On September 12, 2016, 30,000 Ecuadorian plaintiffs – bolstered by a previous unanimous decision in their favour by the Supreme Court of Canada – will begin their 5 day class-action hearing to seize oil giant Chevron's Canadian assets to cover its US $11 billion debt to the communities affected by Chevron's massive pollution in Ecuador during its drilling operations in the country.
Why Canada? Because Chevron stripped its assets in Ecuador in 2007 anticipating it would lose the court case against it there. The company, which as an example made almost 27 billion dollars in 2011, has spent roughly 2 billion over the past 2 decades trying to fight not to pay what it owes. In Canada, Chevron has hired four separate law firms to defend itself. It has used at least 60 law firms and more than 2,000 lawyers in the case since the beginning in 1993.
As the world's seventh largest oil and gas company, Chevron has been found repeatedly guilty in Ecuadorian courts of massive environmental contamination stemming from its oil drilling operations in the Amazon rainforest (under the Texaco brand) in Ecuador from 1964 to 1992. It has been proven time and time again that Texaco, which merged with Chevron in 2001, knowingly operated without concern for the environment or wellbeing of local residents. Their most drastic crimes include:
- Dumping 18 billion gallons of waste water into rivers and streams.
- The construction of more than 900 open-air, unlined toxic waste pits that leach toxins into soil and groundwater.
- Release of contaminants through spills, spreading oil on roads, gas flaring, and burning of crude.
- The creation of a pipeline and road system that opened pristine rainforest to uncontrolled and widespread clearing, resulting in more than a million acres of deforestation.
Due to Chevron's toxic contamination of their soil, rivers and streams, and groundwater, local indigenous communities continue to suffer an epidemic of cancer, birth defects, miscarriages, and other ailments. Ecuadorian courts have found Chevron liable for 11 billion dollars in clean up fees and damages, and today today, more than 30,000 Ecuadorians who were directly affected by Chevron’s pollution are fighting for justice through a class-action lawsuit.
Ecuador's previous governments turned a blind eye as Chevron deliberately cut corners on safety and environmental protection to save money. Industry field manuals at the time required that waste pits be lined and used only for temporary storage. Chevron used unlined pits for permanent storage. Their own documents show the company considered spending money to address environmental problems from use of the pits, but they decided it was too expensive. In the end, by handling its toxic waste in Ecuador in ways that were illegal in the United States, Chevron saved an estimated $3 per barrel of oil produced.
For savings of $3 per barrel over 1400 Ecuadorian people have already died unnecessarily from cancer. childhood leukaemia, miscarriages and birth defects. For $3 a barrel they permanently and massively damaged one of the most diverse and sensitive habitats in the world.
Chevron was recently forced to surrender extensive internal company information related to its Canadian operations, which are estimated to have a value of at least $15 billion. Given previous experience it is very suspicious that Chevron has now decided to put $5 billion in assets on the market by offering its Burnaby refinery for sale. Could it be that they are anticipating needing to dodge another loss?
The United States government and huge corporations have a history of working hand in hand to exploit everything they could from Ecuador. In the early 1960's the CIA helped Ecuador's military overthrow two Presidents, Jose Maria Velasco Ibarra and his later successor, Vice President Carlos Julio Arosemena Monroy, who were not compliant with US government demands, especially that they break diplomatic ties with the Cuban government.
The CIA infiltrated hundreds of its agents into diplomatic offices, political parties and military forces in Ecuador during the 1960's and created their own front left wing and right wing political organizations to create divisions and disruption. Later documents also suggest their connection to the suspicious plane crash death of Ecuadorean president, Jaime Roldo's, who was strongly against US intervention in Latin-American on “Plan Condor' during the 1970's.
Since taking office in 2007, Ecuador's current government led by President Rafael Correa has prioritized social programs for the poorest sectors of society, rather than appeasing United States interests. This has meant that U.S. companies like Chevron are no longer free to exploit the country with impunity any longer, just as the U.S. military was forced to leave the Manta military base in 2009 after enjoying a decade of a rent-free lease signed by a previous administration.
Forced to take a less open approach to intervention, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) are used by the U.S. government to advance their political, economic and social interests. They often use the same dirty tactics of funding and creating so-called “opposition” organizations within Ecuardor – especially leading up to and during a failed rightwing coup attempt in 2010 which was overcome by popular support for Correa and his governments.
The massive exploitation of the natural and human resources of Latin-America has always meant huge profits for U.S. companies at the expensive of the lives and environment of Latin-Americans. Ecuadoreans' are standing up to defend their dignity and self-determination, and Chevron is doing everything possible to avoid having to pay back even a fraction of what it has already profited in the country. We must support them in their struggle to hold Chevron accountable, and in taking control of their country back from U.S domination.
Chevron – Pay Your Debts!
US Hands Off Latin-America!
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