Chevron and the Wayuu
Chevron's record of violating the rights of Ecuador's indigenous peoples is mirrored in Colombia, where the company's natural gas fields in the La Guajira region of northeast have been the source of great, ongoing harm to the local peoples of the Wayuu.
The approximately 500,000 Wayuu are the most populous indigenous nation of both Colombia and Venezuela, and they have lived in La Guajira for centuries.
Their society is based on matrilineal clans. They traditionally live by hunting, weaving, fishing, goat herding and salt gathering, but their culture and existence have been severely disrupted by fossil fuel production in their region.
In 2006, Chevron partnered with Ecopetrol and PDVSA to build a 225-kilometer underground gas pipeline through the heart of the Wayuu territory to northwest Venezuela. The disruption on the Wayuu was sudden and devastating. In 2007, thousands of affected Wayuu initiated protests that temporarily paralyzed pipeline construction. Protests also occurred in 2010, when Wayuu carried out a march to the La Guajira Departmental Assembly, denouncing displacement from their lands and the police persecution of some of their leaders.
Wayuu leaders emphasize two main complaints about Chevron:
- The company uses "divide and conquer" tactics on communities by offering benefits to some of its leaders and playing them off against each other;
- Chevron funds numerous NGOs and foundations whose stated objective is to mitigate the negative environmental and social effects generated by oil and gas extraction, however their main intent is to pave the way for more drilling and act as the company's spies in the communities.
Chevron's Colombian Assets
In Colombia, Chevron has huge natural gas operations, as well as an extensive chain of gasoline stations, a refining plant for lubricants and a plastic container manufacturing plant.
Chevron began exploring for oil in Colombia in the 1920s and began producing oil and natural gas in the 1960s and 1970s. The company sold its oil-producing properties in Colombia in the 1990s, but it has expanded rapidly into natural gas. It now is Colombia's largest producer of natural gas, supplying the equivalent of 65 percent of domestic demand.
In partnership with the national oil company, Ecopetrol, Chevron operates the offshore Chuchupa natural gas field in the Caribbean Sea as well as the onshore Ballena and Riohacha natural gas fields in the province of La Guajira. Chevron supplies more than 6 million households, and it also exports 150 million cubic feet of natural gas to Venezuela.
Chevron also is among Colombia's leading suppliers of fuel and lubricants. It operates a network of 370 Texaco service stations, and holds interests in aviation product terminals countrywide. The company has a 15 percent market share in automotive fuels, a 35 percent market share in aviation fuel and a 12 percent market share in lubricants.