10 November 2005
Threats have been made against the Ecuadorian leaders of an environmental lawsuit against Chevron and an international human rights commission should step in to help, says a petition filed Tuesday.
Chevron is defending itself in Ecuadorian courts against accusations that one of its predecessor companies, Texaco, dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic water into an Amazon rain forest (OD Feb.10,p5).
In the past month, four organizers of the class-action lawsuit have received threats and have been placed under surveillance, according to a petition filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, D.C. The commission, part of the Organization of American States, should ask Ecuador's government to protect the four, the petition says. Such a request would put Ecuador on notice that the international community is monitoring the conduct of its government regarding its obligation to protect its citizens.
The four leaders are Ermel Chavez, president of the Front for the Defense of the Amazon; Pablo Fajardo Mendoza and Alejandro Ponce Villacis, lawyers for those filing the lawsuit; and Luis Yanza, spokesman for the Ecuadorians who filed the case.
Chevron says those filing the lawsuit have not presented any credible, substantiated scientific evidence to support the allegations of dumping. From 1964 to 1992, Texaco Petroleum Co., a subsidiary of Texaco, was a minority partner in a government-owned oil consortium. Texaco merged with Chevron in 2001.
Texaco completed a $40 million remediation program and the government of Ecuador released the company from any further claims and obligations.
The plaintiffs say Texaco chose to cut costs by dumping oily wastewater brought up by drilling into more than 600 open pits and streams in the Amazon jungle.