10 October 2003
Quito, Ecuador - Celebrity activist Bianca Jagger criticized U.S. oil company ChevronTexaco, which is being sued by a group of poor Ecuadoreans who say the company's past drilling damaged their rainforest homeland.
The plaintiffs, represented by U.S. lawyers, filed a lawsuit in May demanding that the California-based oil company pay to clean up pollution that has allegedly poisoned drinking water and led to higher rates of disease. The 20 years of drilling ended a decade ago.
"It makes me sad that companies like Texaco have exploited a territory, leaving a sequel of horror behind them," Jagger said in a news conference Thursday.
The former model, who was married to rock star Mick Jagger from 1971 to 1979, was in Ecuador ahead of the court case, which is to start Oct. 21 in the small jungle town of Lago Agro, some 110 miles (180 kilometers) southeast of Quito.
ChevronTexaco says there is no evidence connecting it to the damaged rainforest. The company also points out that the Ecuadorean government agreed to a US$40 million cleanup plan by Texaco in 1995 and three years later certified that the company complied with it. Texaco merged with Chevron in 2001.
The case was first filed in U.S courts in 1993. After working through the court system, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled in August of last year that the case should be heard in Ecuador, where the damage allegedly occurred.
The Ecuadoreans' lawyers originally wanted the case tried in U.S. courts because they said the Ecuadorean government's dependence on oil revenues would make it less likely for courts to deliver justice. Oil exports account for about 40 percent of Ecuador's revenue.
The lawsuit alleges that oil drillers near Lago Agro took advantage of lax Ecuadorean environmental standards to cut costs by dumping wastewater into open pits. Lawyers accuse Texaco of leaving behind some 350 ponds full of water contaminated with oil and cancer-causing chemicals scattered across a 31 mile-by-62 mile (50 kilometer-by-100 kilometer) area.
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