Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice on Chevron: Kerry Kennedy-Chevron Blames Victims of Its Deliberate Contamination of Ecuadorian Rainforest

In Christmas 2010, I took my three daughters — Cara, Mariah and Michaela — to Ecuador’s Amazon to take part in a “Toxi-tour” and stand witness to what could be the worst environmental disaster on the planet. This is the awful mess that Chevron left behind at the headwaters of the Amazon after drilling for oil for almost three decades on the ancestral lands of five indigenous groups. Chevron, via the Texaco brand, dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon waterways that local inhabitants used for drinking water. Several independent health evaluations show that cancer rates in the area have skyrocketed. The magnitude of the damage — recently confirmed by a three-judge appellate panel in Ecuador that relied on extensive scientific evidence — makes the impact of BP’s recent spill in the Gulf of Mexico seem small by comparison.

We looked at pools of oily muck abandoned in the early 1970s that still drain toxic soup into nearby streams used for drinking water, fishing, and washing. We visited the home of an elderly woman who told us about the skin lesions that covered the bodies of her son, daughter, and grandson. She had built the family home on a field Texaco claimed to have cleaned. In fact, the oil giant had merely covered up the poisonous pond with four feet of dirt and a thin layer of grass. We smelled the fumes emanating from water Chevron claims is now clean. All this is part of the massive environmental damage and accompanying cancer clusters, lung disease, skin lesions and other injuries left behind by a U.S. multinational corporation.

Chevron’s irresponsible operational practices are now responsible for a catastrophe that has cost untold lives and destroyed an area of pristine rainforest the size of Rhode Island. Chevron lost the legal case in Ecuador, and a U.S. appellate court recently blocked efforts by the company to prevent enforcement of the judgment. The company is on its last legs after battling to deny the claims of indigenous groups for almost two decades since the was filed in 1993.

This helps explain why Chevron is now turning to personal attacks. In the company’s latest salvo, it seeks to intimidate anybody who wants to help the rainforest communities or advocate on their behalf. This is the classic Chevron template: blame the victim, change the subject, and distract from the evidence. Chevron attacks those working to hold the company accountable for the damage it caused. It feigns moral outrage that I, an advocate for human rights, should actually be compensated. While I was paid a modest fee for the time I spent on the case, I have never and will never have a financial interest in the outcome of the litigation. Chevron’s notion that I was to receive a huge success fee if the rainforest communities recover the funds to which they are entitled is utter fiction. What is true is that Chevron’s management is using this lie in a desperate attempt to try to change the subject from its awful environmental disaster and devastating legal setbacks.

Over the years, Chevron has behaved in a way that reinforces the worst stereotypes about large corporations: it has cynically avoided responsibility for its past and watched in indifference as more people become sick and die because of its failure to deal with its legacy environmental issues. Today’s public distrust of large corporations obviously can go too far, but it is often rooted in real abuses of the type Chevron engages in to cover up its obvious misconduct in Ecuador. Chevron’s failure to adhere to basic standards of decency undermines the credibility of our capitalist model and diminishes confidence that our judicial system can serve the poor as well as the rich. Chevron’s conduct in Ecuador has been so reprehensible and profoundly cynical that it reflects poorly on our country and its values. I would call that kind of behavior unpatriotic. Chevron must mend its ways in Ecuador or risk being viewed by peoples worldwide as a rogue oil company unworthy of a license to operate in oil-producing nations.

Source: Huff Post

 

 

Chevron’s $1 Billion Bribe Offer to Quash Legal Case Rocks Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador – Chevron is remaining silent in the face of mounting evidence that the company tried to bribe Ecuador’s government to quash an $18 billion environmental judgment and that a Chevron official ordered the destruction of documents as part of a broad scheme to duck responsibility for causing extensive pollution in the Amazon rainforest, according to documents and news reports.

On Thursday, Chevron spokesman James Craig refused to address the issue of the bribe in an interview with The Miami Herald, which reported extensively on evidence that Ecuadorian government official Ivonne Baki was floating a plan where Chevron would pay $500 million under the guise of a “donation” to an environmental project and another $500 million for environmental clean-up. The money would be given in exchange for Ecuador’s government agreeing to interfere with the country’s independent courts and illegally quash the 18-year litigation.

The Chevron bribe offer was first outlined in a blog published Monday by the Huffington Post.

Baki directs Ecuador’s internationally-celebrated Yasuni project, which seeks to keep more than one billion barrels of crude oil permanently in the ground in a biodiverse area of Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest in exchange for payments to Ecuador’s government of $350 million annually for ten years. The money would come from governments and international donors, but the Miami Herald article indicated only $2.1 million in actual cash had been raised.

Ecuador President Rafael Correa set December 31 as the deadline for the government to obtain a down payment of $100 million for the Yasuni project. Baki has been scrambling to meet the deadline and appears to have worked with Chevron to direct money into the project, according to the Huffington Post as well as information from sources in Ecuador’s government. See here and here.

In a statement Baki denied having contact with Chevron, but Chevron’s own legal filings in a related litigation in U.S. federal court outline a series of meetings between Baki and Chevron lawyers related to the case. See here and here.

Separately, government officials in Ecuador who wished to remain anonymous have indicated to lawyers for the plaintiffs that Baki was floating the offer on behalf of Chevron in an effort to end the case.

The latest news about Baki has created a media firestorm in Ecuador, with unflattering articles about her role, appearing herehereand here.

There is no evidence anybody with authority in Ecuador’s government considered accepting the proposal, which would have violated the legal rights of the 30,000 plaintiffs and run afoul of the country’s Constitution which guarantees the independence of the judiciary, said Pablo Fajardo, the lead lawyer for the communities that won the judgment against the oil giant.

“Chevron and Baki apparently think Ecuador is a banana republic where officials would be willing to sacrifice the rights of their own citizens for a small bribe,” said Fajardo. “Chevron just doesn’t get that in the modern world it cannot bribe government officials and get away with it.”

Separately, a memorandum from Texaco (Chevron’s predecessor company in Ecuador) from 1972 ordered that all reports related to oil spills “are to be removed from the Field and Division offices and destroyed.” The memo was disclosed via a U.S. discovery action; Chevron has not denied its authenticity nor disavowed its contents.

The memo ordering the destruction of documents was written by R.C. Shields, at the time the director of production in Latin American for Texaco and Chairman of the company’s Ecuador subsidiary. The memo directs Chevron personnel to report only oil spills that are “major events” which are defined as those that “attract the attention of press and/or regulatory authorities.”

The directive also orders that no reports are to be kept on a “routine basis.”

Texaco reportedly caused hundreds of oil spills in Ecuador, many of which were “remediated” by setting them on fire, according to the book Amazon Crude, which was published in 1989 and which documented Texaco’s substandard operational practices. The company also has admitted to pouring sludge from the waste pits along dirt roads.

The Shields memo ordering the destruction of documents infuriated members of the legal team representing 30,000 Amazon residents who are suing the oil giant.

“This memo is a vivid illustration of the culture of deceit that characterizes Chevron’s destruction of Ecuador’s Amazon over a period of decades,” said Fajardo, the lead Ecuadorian lawyer. “Deception remains the operating principle for Chevron in Ecuador even today as the company continues to flout its legal obligations to remediate toxic pollution that threatens thousands of innocent lives.”

Karen Hinton, the U.S. spokesperson for the Ecuadorians, said the memo was part of a “pattern of corrupt activities” by the company that include a fraudulent remediation in the 1990s, the fabrication of scientific evidenceattempted entrapment of a trial judge andthreats to put judges in jail if they didn’t rule in the company’s favor .

“Chevron acted like the Mafia in Ecuador,” she added. “This repugnant memo and Baki’s bribe attempt are but small pieces of the company’s long running scheme to defraud Ecuador’s government and its people.

“If Chevron’s shareholders understood the depth of the depravity to which the company has sunk in Ecuador they would use pitchforks to oust the members of the company’s Board of Directors,” she added.

From 1964 to 1990, Chevron used the Texaco brand to operate a large concession in Ecuador’s Amazon region that included an extensive network of pipelines and hundreds of wells and separation stations. In February, an Ecuador court found Chevron liable for dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste, decimating indigenous groups and causing a dramatic increase in cancer rates.

The court set damages at $18 billion. The impact of the disaster in Ecuador – which has haunted the local population for almost fifty years – dwarfs that of the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to experts.

Source: Chevron Toxico

 

Chevron, Ecuador and the $2.2 Million Man.

n the sprawling legal drama surrounding Chevron Corp. in Ecuador, Diego Borja has played one of the strangest roles.

In 2009, Borja and a colleague used amateur spy equipment to secretly record two meetings with the Ecuadoran judge presiding over a massive oil-field pollution lawsuit against Chevron. Chevron used the videos to claim that the judge had already decided to fine the company and was involved in a $3 million bribery scheme. The judge denied the accusations but quickly stepped down. (One of his successors finally ruled against Chevron last year, and an appeals court this month upheld the $18 billion verdict.)

Oil-field pollution in Ecuador, at the heart of a long-running lawsuit against Chevron Corp. Photo: Rodrigo Buendia/AFP/Getty Images

Questions soon arose about Borja, an Ecuadoran contractor who had worked for Chevron in the past, and his colleague, an American named Wayne Hansen.

Investigations revealed that Hansen pleaded guilty in 1986 to participating in a plan to smuggle 275,000 pounds of marijuana into the United States. And one of Borja’s friends secretly taped a conversation in which Borja bragged about having dirt on Chevron that would cause the oil company to lose the lawsuit if he ever made his information public.

Chevron insisted that it did not pay Hansen or Borja for their videos, claiming the two acted as good Samaritans after learning of the possible bribery scheme. But the company did acknowledge paying Borja a stipend after he moved to the United States with his wife in late 2009.

So how much has Borja received? At least $1.19 million, according to new information from the legal team suing Chevron.

That figure covers monthly stipends for both Borja and his wife, plus the cost of renting and furnishing homes for them, first near Chevron’s San Ramon headquarters, then in the Houston area. The company also paid the couple’s taxes, both to the state of California and the federal government.

“The exorbitant amounts of money paid by Chevron to a low-level Ecuadorian worker is clearly hush money designed to buy silence from a many who can expose the company’s corruption and is a likely witness in pending legal proceedings,” said Karen Hinton, spokeswoman for the Ecuadorans suing Chevron.

Hinton’s team assembled its figures from invoices and check stubs obtained last fall as part of the marathon legal fight. You can see a summary of the payments here, and some of the supporting documentation herehere, and here. The figures only cover money paid from June of 2009 and September of 2011.

The amount Chevron has allegedly spent on Borja jumps to $2.24 million if you include his legal bills, paid by the company. The people suing Chevron have been fighting to gather more documents from him, hoping to find the incriminating information he bragged about on tape.

“If Borja has nothing to hide, then why spend $1 million to prevent us from seeing his documents?” Hinton said.

Both Chevron and its opponents have used motions in U.S. courts to obtain previously confidential material from the other side. Chevron has used the tactic to devastating effect, winning access to the personal diary of the other team’s former lead lawyer as well as outtakes from a documentary film about the case. (In one infamous outtake, the plaintiffs’ former lead lawyer, Steven Donziger, calls evidence in the trial nothing but “smoke and mirrors and bulls**t.”) Armed with those outtakes, Chevron has filed a counter-suit in the United States, accusing Donziger and his associates of extortion and racketeering.

Chevron spokesman Kent Robertson said Hinton was using the payments to Borja as a way to distract public attention from the fraud her team has committed.

“Rather than address the problem, they go after Borja,” Robertson said.

He also pointed out a 2009 e-mail in which one member of the opposition’s legal team tells colleagues that Chevron’s payments to Borja, while lavish, probably don’t violate the law. The same lawyer also questions whether Borja does, in fact, have any incriminating evidence against the company, calling the man’s tape-recorded boasts “bombast from a trash-talker being prodded into making increasingly grandiose claims.”

The case grinds on.  Chevron has appealed to Ecuador’s highest court and has asked an international arbitration tribunal to block enforcement of the lower court’s judgment. The tribunal is expected to hold meetings on the case next month.

– David R. Baker

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

 

Editorial: Selvavidasinfronteras.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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~ by FSVSF Admin on 30 January, 2012.

One Response to “Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice on Chevron: Kerry Kennedy-Chevron Blames Victims of Its Deliberate Contamination of Ecuadorian Rainforest”

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