AntiChevron Day of Action: Open letter to Ecuador

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An indigenous man with stands in front of a giant banner that says "Justicia"

21 May is the the Global #AntiChevron Day of Action. War on Want endorses this open letter to Ecuador as part of The Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity. The letter will be delivered to the Ecuadorian embassies and consulates worldwide on 21 May, as hundreds of indigenous communities in the Amazon march to demand respect for human rights.

The Chevron case in the Ecuadorian Amazon is a crucial part of the struggle against corporate impunity. Between 1972 and 1993, US oil firm Texaco dumped over 30 billion gallons of toxic waste and crude oil into the Amazon rainforest in the north east of Ecuador. This has since become known as one of the world’s greatest ever environmental disasters. Vast swathes of forest were contaminated across a 4400 square kilometre region. Rivers turned black. 30,000 indigenous and peasant people’s health and livelihoods were severely affected, with a spike in cancer and birth defects among the consequences.

These communities took Chevron to court, and won in 2011 following an 18-year legal battle. However, the company has done everything in its power to avoid justice. In 2009 Chevron sued the Ecuadorian government through an ISDS case to subvert justice and get away without paying compensation to thousands of people.

It’s been almost 50 years since Chevron began its devastating pollution of the Amazon. Yet still, after decades of struggle in the courts, the people whose livelihoods have been destroyed have yet to win justice.

This situation is not unique. The current economic system is one predicated on infinite growth, where corporations systematically disregard people and planet to guarantee their profits but are seldom held to account.

Chevron is also one of the companies most responsible for global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions since the recognition of human induced climate change. We are in Decade Zero – an indispensable period of ten years where we have to achieve major systems change, pulling down emissions, and dissolving the inequalities that make us vulnerable to climate violence. Key to this is protecting the Amazon’s ecosystems and guaranteeing the rights of the communities that live there. That is why we need to stop ISDS, and to urgently install an international legally binding mechanism that will effectively hold corporations to account.

To endorse the letter to Ecuador, visit the Dismantle Corporate Power website:

Open letter to the President of Ecuador

Mr. Lenín Moreno Garcés

President of the Republic of Ecuador

21 May 2019

Regarding The Chevron-Texaco Case in Ecuador

Mr. President,

We who belong to many international civil society social organizations and networks who are committed to human rights and social, economic and environmental justice are writing to you because we are deeply concerned about the Chevron-Texaco case in the Ecuadorian Amazon region.

The case is irrefutable proof of the way the system whose purpose is to ensure the impunity of transnational companies all over the world works. After 25 years of trials, and although a judgement requiring Chevron (formerly known as Texaco) to pay US$9,500 million to repair environmental damage, has been ratified at every level of the Ecuadorian judicial system, it has never been enforced. To avoid complying with it, Chevron withdrew all of its assets from Ecuador. Because they did that, the men and women affected by the environmental disaster had to have recourse in foreign courts (in Argentina, Brazil and Canada) to have the judgement recognised and enforced, but so far, they have had no success. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of affected continue suffering serious health effects. Deaths from cancer are 130% more frequent in Amazonia and have 260% higher risk of death than in other parts of Ecuador. Chevron left 880 pits full of crude oil which are still there, the rivers are still full of hydrocarbon sediment and polluted by the crude oil spills in Amazonia, which is one of the most biodiversity rich regions in the world. The damage has been left unrepaired for more than 40 years. Corporate crime goes on.

Even worse, in 2009 Chevron sued the Ecuadorian state at the International Court in the Hague using the State Investor Dispute Settlement Mechanism (SIDS). The oil company also sought economic compensation and asked that the arbitration panel interfere in the Ecuadorian justice system itself. In August 2018, the arbitration panel ruled in favour of Chevron and sentenced Ecuador to pay a still unknown sum to the transnational company. Moreover, it ordered the Ecuadorian government to prevent the judgement of the Ecuadorian courts from being enforced. These provisions are unconstitutional and inapplicable in Ecuador. If the government were to execute the arbitration ruling, it would be violating its own constitution, wiping out the rights of the 30,000 people affected by Chevron and openly favouring that company's interests. This decision would therefore establish a dangerous precedent at the international level which could encourage similar arbitration tribunals, putting them above domestic law courts and thus undermine the legal bases of the rule of law.

Mr. President, today your government is heading the process that is working towards drafting a binding UN treaty on transnational corporations with respect to human rights which could put an end to corporate impunity. These negotiations are taking place in the Human Rights Commission. It is worth pointing out that this treaty is a response to a demand from millions of people who belong to hundreds of social organizations, unions and affected communities around the world.

Today, popular mobilization against the ISDS is growing. Proof of this is that recently more than half a million signatures from European Union citizens were delivered to the Vice President of the European Commission asking that the European Union reject the ISDS and support the UN Binding Treaty and other regulations to force transnational companies to respect human rights.

Mr. President, we remind you that the aforementioned case is not an exception. Chevron has been denounced for negative social and environmental impacts in other countries, for example, their fracking projects in Argentina have seriously affected Mapuche indigenous communities. What is more, oil companies like Chevron bear a large part of the responsibility for climate change which today has caused hundreds of thousands of victims, driven thousands from their homes - climate refugees- and is also thrusting the whole planet into the worst environmental crisis ever seen.

Mr. President, we tell you that we cannot understand the direction that your government is taking currently with regard to this case. We remind you that it is the duty of every state to protect its population's human rights from the violations of third parties. We demand that you not give in to the pressure from the United States or from Chevron but put the rights of Ecuadorian men and women first as the Constitution of Ecuador demands.  We ask you not to intervene in the court case between the affected communities (who are grouped together  as UDAPT (Union of those Affected by Chevron-Texaco's Oil Operations)) and the transnational company but that, on the contrary you give your support and protection to the indigenous and rural communities, respecting, protecting and guaranteeing their rights over  the interests of international companies.

We continue to monitor any developments in Chevron's case in Ecuador. Moreover, today, 21 May, which is World Anti Chevron Day, we are holding huge mobilizations in various regions and countries to denounce corporate impunity and to express our solidarity with the affected communities

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