By James Badcock
Ecuador has launched a campaign calling for Brad Pitt to scrap a film project about pollution in the Amazon that it claims will help to cover up destruction caused by oil giant Chevron.
Pitt purchased the film rights to Law of the Jungle, a book by U.S. journalist Paul Barrett describing the multi-billion-dollar pollution case between Texaco — since taken over by Chevron — and the Ecuadorean government.
But Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s leftist president, claims the book was published with financial assistance from Chevron as part of an international campaign by the company to “cover up the truth”.
“Now they’ve brought out a book, Law of the Jungle, all paid for by Chevron, in which we look like savages in a country without any separation of powers,” Mr Correa said. Chevron told Reuters it had no links to the book or film project.
Mr Correa announced on television the launch of a “worldwide campaign of tweets to Brad Pitt” using the hashtag #braddotherightthing, to tell the Hollywood star “how he is being used”.
“If he has any doubts, we invite him to come to Ecuador and scoop up with his hands the oil which still lies in pools 30 years later and which was left by that corrupt oil company Chevron-Texaco, continuing to pollute our forest”, Mr Correa said on TeleSUR earlier this month.
“Given the clarity of the facts, anybody who signs up to or collaborates with Chevron is an accomplice to that company’s corruption,” Mr Correa said.
It is not clear, however, how Pitt intends to use the book if he decides to proceed with movie production. In the past, he has voiced support for indigenous Ecuadorians affected by oil pollution and acquaintances say the book may simply serve as background information for a story sympathetic to those who claim they were injured by the pollution.
Law of the Jungle describe a long-running legal case in which representatives of indigenous communities from the Ecuadorian Amazon initially won a succession of court cases against Chevron for spilling 16.9 million gallons of crude in forest areas between 1964 and 1992, polluting the soil and local water supplies.
Ecuador’s highest court set damages at $9 billion, but the company refused to pay up and then went on to win a case in New York last year, convincing the judge that the Ecuador court verdicts had been fraudulently obtained.
The judge ruled that Steven Donziger, a lawyer representing the Ecuadorean indigenous communities, won the case against Chevron in Ecuador’s courts through bribery, extortion and falsifying information.
Recent information that may be considered in the legal proceedings, suggests that Chevron paid an Ecuadorian $2 million to testify in favor of the oil company. “Everyone has oily hands in this case,” a New York court-watcher said after the new revelation.
According to Fortune magazine, Pitt’s production company edged out George Clooney to buy the screen rights to the book. For that story, click here.
Mr Correa, a U.S.-educated economist who took office in 2007, is a vocal anti-imperialist and, since 2012, offered the country’s embassy in London as refuge for wanted Wikileaks chief Julian Assange, who Mr Correa has defended as a victim of political persecution for speaking truth to power.
The Justice For Ecuador organization, which campaigns on behalf of the indigenous communities affected, argues that any film based on Law of the Jungle “will spread lies and misinformation about the destruction caused by Chevron-Texaco in Ecuador”.
In an open letter to the actor attached to a petition on the Change.org website, Justice For Ecuador says: “A movie based on this book will support the strategy of Chevron-Texaco to evade its responsibility for the devastation it has caused in Ecuador and set a precedent for this kind of lack of responsibility for corporations globally.”
Mr Barrett said that Correa’s accusation that his book was financed by Chevron was “entirely untrue”.
“There’s not a shred of truth in it. It is appalling that the president of a country, Ecuador, would be using his power and influence to spread defamatory statements of that nature.”
Credit:The Telegraph, www.telegraph.co.uk