About 150 activists, indigenous groups & supporters gathered in New York City’s Foley Square this morning to demand that Chevron be held accountable for the $18 billion in damages the big oil corporation was ordered to pay in 2011 for toxic dumping, spills & environmental destruction in Ecuador.
Today marks the beginning of the trial Chevron’s retaliatory R.I.C.O. (Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organization Act) has brought against the Ecuadorians and their U.S.-based legal advocates. The corporation’s use of R.I.C.O. when filing suit against the Ecuadorian victims is its latest attempt to avoid accountability, to evade its $18 billion cleanup & compensation costs & to silence the resistance against the oil giant. Chevron will argue in a non-jury trial that the verdict was obtained through fabricated evidence & manipulation.
Protesters wore plastic gloves stained with black liquid & held up images of the widespread contamination sites along the Amazon as they chanted “Chevron, asesino!” (Chevron, murderer!). Speakers also told stories of how big oil is threatening indigenous lives in Ecuador.
Oriente in the Ecuadorian Amazon has been described as a “Rainforest Chernobyl” after Chevron-owned Texaco dumped 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into its streams & rivers from 1964 to 1992. Water sources are now teeming with heavy metals, petroleum & other chemicals, making them inhabitable to aquatic life. Waste pits exuding harmful vapors have yet to be cleaned up while indigenous communities who live in the area - Cofán, Siona, Secoya, Kichwa & Huaorani - are plagued with high rates of cancer, birth defects & miscarriages.
Chevron has been sued in multiple countries before without success. Those who have been watching the trial say the verdict is already obvious. From Paul Barrett: “Most recently, [U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan] issued a 104-page pretrial ruling last week warning that he has already determined ‘there was probable cause to suspect a crime or fraud’ by [Ecuadorians’ lead defense lawyer Steven] Donziger in connection with the fabrication of scientific evidence, the coercion of one Ecuadorian judge, the bribing of other Ecuadorian judges, and the ghostwriting of a critical report supposedly composed by an independent court-appointed official. For good measure, Kaplan added that he suspects that Donziger’s legal team in Ecuador secretly wrote some, or all, of the February 2011 court judgment.”
Photos/words by Graciela
(Edit: Yes, that is Bianca Jagger in the first photo.)