Oil Giant’s Actions Over Ecuador Disaster Condemned by Redford, Herbert, and Perkins as Chorus of Prominent Voices Grows
Amazon Defense Coalition
7 June 2010 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
Quito, Ecuador – Actor and filmmaker Robert Redford, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert and bestselling author John Perkins are the latest voices to condemn Chevron's desperate maneuvers to avoid liability for the massive oil disaster that has plagued Ecuador's rainforest for almost fifty years.
Herbert reported in his column over the weekend that Chevron's dumping in Ecuador – which took place from 1964 to 1992 but has never been cleaned up – is larger than the BP spill in the Gulf. He also accused Chevron of treating the pristine Amazon ecosystem like a "sewer" when it operated an oil concession in Ecuador.
Chevron is a defendant in a $27 billion lawsuit in Ecuador's court brought by dozens of indigenous groups and farmer communities who accused the oil giant of dumping a far greater amount of crude than has flowed from the BP disaster. A final decision is expected later this year.
"BP's calamitous behavior in the Gulf of Mexico is the big oil story of the moment," wrote Herbert in an article published in The New York Times on Saturday. "But for many years, indigenous people from a formerly pristine region of the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador have been trying to get relief from an American company, Texaco [now Chevron], for what has been described at the largest oil-related catastrophe ever."
Herbert said that both BP and Chevron, "when left to their own devices, will treat even the most magnificent of nature's wonders like a sewer." He also said both the fishermen of Louisiana and indigenous peoples of Ecuador have been treated "contemptuously" by BP and Chevron.
"The families who lives and culture depend upon the intricate web of waterways along the Gulf Coast of the United States are in a fix similar to that of the indigenous people zapped by nonstop oil spills and the oil-related pollution in the Ecuadorian rainforest," he wrote.
Redford, in a column published by The Huffington Post, blasted Chevron for violating the First Amendment by trying to subpoena the outtakes from an award-winning documentary film on the lawsuit against Chevron brought by dozens of Amazonian communities. The film, CRUDE, was made by celebrated director Joe Berlinger and garnered 22 awards from film festivals in 2009 after premiering at Sundance.
"The potential ramifications of [Chevron's subpoena] for the journalist community, film world, and society in general are both shocking and profound," Redford wrote. "If we allow the voice of the independent artiest to be stifled we should expect nothing less than extreme repercussions for freedom of information… and freedom in general."
John Perkins, the New York Times best-selling author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and Hoodwinked, said: "Chevron winning the case against the documentary filmmakers will hammer the final nail in the coffin of 'freedom of speech.' Chevron winning the case against the victims of the oil spills in Ecuador will not only establish the US in world eyes as a greedy, irresponsible empire, but it will also set a precedent that will lead to an even more unjust and unsustainable future, one we should not wish upon our children and grandchildren."
Chevron claims it needs the outtakes to help it defend the civil lawsuit, but observers have pointed out that the oil giant is engaged in a wide-ranging fishing expedition to undermine Ecuador's court system in an attempt to avoid paying an expected adverse judgment. This posture has attracted criticism from documentary filmmakers Michael Moore, Ric Burns, and Trudie Styler.
Burns said a ruling in favor of Chevron could deliver a "killer blow" for the documentary film industry.
"It makes me shudder to think that all the stuff would be turned over… not because of any secrets that are revealed, but because of the killer blow to the trust a filmmaker cultivated, deeply, over a very long period of time," Burns said.
Journalist Bill Moyers also criticized Chevron in an article, saying the oil giant's move jeopardizes "the whole integrity of the process of journalism." Moyer's article can be read here.
The lawsuit against Chevron, originally filed in U.S. federal court in 1993, is taking place in Ecuador at Chevron's request. Chevron praised Ecuador's courts to have the case moved, but now criticizes those same courts given that the evidence is stacking up against it, say representatives of the plaintiffs.