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Ecuador’s Campaign: “The Dirty Hand of Chevron”

Ecuador’s president has launched a call for people around the world to boycott Chevron products, in rejection of the company’s evasion of responsibility for oil contamination in the Amazon basin. In recent months, Chevron has targeted Ecuador with a barrage of defamatory publicity questioning the country’s legal system, in an attempt to elude the sentence under which it is ordered to pay out almost $19 billion to clean up the area and provide health care and clean drinking water for the affected population.
Ecuador’s campaign titled, ”The dirty hand of Chevron,” was presented by President Rafael Correa on September 17, in a visit to a contaminated pit near the Aguarico 4 oil well, operated decades ago by Texaco. The company, which merged with Chevron in 2001, left behind almost one thousand of these pits over three decades of oil exploitation in the Amazon rainforest (1964-1992), covering an area of more than a million acres, where an estimated 18 billion gallons of water, contaminated with oil, has continued to seep from unprotected pits or to overspill during heavy rains. The seepage has contaminated the streams and rivers used by the local population for drinking water, destroyed wildlife and negatively affected agriculture.
Correa estimated the damage to be far greater than either the Exxon Valdez Alaska oil spill or the Mexican Gulf BP spill. “This is one of humanity’s most serious disasters,” he announced.
Texaco failed to use adequate technology, available at the time, to seal the pits and clean up another 17 million gallons of direct oil spills. This practice saved production costs of $2 to $3 per barrel, thus increasing the company’s profits. A total of 54 production sites inspected by the trial court of Lago Agrio in Ecuador all showed levels of oil contamination that violate legal norms and international standards. At the time of the Texaco operation, the Ecuadorian norm for total petroleum hydrocarbons in soil and water was 10 times more lax than the US standard, but even so, the average contamination found was 20 times the Ecuadorian norm, and at some sites, up to 900 times.
According to President Correa, “To evade their responsibilities, Chevron has spent more than $400 million, has dozens of lobbying firms and some 900 lawyers.” He called on the company’s shareholders not to be “indirect accomplices of a company that has not only demonstrated absolute irresponsibility but is now seeking impunity.”
Also present at the launch of the Ecuador campaign was Gayle McLaughlin, mayor of Richmond, California, who denounced similar “dirty play” by Chevron to evade responsibility following the fire at its Richmond refinery in 2012, which affected more than 11,000 inhabitants.
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