Chevron in Ecuador

The archive of the Clean Up Ecuador campaign website

Testifying Today: Steven Donziger & Ecuadorian Indigenous Leader Javier Piaguaje

Gowen Group Law Office
15 November 2013 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109

New York, NY – Taking the stand today will be Javier Piaguaje, one of the original "named plaintiffs" in the lawsuit against Chevron. Javier is a local leader from the Secoya indigenous community of San Pablo in the Ecuadorian Amazon, and has been involved in helping organize Secoya villagers and surrounding community members in their two decade-long efforts to hold Chevron accountable for the company's contamination throughout their ancestral lands.

After testifying, Javier will be available for interview. Spanish translation will be made available; call Han Shan at 914-418-4133 for comment and availability.

Then, later today, Steven Donziger is expected to take the stand for the first time in a trial during which Chevron has focused its attention almost exclusively upon him and his many years of support for the indigenous people and rural farmers who won the landmark judgment against Chevron, recently upheld by the country's supreme court.

Steven's final, signed witness statement is available here. We are in the process of organizing the various exhibits footnoted throughout and will make them available for download from this site soon. Click here to read a press release about Steven's witness statement, Donziger's direct testimony as required by local rules set by federal judge Lewis A. Kaplan, overseeing Chevron's retaliatory RICO lawsuit.

Highlights of Donziger's written testimony:

  • The Ecuador judgment is "valid" based on overwhelming scientific evidence that Chevron "deliberately discharged billions of gallons of toxic waste into Ecuador's rainforest" resulting in "grave harm and even death to thousands of innocent people." (Paragraph # 7)
  • As late as April of 2012, a high-level Chevron executive approached representatives of the rainforest communities to initiate settlement discussions. The contacts did not continue after the villagers filed legal enforcement actions to seize billions of dollars of Chevron assets in Canada and Brazil. (Paragraph #19)
  • An environmental consultancy in the U.S., the Louis Berger Group (LBG), has independently reviewed the evidence before the Ecuador court and concluded there is ample support for the findings of liability and damages against Chevron. It also concluded Chevron's own evidence before the Ecuador court supports a finding of liability against the company. LBG's report, commissioned by the government of Ecuador, has been turned over to an arbitration panel hearing a related dispute over the pollution. Donziger is submitting it as evidence in the RICO trial to help prove the judgment was not obtained by fraud. (Paragraphs #48, 59)
  • Donziger said the preparation of the expert report of Dr. Richard Cabera was "fundamentally consistent with Ecuador law, custom, and practice as it was occurring" in the case against Chevron. While Chevron tries to focus attention on the report, Donziger said it is irrelevant given that the Ecuador court excluded it. He also said there was some confusion surrounding the preparation of the report but that the science underlying it remains valid and that excluding it as evidence amounted to a "draconian" sanction against the rainforest communities. It is Donziger's most detailed comment yet on that issue. (Paragraphs #91 thru 106)
  • Donziger also described how Chevron's own lawyers publicly called many of the oil company's own court-appointed experts "independent" even though they paid 100% of their fees and worked closely with them, just as lawyers for the plaintiffs did when referring to Dr. Cabrera. Chevron has claimed Donziger was trying to mislead the public when he called Cabrera "independent" but Donziger says the term, based on what he knows today, is accurate. (Paragraphs #79 thru 90)
  • Donziger suggested that lawyers on the plaintiff's team made some minor errors typical in a contentious and long-running litigation, but that those errors paled in comparison to the deeply corrupt acts engaged in by Chevron to sabotage the trial. Whatever errors were committed did not come close to amounting to fraud, as found by Ecuador's courts, Gowen said. Although Judge Kaplan has tried to exclude evidence of Chevron's corruption, Donziger is trying to bring it in as evidence of his state of mind.
  • Donziger again made it clear – as he did in a sworn declaration submitted to Kaplan's court last March – that he did not bribe a judge in Ecuador and that Chevron's star witness who so alleges, Alberto Guerra, is corrupt and a liar. Donziger said Guerra's testimony is a "massive lie" at the core of Chevron's case. A motion to strike Guerra's testimony is pending before the court.