Chevron in Ecuador

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LA Times Editorial Calls For Investigation Into Chevron’s Release Of Its “Sting” Videotapes

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September 7 2009 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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Washington, DC (September 7, 2009) – In an editorial this Saturday, the Los Angeles Times called for an investigation into Chevron's production and release of its "sting" videotapes that seek to derail a $27 billion lawsuit brought against the company for oil contamination in the Ecuadorian rainforest. The Los Angeles Times is the fourth largest newspaper in the United States, and the largest newspaper in Chevron's home state of California.

In addition to calling for an investigation into Chevron's involvement in the videotapes, the September 5th editorial raised questions about the tapes' authenticity; the three-month delay in Chevron's release of the tapes to the authorities; and Chevron's relationship with the two men who collaborated with the company to secretly record Judge Juan Nuñe, who recused himself from the lawsuit yesterday.

The editorial urged investigators to "...probe not just the judge's actions but those of Chevron." The plaintiffs have urged the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Chevron's role in the attempted bribery scheme.

Unlike most other news outlets, the editorial noted correctly that Nuñe' recusal from the lawsuit is not likely to result in a long delay of the decision, expected sometime in late 2009 or early 2010.

In a press release last week, the lawsuit's plaintiffs cited 13 instances where a Chevron contractor and an American businessman attempted unsuccessfully to force Nuñe to say that Chevron is guilty.

The editorial raised this concern as well. It stated: "On the tapes, the men ... press Nuñez to say how he will rule, without success. Then, as Nuñez prepares to leave, one of the men again maintains that Chevron is guilty, and Nuñez replies, "Yes, sir." To Chevron, that cinches the argument. But on the video, it's unclear to whom the judge is speaking and whether he is responding to the question or just trying to end the meeting."

Nuñe also is off camera at that moment, though the editorial does not include this fact.

The editorial also urges Chevron to "to build trust by clarifying the nature of the relationship" with the two men who secretly recorded the tapes: Chevron contractor Diego Borja and American businessman, Wayne Hansen.

Little is known about the two men, except that Borja's last-known contracting job for Chevron was at an oil site where court officials tested for and found illegal levels of toxic contamination at former Texaco wells. (Chevron bought Texaco in 2001.)

Chevron said it paid to relocate Borja to the United States and provided him with "interim support" because Borja feared for his life. However, Chevron's videotapes show Borja's face, while they hide Hansen's, the American. Chevron officials have refused to say how much they have paid or are paying Borja, or if they will pay the legal expenses of Borja and Hansen should they need legal representation.

The editorial also criticizes Chevron for holding onto the tapes after the company says it first learned of them. "Further," the editorial continues, "Chevron obtained the video in June, but instead of lodging a complaint to Ecuadorean authorities, it waited weeks and then posted the "sting" to its website."

The editorial also explained how the Ecuadorian courts operate to conclude that the judge's recusal "won't necessarily cause a long delay."

"The court presidency rotates in Ecuador, and Nuñez received the case from his predecessor when he took the position; another change in judges won't necessarily cause a long delay. It merely adds one more skirmish to a lawsuit of grave consequence to the suffering people of the Ecuadorean rain forest."