600 Person "Human Billboard" at Former Texaco Well Site Calls For "Justice Now"
3 July 2007 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
Lago Agrio, Ecuador - Hundreds of local indigenous people and campesinos marched today to protest Chevron´s delay tactics as a judgment approaches in a landmark multi-billion dollar environmental lawsuit against the company.
After the march, the community members, including leaders of several indigenous tribes and dozens of cancer victims, gathered at Texaco's (now Chevron's) first Ecuadorian oil well -- opened 40 years ago in 1967 -- in formation to spell the international "SOS" distress signal, and the words "Justicia Ya" (Justice Now) in 40-foot letters across the rainforest clearing.
The stunning images, captured by photographers from a helicopter circling overhead, send a message from the people of the Amazon to the Live Earth concert broadcast this Saturday, organized by former US Vice President Al Gore to draw international attention to the effects of global warming and the world's unsustainable dependence on fossil fuels.
The participants of today's events were drawn from dozens of communities across the region whose lives and lands have been ruined by Chevron's deliberate dumping of 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater from the oil drilling process. The dumping took place over 25 years and is believed to have caused a public health crisis among the 30,000 plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Chevron.
Humberto Piaguaje, one of the leaders of the affected communities and a member of the Secoya indigenous nation, which has been devastated by the contamination, called for the plaintiffs and their legal team to be on high alert. "As the trial nears a conclusion, and given the irrefutable evidence against Chevron, the risk that Chevron's lawyers will again used procedural violations and tricks is now greater than ever," he said.
Today's mobilization was the biggest since the start of the trial in May 2003. Among the estimated 650 protestors were Ecuadorian celebrities, members of four different indigenous groups and national indigenous leaders from Quito.
The plaintiffs are demanding an environmental remediation that could cost upwards of $6 billion. The trial has now entered the final stages and a judgment is expected in 2008, with overwhelming evidence of toxic contamination left behind by Chevron, according to the plaintiff's legal team.
Amazon Watch spokesperson Kevin Koenig, who attended the march, said: "Chevron's strategy of delay and deceit is costing the people of this region their lives. The fact that there is no clean drinking water in this area of the rainforest is criminal. The men, women, children and elders gathered here today are sending a clear message to the world: they need relief, and they need justice. Now."