Chevron Contaminated Ecuador's Rainforest, Faked a Cleanup & Now Refuses To Pay $18 Billion Judgment
Amazon Defense Coalition
21 November 2011 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
Quito, Ecuador – Brazil should treat Chevron's claims about the oil spill off the coast of Rio province with great skepticism given its track record of fraud related to an even larger oil disaster in neighboring Ecuador, say Ecuadorian rainforest leaders who successfully sued Chevron and recently were awarded $18 billion in damages.
"Do not trust Chevron," said Ecuadorian lawyer Pablo Fajardo, who led the lawsuit against the oil giant. "Chevron took our oil, polluted our rainforest, harmed and killed our people, committed fraud, and then tried to cover it up."
Fajardo added, "Chevron's handling of the oil spill in Brazil shows that the company has a systemic problem in failing to meet its environmental obligations to the communities where it does business. From what we have observed in Latin America, Chevron officials simply lie about environmental problems as part of the company's business model. "
Humberto Piaguaje, an indigenous leader in the area of Ecuador where Chevron operated, said, "In Ecuador, we have lived with Chevron's contamination for five decades, and the company has refused to pay for the damage and destruction it caused. All governments in Latin America should beware of these basic facts before they do business with Chevron," said Piaguaje.
A recent court judgment, issued after an eight-year trial, found that Chevron intentionally dumped billions of gallons of toxic wastewater into the rainforest when it operated in Ecuador from 1964 to 1992. The court found the company left more than 900 unlined waste pits that to this day contaminate groundwater and nearby rivers and streams, decimating indigenous groups and farmer communities who no longer have access to clean water.
Chevron also has tried to lobby U.S. President Barack Obama to cancel trade preferences for Ecuador in retaliation for the lawsuit, which would lead to a loss of 300,000 jobs in the country.
Dozens of rainforest indigenous and farmer communities in Ecuador sued Chevron in 1993 in U.S. Courts. Two years later, Chevron faked a remediation by covering up a small portion of waste pits with dirt instead of cleaning them out, according to evidence before the court.
During the 18-year span of the litigation, Chevron manipulated evidence, lied to both U.S. and Ecuador courts, spied on the Ecuadorians and their lawyers and worked behind the scenes in covert ways to derail the trial and force Ecuador's government to intervene and block its own citizens from their right to justice.
Another Ecuadorian attorney Juan Pablo Saenz swore to Chevron's misconduct in Ecuador in a 42-page affidavit submitted to a U.S. court. He wrote:
"After decades of exploiting the country and wielding its influence like a club as it extracted riches from the Napo Concession, Chevron believed it could use that same power to buy or bully its way to a swift dismissal of this case, or, at the very least, to delay the day of reckoning indefinitely."
A summary of the Saenz affidavit is below:
- Chevron told the indigenous people that oil was like a "vitamin" and encouraged them to rub it over their bodies as a way to remain healthy.
- To make the roads less dusty, Chevron poured oil on the roads constructed to provide routes to oil wells, forcing the Ecuadorians to walk on the oil.
- By faking a remediation in the late 1990s, Chevron encouraged Ecuadorians to build their homes on top of oil pits that the company filled with dirt but did not clean. As a result, today many families live literally on top of the toxic waste pits.
- A 1972 Chevron memo revealed that a company executive ordered the destruction of all documents relating to oil spills and demanded that company employees no longer keep records of such spills.
- Chevron ghostwrote a letter in the 1990s from the Ecuadorian ambassador to the U.S. Department of State, prevailing upon the agency to intervene and try to have the case dismissed when it was pending in federal court in New York City.
- Later, Chevron lawyer Ricardo Reis Veiga, one of two Chevron officials criminally indicted in Ecuador for falsifying the results of a purported remediation, admitted in a 2006 deposition that he had met with Ecuador's attorney general in an extrajudicial effort to have the executive branch of the Ecuadorian government order the lawsuit dismissed.
- Between 2003 and 2010, Chevron delayed the trial via subterfuge – including canceling a critical site inspection by concocting a "security" threat, inundating the court with frivolous motions, refusing to pay court experts, and blocking the gathering of scientific evidence.
- In 2009, Chevron used an Ecuadorian employee and a convicted American drug trafficker to mount an unlawful sting operation against the presiding judge as part of a scheme to entrap him in a bribery scandal. Although the scheme was quickly discredited, the scandal delayed the trial by two years and served as a tool for Chevron to try to intimidate the court.
- Diego Borja, a member of Chevron's trial team in Ecuador, has been quoted saying he "cooked" evidence for Chevron and that he replaced contaminated samples with clean ones before submitting them to laboratories for testing. Borja also said "crime pays" and that he had evidence that showed Chevron's guilt that he would disclose unless the company compensated him.
- In February 2010, Chevron offered $20,000 to a U.S. journalist to spy on the plaintiffs under the false pretenses that she was writing a story.
- Throughout the trial Chevron has taken out paid ads in Ecuadorian media and in various online media outlets accusing judges and court-appointed experts of bias in an effort to intimidate the court.