LA PAZ – Bolivian President Evo Morales said Friday that he and Ecuadorian counterpart Rafael Correa will promote the creation of a body to monitor the conduct of multinational oil and gas companies in Latin America.
That was one of the agreements reached during a meeting of the leftist leaders Thursday in central Bolivia, Morales said in a press conference.
“There are oil companies like Chevron that pollute, have lost lawsuits brought by the Ecuadorian people and the indigenous movement, yet this company sues the government” of Ecuador, Morales said.
In 2011, a court in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, found Texaco, which Chevron acquired in 2001, guilty of dumping billions of gallons of toxic drilling waste in a 480,000-hectare (1,850-sq.-mile) area of the Ecuadorian Amazon between 1964 and 1990 and ordered it to pay nearly $20 billion in damages to plaintiffs representing tens of thousands of Indians and villagers.
The judgment was upheld on appeal.
Chevron, which maintains that Texaco had been cleared of any liability for damages by the Ecuadorian government of the time after remediating its share of environmental impacts, has refused to pay the judgment.
The U.S. multinational also sued Ecuador for allegedly breaching its obligation – under a bilateral investment treaty – to take all measures necessary to suspend enforcement of the court judgments in the Andean nation.
An arbitration court in The Hague sided with Chevron in that case.
The dispute with the U.S. oil supermajor was one of the topics explained by Correa during his visit to Bolivia.
Morales said the observatory proposal was an “excellent” idea that should be debated at the level of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.
“Any company that invests in another country has to submit to the norms of that country, and here they want to take us to arbitration. Of course, we’ve denounced that and that’s the battle with some companies,” Morales said.
The president recalled that on a visit this week to southern Bolivia’s Margarita natural gas field, operated by Spain’s Repsol, he said that if an energy company agrees to be Bolivia’s partner it should act accordingly, without taking disputes to international arbitration.
If not, Bolivia’s stronger economic situation puts his government is a position to take “drastic” steps if they are warranted, Morales said.
Since 2006, Bolivia has been sued on different occasions in international court over the Morales administration’s nationalization of multinational companies’ assets in the natural gas, electricity, mining and telecommunications sectors.