Chevron in Ecuador

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LA Times Blasts Chevron For Interfering With U.S. Trade Policy Over $27 Billion Ecuador Lawsuit

Says Private Interests of One Company Should Not Trump U.S. Policy

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04 December 2009 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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Washington, DC – The Los Angeles Times editorial page has blasted Chevron by urging Congress to ignore the company's multi-million dollar lobbying campaign to deny trade preferences for Ecuador in retaliation for the $27 billion oil contamination lawsuit brought by Amazon communities.

"If ... Chevron has its way, Congress will instead punish Ecuador because its government refuses to halt a private lawsuit against the oil giant.... to force a favorable outcome in a private claim would justly generate international outrage," wrote the Los Angeles Times, the largest newspaper in Chevron's home state of California, in Thursday's editions.

"Halting the trade agreement at Chevron's behest would harm broader U.S. interests," the paper opined. "...Ecuador has demonstrated a willingness to work with the U.S. That should be the test for an extension of trade benefits, not the private interests of one corporation."

Chevron has hired numerous high-level lobbyists in Washington to try to persuade the Congress to cancel the preferences, which Ecuador's government says produce 350,000 jobs. The lawsuit, which in 2002 was moved to Ecuador from U.S. federal court at Chevron's request, includes a damages assessment of $27.3 billion.

The suit accuses Chevron of poisoning an area of the Amazon the size of Rhode Island, decimating indigenous groups and leading to an outbreak of cancers and other diseases that have cost thousands of lives. Texaco, bought by Chevron in 2001, operated a large oil concession in the area from 1964 to 1990.

The editorial argued that ending the trade preferences for Ecuador would "throw farmers out of legitimate business ventures and into the arms of cocaine traffickers" and would create "needless ill will in a region where President Obama has promised to end North American bullying and begin a new era of rapprochement."

Previous attempts by Chevron to lobby the U.S. government over the lawsuit have been rebuffed by officials in both the Bush and Obama Administrations. Just last year, four Senators signed a letter to the United States Trade Representative urging the government to reject Chevron's arguments and extend the preferences, which happened.

The trade agreement allows reduced-duty or duty-free exports to the U.S. of goods such as clothing, tuna and cut flowers. It has created more than 130,000 jobs in Ecuador and an estimated 37,400 in the U.S., according to the editorial.

A final judgment in the legal case is expected in 2010.

The editorial can be read in its entirety here.