The Economist sends President Correa packing.
THE AMAZON PINK DOLPHIN’S VOICE-16/10/2013
A volcano erupts
Rafael Correa lambasts us and “the empire of capital”
LAST month we published a story about the decision of Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, to authorise drilling for oil in the Yasuní National Park in the Amazon rainforest (“It’s hard to be green,” September 28th), an idea he had previously resisted. We explained the reasons why he changed his mind—that Ecuador has no easy alternatives to boost oil production and that Mr Correa needs more money to continue his anti-poverty programmes. Then we added:
In a bid to deflect the anger of environmentalists at his U-turn, Mr Correa this month turned his rhetorical fire on Chevron. Two years ago, an Ecuadorean court in Lago Agrio, an Amazon town, imposed a colossal $19 billion fine on the company over pollution allegedly caused in the 1970s and 1980s by Texaco, bought by Chevron in 2001. In fact Ecuador’s government reached a final settlement with Texaco in 1998 (the tar pit into which Mr Correa dipped his hand earlier this month is the responsibility of Petroecuador, a state company).
Mr Correa himself blamed Chevron for the tar pit he visited, saying last month: “These are pools left in 1986 by Texaco, which were never operated by other companies, and today, nearly 30 years later, what comes out is oil.”
Our article prompted an extraordinary response from Mr Correa. On October 5th he accused us of “barefaced lies” and of acting on behalf of Chevron, which he said “has financed campaigns in The Economist”. “None of this is coincidental, it’s the empire of capital,” he explained, adding: “The whole of humanity should rebel against this. Two powerful foreign families, the Rothschilds and Schroders, are shareholders of The Economist group and of six financial companies that are in turn shareholders in Chevron.” He called for a Twitter campaign against us.
Like many paranoid fantasists (or politicians seeking a smokescreen for a climb-down), Mr Correa has got some things half-right. Chevron is a frequent advertiser in The Economist and in 2007 it hired our sister company, the Economist Intelligence Unit, to provide data for an online energy-policy simulation (seewww.energyville.com). The Rothschilds and Schroders are indeed minority shareholders in The Economist group (we are sorry that Mr Correa finds “foreigners” so sinister).
But we have no idea if they are also shareholders in Chevron and don’t care. They have no influence over our coverage of this subject or any other. Our reporting is based on a commodity that seems to be lacking in Mr Correa’s mental universe: facts. He may not like the fact that a previous, elected Ecuadorean government settled in full the claims against Texaco, but it did. Contrary to the contention of Ecuador’s ambassador to London (seearticle), an international tribunal in The Hague recently ruled, in a case brought by Chevron, that class-action suits of the kind initiated against the firm in Lago Agrio were precluded by that earlier settlement.
As for that tar pit: a plan drawn up in 1995 specified the share of remediation work that Texaco was supposed to perform. The pool into which Mr Correa dipped his hand, known as Aguarico-4, is not one that the company was required to clean up. Petroecuador’s own corporate documents suggest a long-standing interest in Aguarico-4. Its statistical report of 2007 lists Aguarico-4 as a “production recovery” site; its 2011 report refers to “reconditioning work” going on at the pool.
That seems to confirm that Petroecuador has for some time regarded Aguarico-4 as its responsibility. It also seems to deny Mr Correa’s claim that the site has been neglected since 1986. Perhaps Mr Correa should tell all of humanity about that.
Source: The Economist
Ecuador versus Chevron
SIR – Your article referring to the legal case against Chevron in Ecuador gives a misleading impression. (“It’s hard to be green”, September 28th). Before it was bought by Chevron Texaco contaminated 2m acres of the Ecuadorean Amazon, causing one of the largest environmental disasters in history. This was absolutely avoidable. Texaco cut corners to save costs. In doing so it violated the requirements of the operating agreement to use safe and available technology. Any implication that environmental damage is due to Petroecuador’s activities is wrong. Areas not exploited since Texaco left Ecuador remain heavily polluted. The oilfield visited by President Rafael Correa, referred to in your article, is one example.
Aguarico-4 / 2013
Moreover, it is wrong to suggest that the agreement signed by a former Ecuadorean government absolves Chevron-Texaco of all environmental responsibility. This agreement did not include a waiver on third-party action. For nearly 20 years it has been the Amazonian people themselves who have been pursuing legal action, not the government. It is Chevron-Texaco that is engaging in a “formidable” campaign to avoid paying the $19 billion compensation to local communities imposed by independent, jurisdictional and competent courts.
What your “analysts” don’t recognise is that President Correa is popular because of sustainable investment through roads, hospitals, schools and social development.
Juan Falconí Puig
Ambassador for Ecuador
Editorial: SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras
Gustavo López Ospina
Pieter Jan Brouwer
Assistant: Emilia Romero
SELVA Vida Sin Fronteras acknowledges Kevin Schafer’s important contribution towards protecting the highly endangered Amazon pink fresh water dolphin. Title photographs of our “The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice” were taken by Mr. Schafer.