.
Unconstitutional government decrees
AIDESEP spokesman Noningo said “the political system has fomented this confrontation.” He pointed out that a multi-party legislative commission recommended in December that the decrees be repealed.
The congressional constitution committee also said the “forestry and wildlife law”, which according to critics endangers the rainforest that is home to the indigenous groups, is unconstitutional.
On Thursday Jun. 4, the ombudsperson’s office filed a lawsuit against the law, alleging that it is unconstitutional and that it undermines indigenous peoples’ rights to cultural identity, collective ownership of their land, and prior consultation.
Under the Peruvian constitution and International Labor Organisation (ILO) Convention 169, indigenous groups must be previously consulted with respect to any investment projects in their territory.
The “forestry and wildlife law”, whose stated aim is to “create the necessary conditions for private sector investment in agriculture,” violates the property rights of indigenous communities, according to the ombudsperson’s office.
But the president of Congress, Javier Velásquez Quesquén, said the legislators will not give in to “blackmail” by indigenous people.
Sociologist Nelson Manrique at the Pontificia Universidad Católica, a private university in Lima, said “the indigenous protesters are being accused of asking for too much because they are demanding compliance with the constitution, when it is the government that is breaking the law by refusing to revoke the decrees.”
The analyst told IPS that the arguments set forth by the authorities are like those of the ruling elites, who “use two stereotypes in their depictions of indigenous people: the manipulated savage who cannot argue anything in legal terms because he is incapable of thinking, or the bloody, irrational savage who is a threat to the country.
“With this discourse, the government feeds into old racist prejudices that have deep roots in Peruvian society: that of the uncivilised, inferior native. And democracy is impossible with a view like this,” said Manrique.
He said the controversial decrees form part of García’s free trade political agenda based on promoting foreign investment.
Manrique supports the indigenous groups’ demand for an independent commission to investigate what happened in Bagua, saying it was hard to believe that police armed with AKM assault rifles simply fell prey to indigenous people armed with bows and arrows and homemade weapons.
Wilfredo Ardito, lawyer for the Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos human rights association, told IPS that international bodies should intervene, because “there is a climate of total distrust and fear that evidence of the massacre will be hidden.”
Ardito said that since García took office in July 2006, there have been 84 reports of deaths of protesters or extrajudicial killings by the security forces. “This is a regime that undermines human rights and that is doing nothing to redress its errors,” said the legal expert.
Copyright © 2009 IPS-Inter Press Service
Chevron’s Environmental Disaster in Ecuador May 9, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Environment.
Tags: 60 minutes, amazon contamination, amazon watch, chevron, contaminated water, Ecuador, ecuador chevron, ecuador environment, ecuador oil, ecuador oil spill, ecuador rainforest, ecuador toxic waste, environmenal disaster, environment, oil spill, paul paz y mino, roger hollander, texaco, texaco contamination
Published on Saturday, May 9, 2009 by CommonDreams.org
I grew up with family tales about the unique beauty of Ecuador. My father’s family made their living on tourism in the Andes, the Galapagos, and the Amazon. Sadly, what was to us a mysterious and majestic example of the wonder of creation was merely a dumping ground to Texaco. They chose to discard 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into the pristine rainforest, poisoning its people.
Texaco left Ecuador in 1992, not long after I finished college, and in their wake was left the worst oil related disaster on the planet. That damage is still there today. Mere weeks ago I stood in front of a toxic waste pit, decades old and yet only a few feet from the home of a family of campesinos. Told the area was cleaned and safe, they bought the land and built their home there. Families like that one have lost more than Chevron, or anyone else, can ever repay.
I found it impossible to witness such a horrific site in contrast to the beauty of the rainforest and not be changed. As much as the smell turns my stomach so does the knowledge that Texaco admitted to dumping it, yet refuses to accept responsibility.
Of course, the affected communities are demanding justice from the company that caused the damage. It’s actually a very simple case. There’s a massive murder weapon, 30,000 victims and a motive — profit.
Some Texaco executive, who most likely never set foot in the Amazon, nor ever met any of the indigenous people whose territory Texaco invaded with helicopters and massive machinery, made the cold calculation that saving $3 per barrel was worth the destruction of this part of the rainforest. It still gives me chills to read the 1972 memo from Texaco describing their policy of hiding spills and destroying records.
In fact, every decision that has been made from the very first one to drill has been made to choose profit over people and the environment. Decisions that took only the shortest-term impacts into consideration, yet decisions that would wreak havoc on the world’s oldest and largest forest. The toxic waste pits sit there, apparently stagnant, but all the while leaching toxins into the rivers and streams of the Amazon.
Meanwhile, Chevron’s decisions to try to cover up its liability continue unchanged, knowing all the while that the resulting inaction means the continued poisoning of entire communities.
The 60 Minutes story that aired this past Sunday has ripped another layer off of Chevron’s attempts to bury and ignore this story, like the truly festering wound that it is. The resulting publicity has wiped out much of Chevron’s efforts to deceive the financial markets and the general public. I listened to a recent Chevron shareholder call and one of the very first analyst’s questions was about the case, it was prefaced with “I know you are not going to be happy about this next question…” Have you seen the internet traffic since Sunday? Chevron is really unhappy this week.
Watching Chevron’s strategy in the face of the overwhelming facts and growing awareness is as uncomfortable as watching Chevron spokesperson Sylvia Garrigo compare drinking contaminated water with wearing makeup (a tip for Ms. Garrigo: your cosmetics may very well be harming you, please visit www.safecosmetics.org to learn more). Yet Chevron’s executives continue to deny and delay. Time is running out for them and the lies they hide behind (to read Chevron’s top ten lies about this case look here). They are learning the hard way that hiding a potential $27 billion dollar liability is just as impossible as hiding 18 billion gallons of toxic waste.
The ease at which Chevron’s CEO David O’Reilly (who also happens to be the Chair of the Board) has apparently kept his board in the dark is amazing. Yet, last year that plan came crashing down around him like Bernie Madoff’s scheme when O’Reilly was force to disclose to shareholders that it faced a potential liability in the billions in Ecuador.
How does the board of directors miss the hypocrisy of Chevron’s “Will You Join Us” ad campaign, asking others to join THEM in making sound environmental and energy efficient choices, while their CEO refuses to seek a real solution to this quagmire? I suppose that is to be expected from a company which bought Texaco without even demanding a master list of all its toxic dump sites in Ecuador (as we learned courtesy of 60 Minutes).
In this economic climate, Chevron’s board must realize that they can on longer afford to operate with such poor governance. Their wound is bleeding even more deeply into the social consciousness and Chevron is becoming the poster child for lack of corporate accountability. Today, even the Attorney General of the State of New York is asking tough questions of Chevron.
As my own son grows up I will share with him the same stories of the sacred and timeless beauty of the Amazon. I am confident he will learn from a young age the lesson with which Chevron still grapples. One can only hide from their mistakes for so long, each day you delay facing up to them brings with it a heavier cost, so don’t wait until you find that the whole world is at your doorstep demanding justice.
Paul Paz y Miño is the Managing Director of Amazon Watch which works to defend the rainforest and advance the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin.
Chevron’s Amazon Disaster Lands at Sundance January 18, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Environment, Latin America.
Tags: amazon chernobyl, amazon watch, chevron, cofan, crude, documentary, Ecuador, ecuador amazon, environment, environmental lawsuit, Huaronai, joe berlinger, kichwa, oil contamination, petrecuador, Rafael Correa, rainforest, roger hollander, secoya, siona, sundance, texaco
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|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE||2009-01-15|
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Joe Berlinger’s “Crude” Shows David v. Goliath Legal Battle to Hold Oil Giant Accountable for Destroying Rainforest
Trudie Styler and Sting Join Indigenous Leaders at Opening Jan. 18
San Francisco, CA (January 15, 2008) – A new documentary by the acclaimed filmmaker Joe Berlinger (director of BROTHER’S KEEPER, PARADISE LOST, and METALLICA: SOME KIND OF MONSTER), which portrays the epic 15-year legal battle between indigenous tribes and oil giant Chevron over massive oil contamination in Ecuador’s Amazon, will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 18th.
The film, titled Crude, was produced and directed by Berlinger and shot by Berlinger, producer/second unit director Michael Bonfiglio, and a film crew of Ecuadorians during the time the case was on trial in Ecuador’s Amazon region at the request of Chevron. It documents the travails of a team of young lawyers and activists, including Pablo Fajardo (CNN Hero Award winner) and Luis Yanza (Goldman Environmental Award), as they take on one of the world’s largest oil companies over what experts believe is the worst oil-related contamination on earth.
A co-production of Entendre Films, Neflix, Radical Media, and Third Eye Motion Picture Company, Crude has been invited to a number of international film festivals and will be released theatrically later this year. Alyse Spiegel is the editor, Juan Diego Perez is the director of photography, and Pocho Alvarez is the cinematographer. Perez and Alvarez are from Ecuador.
The trial documented by Berlinger is nearing an end, with Chevron facing a potential $27 billion damages claim that would be enforceable in the United States, according to lawyers for the plaintiffs. The amount of damages was determined by an independent, court-appointed expert who relied primarily on Chevron’s own scientific data to draw his conclusions. If the court accepts the damages assessment, Chevron could be hit with the largest judgment ever in an environmental lawsuit.
Trudie Styler and Sting, who are shown in the film helping to provide clean water to the Amazon residents through the Rainforest Foundation and UNICEF, will attend the premiere along with several Ecuadorians. Also attending will be leaders from Amazon Watch, an American environmental organization that works with the affected Amazon communities.
Selected as one of the 16 finalists at Sundance out of 879 submissions in the documentary category, Crude is described by the Sundance Committee as the “inside story of the ‘Amazon Chernobyl’ case in the rainforest of Ecuador”. The Committee says Crude “makes a concerted effort to show the case from all sides: from the scientists and lawyers employed by Chevron, to Ecuadoran judges, to celebrity activists and humanitarian organizers, to the role of the media, to the dramatic intervention of Rafael Correa himself, the first Ecuadoran president to sympathize with the indigenous perspective.”
The lawsuit, initially filed in the U.S. in 1993, charges that Texaco deliberately dumped more than 18 billion gallons of waste water into Amazon waterways and abandoned more than 900 unlined waste pits filled with oil sludge. Five indigenous groups in the area – the Cofan, Secoya, Siona, Huaronai, and Kichwa — say the contamination left by Texaco has decimated their traditional lifestyles and caused an outbreak of cancer and other health problems never before seen in the rainforest.
Chevron, which bought Texaco in 2001 and assumed defense of the case, now says Petroecuador, Ecuador’s state-owned oil company that took over Texaco’s fields, is responsible for the damage. Those claims have been rejected by the plaintiffs and the court-appointed expert, and two Chevron lawyers are under indictment in Ecuador for lying about a purported clean-up designed to secure a legal release from Ecuador’s government.
Chevron’s contamination also has captured the attention of the U.S. Congress and President-elect Barack Obama. Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA), the House Co-Chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, spent time touring the area in November with his congressional staff. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and then-Senator Obama asked the Bush Administration in 2005 to reject efforts by Chevron to undermine the case via a lobbying campaign in Washington.
Shortly after his recent trip to tour the disaster, Congressman McGovern wrote President-Elect Obama, requesting that relevant federal agencies provide technical assistance and other resources to bolster efforts by the government of Ecuador to clean up the contamination.
About Amazon Watch
Amazon Watch’s mission is to work with indigenous and environmental organizations in the Amazon Basin to defend the environment and advance indigenous peoples’ rights in the face of large-scale industrial development-oil and gas pipelines, power lines, roads, and other mega-projects.