Indigenous Ecuadorean leader travels from Amazon rainforest to California to deliver 325,000+ letters urging Chevron's new CEO John Watson to clean up the oil giant's toxic legacy
02 March 2010 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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San Francisco, CA – Today, an Indigenous Ecuadorean leader attempted to deliver letters from over 325,000 people urging Chevron's new CEO John Watson to clean up his company's toxic oil contamination in Ecuador. Emergildo Criollo traveled from his home in the Amazon rainforest to deliver a strong message from his community and supporters: Clean up Ecuador. Emergildo also hopes to share his personal story with Chevron CEO John Watson. While in California, Emergildo will also meet with State Legislators in Sacramento on Wednesday.
On Tuesday morning, Emergildo Criollo attempted to deliver the letters to John Watson's home in Lafayette, the oil giant's headquarters in San Ramon, and its San Francisco office. Additionally, Chevron board members around the country received personalized deliveries of the message, accompanied by photographs of some of the 30,000 Ecuadorean people affected by the 18 billion gallons of toxic oil waste Chevron refuses to clean up.
"It is time for Chevron to listen to Emergildo, the 30,000 Ecuadoreans who are suffering and dying because of Chevron's policies, and the 325,000+ people from around the globe who believe that energy shouldn't cost lives," said Maria Ramos, Change Chevron Director at Rainforest Action Network. "New Chevron CEO John Watson has a responsibility to do the right thing and clean up his company's toxic legacy in Ecuador, and around the globe."
In early January 2010, John Watson assumed leadership of Chevron, California's largest corporation and the third largest oil corporation in the world. Global campaigning organizations Amazon Watch, Avaaz, CREDO Action, and Rainforest Action Network, launched an online effort to collect signatures of people from around the globe urging Chevron CEO John Watson to do the right thing and clean up Ecuador. High‐profile individuals such as Alicia Silverstone and Daryl Hannah are a mong the over 325,000 people from 150 countries who have signed the letter to Watson.
"People around the world want to see compensation for communities ravaged by billions of gallons of poisonous waste from Chevron oil fields, and new corporate policies to prevent similar toxic tragedies in the future," said Ricken Patel, executive director of Avaaz.org. "Watson has a chance to show he can step up to corporate responsibilities and begin a new a ccountable approach to the environment and human rights by cleaning up this mess."
During decades of drilling, Chevron (then Texaco) left 17 million gallons of crude oil spills, 917 unlined crude pits, and deliberately dumped 18 billion gallons on toxic waste. Local people have since suffered a wave of birth defects, illness, cancers, and death. Tens of thousands of community members have had their water supply poisoned and it is estimated that more than 1400 people have died as a result of Chevron's refusal to act.
Emergildo Criollo has lost two sons and nursed a wife through uterine cancer. His family drank, bathed, and fished in water that was poisoned by oil dumping. Emergildo is a leader of the Cofan people, one of the major Indigenous groups in the region who have suffered a severe impact on their population and culture since the arrival of Texaco (now Chevron).
"I have come to the home of Chevron to tell our story – how our women and children are sick and dying from Chevron's contamination. We want what anyone would – to be healthy and happy, to have clean water and good food to eat, shelter and dignity," said Emergildo Criollo. "Chevron robbed us of our livelihoods many years ago, and I am here on behalf of thousands of brothers and sisters to demand that Chevron take responsibility for their actions and clean up our rivers and forests – our homes." Chevron is currently facing a $27 billion judgment in court on behalf of the 30,000 Ecuadoreans from the area. The oil giant has managed to stall this historic legal process for over 16 years to avoid accountability and delay justice for the people of Ecuador. A ruling in the lawsuit, however, is expected within the year.
"Chevron is swamped in a kind of legal Vietnam with no sensible exit s trategy. Instead of spending millions of dollars on a losing legal battle and deceitful public relations campaigns, it's time for California's largest company – Chevron – to do right by doing good," said Mitch Anderson, Corporate Campaign Director for Amazon Watch. "If Chevron wants to be seen as a reputable company, it must start by cleaning up the Ecuadorean Amazon. People's lives are on the line – and so is Chevron's integrity."
"Since it acquired Texaco in 2001, Chevron has been doing everything possible to deny, derail, and deceive the public about its responsibility for the environmental devastation and human suffering it has caused in Ecuador," said CREDO Political Director Becky Bond. "As a the new CEO of Chevron, John Watson has a unique opportunity to step up to the plate by cleaning up Chevron's toxic legacy in Ecuador, compensating affected communities, and adopting new policies worldwide to prevent similar tragedies in the future."