A recent delegation led by the Amazon Defense Front traveled to Louisiana in attempt to draw a parallel between a lawsuit backed by U.S. trial lawyers against Chevron and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
There is no question that the people of Oriente face difficulties. However, there is no valid comparison with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the trial that is currently taking place in Ecuador. It is disappointing that the Amazon Defense Front (the named financial beneficiary in the Ecuador trial) and its supporters would take advantage of the people of the Gulf and their tragedy in an attempt to legitimize their fraudulent lawsuit against Chevron. But this is no surprise. This is the same type of deceit and manipulation they have used for years to exploit their own countrymen’s hardships in the Amazon.
In fact, many of the difficulties faced by the people of the Oriente have been exacerbated by the Amazon Defense Front, which has opposed the clean up in the region, harming the interests of the very people they claim to represent.
Texaco Petroleum ceased operating on behalf of a state-controlled consortium in the Oriente 20 years ago this month. The company left Ecuador after performing $40 million in environmental remediation that was approved by the government, releasing the company of all future obligations.
Since 1990, Petroecuador, Texaco’s majority partner, has been the exclusive operator of the oil fields, drilling an additional 414 new wells and amassing a poor environmental record. The state-owned oil company acknowledges its responsibilities and has begun its own clean-up. Petroecuador plans to remediate 370 pits, at a cost of $31.5 million, by 2013. So far, it has remediated 86 pits. It has the ability, expertise and, most importantly, the government’s support to complete the job.
However, U.S. trial lawyers behind the Lago Agrio lawsuit against Chevron and the Amazon Defense Front have interfered with Petroecuador’s cleanup. They have petitioned the court to halt the cleanup– not out of concern for the environment but for fear the remediation was harming their case against Chevron.
In pursuit of their meritless complaint, the Amazon Defense Front lawyers have harmed Ecuador in many ways. They have corrupted the trial, not only through publicity stunts like the one they exported to Louisiana recently, but also by falsifying expert reports, fabricating evidence, making unsubstantiated health claims and colluding with court experts. This fraud on Ecuador’s courts, government and citizens has damaged the nation’s international reputation with respect to corruption and judicial fairness.
In truth, the lawyers behind the Lago Agrio lawsuit are a barrier to the solutions that the people of the Oriente deserve. It is time they put their own financial interests aside.