More journalists are beginning to expose the lies behind Chevron's retaliation campaign against the indigenous and farmer communities who held it accountable in a court of law for dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste in Ecuador's rainforest.
The communities own a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron, but the company refuses to pay even though it had accepted jurisdiction in Ecuador's courts and insisted the trial be held in the South American nation.
The latest to weigh in: James North of The Nation.
In a fascinating article called Ecuador's Battle for Environmental Justice In Ecuador, North describes a trip he took recently to the affected area of rainforest that Texaco claims it had remediated after operating there from 1964 to 1992. North describes a trip with Donald Moncayo, a local resident:
We set off into the rainforest. Moncayo...started at Aguarico 2, a well that has been closed for years... The oily residue is still floating on the surface. Then he marched down a steep slope to a stream, where you could see and smell the oil as well.
Moncayo then took North to a well site called Lago 2 -- one that Texaco in 1998 specifically had certified as "remediated" to Ecuador's government in exchange for a bogus "release" that it still tries to argue absolves it of all legal responsibility. This is how North describes it:
Moncayo went to Pozo Lago 2, which is near the modest wood-frame house where he lives with his wife and baby daughter. He pulled out his core sampler and set to work. After only a meter and a half, he struck some viscosity; before two meters, he hit heavy oil soak... Less than 50 yards away, people were washing in a stream.
North also takes certain legal reporters to task for adopting Chevron's world view that it has been victimized by the very people in Ecuador that it poisoned. He writes:
On closer inspection, the truth is totally different. If the plaintiffs finally win in the end, the rain-forest inhabitants will not just have their habitat start to be cleansed of the oil muck that oozes into their water supply, or enjoy improved health facilities to treat what they argue are elevated levels of cancer and other diseases. They will also have proved the success of an innovative legal strategy that recruits financial help in the rich developed world to provide at least a fighting chance against a corporate colossus like Chevron, which has already spent, by some estimates, $2 billion it its massive legal and propaganda campaign.
Aside from from North, other journalists to expose Chevron's wrongdoing in Ecuador in recent years include Alexander Zaitchik of Rolling Stone, who summarized the company's unethical intimidation tactics; William Langewiesche of Vanity Fair, who wrote a stirring profile of Ecuadorian lawyer Pablo Fajardo; and the producers of 60 Minutes, whose award-winning segment Amazon Crude had Chevron spokesperson Sylvia Garrigo tying herself in knots by suggesting the oil on the ground in Ecuador was as harmless as the oil in the makeup on her face.
Most recently, Adam Klasfeld of Courthouse News -- himself a victim of Chevron's cyberbullying for his independent reporting -- exposed that the oil giant had donated a whopping $13 million to the U.S. State Department while inappropriately trying to lobby Hillary Clinton and other government officials over the Ecuador litigation. Klasfeld earlier reported on a new forensic analysis that suggests Chevron presented false evidence about the case to a U.S. federal judge.
The underlying environmental matter was heard in Ecuador at Chevron's insistence after the company praised the country's justice system. The litigation in Ecuador resulted in a Supreme Court decision in 2013 that requires the oil giant to remediate more than 1,000 toxic waste pits as well as rivers and streams where the company discharged an additional 15 billion gallons of oil waste. Locals call the disaster the "Amazon Chernobyl".
For background on the case and Chevron's retaliation campaign, see this summary of the evidence and this legal brief from Steven Donziger, the longtime U.S. legal advisor to the Ecuadorian communities.
You can also learn from North's article why Chevron and its CEO John Watson so hate Ecuador President Rafael Correa, one of the most popular leaders in Latin America.
Correa has the temerity to call out Chevron for its malfeasence, much like President Obama did to BP in 2010 after its spill in the Gulf of Mexico. North quotes Correa accusing Chevron of "shamelessly lying" to evade paying for a clean-up in Ecuador. Correa also explains what already has been confirmed by three layers of courts: Chevron polluted deliberately to inflate its profits.
"They weren't interested in the human beings who lived in the Amazon region," Correa told North in an interview. "To me, it is question of racism."
Thank you, President Correa. We could not have said it better. And thanks to James North and The Nation for highlighting this latest sad chapter in American corporate wrongdoing.