QUITO – Around 50 Indians from Ecuador’s Amazon region gathered on Wednesday outside the federal Attorney General’s Office in this capital to demand the government reject an arbitration ruling in The Hague in favor of American oil supermajor Chevron Corp.
“The Ecuadorian Amazon demands respect,” “Chevron Guilty” and “The Amazon is Dying and Justice is Dying” were some of the signs held up by those taking part in the demonstration.
In 2011, a court in the northeastern Ecuadorian province of Sucumbios ruled in favor of 47 named plaintiffs representing 30,000 Amazon rainforest villagers and Indians who accused Texaco (acquired by Chevron in 2001) of spoiling their lands and damaging their health by dumping billions of gallons of toxic drilling waste in a 480,000-hectare (1,850-sq.-mile) jungle area.
That Sucumbios decision was upheld on appeal two years later by the National Court of Justice, although that Quito-based high court lowered the damages award from $19 billion to $9.5 billion.
An Aug. 30 ruling by a tribunal administered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, however, invalidated those rulings by the Ecuadorian judicial system.
It found that they had been marred by bribery and fraud and that the South American country had breached its obligations under a 1995 settlement agreement, which certified that Texaco had carried out remediation work and released it from further environmental liability.
The Hague tribunal also said that Ecuador must compensate Chevron for damages, although that amount will be determined in a subsequent phase of the arbitration proceedings.
Ecuadorian Indians and their attorneys have expressed concern over the arbitration ruling and over the attitude of Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno’s administration, which accepts the ruling in The Hague and accuses the previous government (headed by leftist Rafael Correa, who governed from 2007-2017) of exposing the Andean nation to “the payment of still-undetermined amounts” of money.
Correa for his part said on Sept. 7 in his wife’s native Belgium (where he currently lives) that Moreno, a former vice president of his-turned political enemy, had entered into a pact with the oil company and that “it’s obvious that Chevron is guilty and that it destroyed our rainforest.”
Chevron, which had earlier secured a similar ruling from the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, blames state-owned Petroecuador (which took over sole operations in the Ecuadorian Amazon in the early 1990s) for the remaining pollution in that region.