In Open Letter, Ecuadorians Ask Americans To Demand That Chevron Clean Contamination Dumped in Rainforest
Amazon Defense Coalition
23 May 2011 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
New York, NY – The indigenous and farmer communities of Ecuador have released an open letter to the American people calling on them to help in the historic battle to force Chevron to clean up the toxic mess the oil giant left their country's Amazon rainforest, considered by many to be the worst oil-related disaster on earth.
"We write this letter to you on behalf of the thousands of affected peoples in Ecuador, so that you can do something, now, and demand that Chevron clean up the poison that it left in our Amazon, and restore the image of the United States and its citizens," said the Ecuadorians, who are in the United States to attend Chevron's annual shareholder meeting tomorrow at company headquarters in San Ramon, CA.
"Just last February, after 17 years, an Ecuadorian court found Chevron guilty for the harm it caused our people and our lands. But the company has said it will never respect the court's decision, that it will never take responsibility for the damages, and that it will keep fighting until Hell freezes over," reads the letter, which was signed by several indigenous leaders and farmers who live in the area of rainforest where Chevron operated from 1964 to 1992.
Those signing include Robinson Yumbo, Santos Armijos, Marcos Ajila, Angel Najera, Santos Arrobo, Elay Grefa, Arcenio Armas, Vicente Quevedo, Miguel Moreta, Victorino Vargas, Carmen Zambrano, Evilson Padilla, Bolivar Cedeño, Luis Chimbo, Mariana Jimenez, Rito Maldonado, Anselmo Garcia, Gladys Huanca, Javier Piaguaje, Medardo Zhingre, Oscar Machoa, Manuel Asanga, and Carlos Tangos.
In February, an Ecuador court found Chevron liable for $18 billion in damages stemming from contamination caused by the company when it operated hundreds of oil wells in Ecuador. Chevron is refusing to pay the judgment and has sued the plaintiffs in the United States as part of a stratagem to exhaust their resources and put them on the defensive.
The trial against Chevron was held in Ecuador at Chevron's request after the company asked for it to be moved from U.S. federal court. The Ecuador court found Chevron repeatedly tried to delay the proceedings in Ecuador and threatened judges as part of its campaign to evade liability. The plaintiffs have long accused Chevron of committing fraud in Ecuador to hide the extent of its environmental crimes.
Chevron admitted at trial that it deliberately discharged 16 billion gallons of toxic "produced water" directly into the environment, dwarfing the amount of oil spilled during the BP Gulf disaster. The company also abandoned more than 900 unlined waste pits, spilled more than 17 million gallons of pure crude oil, and continually "flared" contaminants without any environmental controls, according to evidence presented during the trial.
In the letter, the Ecuador communities are asking all Americans to demand that Chevron finally take responsibility for the damage its operations caused.
"We only know the company Texaco, now called Chevron, and we know that it is from your country," reads the letter. "We know its lies, its disrespect, its greed. We know how it destroyed our forest and the lives of human beings."
The letter said the Chevron oil workers "told us that oil was good, that it would bring progress for the future. We remember the almost daily oil spills.How the crude oil would came down the rivers like black sheets. We remember the toxic waters they dumped in our rivers. We remember how the fish began to die, how they tasted of metal and gasoline. We remember how the men raped our women. We remember the pain our children felt after bathing in the rivers contaminated with oil. We remember the illnesses, the deformations, the cancer. We remember all of those who died."
Several independent studies before the court have reported an outbreak of cancer in the area where Chevron operated.