Environmentalists, some Amazon residents angry at government decision to clean up oil pollution

Mar 4, 2019

The Amazon Defense Front (FDA) demanded on Thursday that the Government of Ecuador refrain from cleaning up Chevron’s oil pollution so that the transnational company can be held responsible for its environmental damages.

Amazon Defense Fund spokesman Agustin Salazar, right, criticizes decision to begin oil clean-up.

The Minister of Hydrocarbons, Carlos Perez, announced that he asked the Attorney General’s Office to authorize the state-owned company Petroamazonas to clean up the biggest oil disaster in Amazon’s basin history.

The Attorney General’s Office gave its consent “because all the evidence that has been taken [for the litigation] has already been executed,” Perez said and adding that the cleanup work will begin this year. Some of the affected population, however, reacted with indignation to these announcements.

During a press conference in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, the FDA representatives maintained that they do not oppose environmental remediation but indicated that Chevron’s damages “go much further” than those indicated in the last ruling issued by an arbitration tribunal, which exempted the oil company from liability.

“It is propagandist to say that Petroecuador is going to do the environmental remediation. If there is a sentence that condemns the offender to pay, the logical thing is that the government helps us to collect [the indemnization],” Agustin Salazar, a lawyer and member of the FDA legal team, said.

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The litigation between Ecuador and the transnational oil company began in 1993 when indigenous communities denounced that Texaco’s oil waste was being accumulated in the Amazon since 1964.

According to a 2011 ruling issued by an Ecuadorian court based in Lago Agrio city, the transnational company had to pay compensation of $9.5 billion to the affected indigenous peoples and communities.

FDA leaders stressed that this amount was “laughable” with respect to the damage caused, whose actual remediation would require about $100 billion.

In addition, they stressed that the sanction is focused on material damages without taking into account the effects on the inhabitant’s lives.

“Regarding the remediation of human liabilities, there is no pact or commitment,” Hermen Chavez, a FDA representative, stated while criticizing President Lenin Moreno administration’s decision, as “indigenous peoples were not consulted on anything.”

After rejecting the 2011 Ecuadorian court ruling, Chevron filed a lawsuit at The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration, which ruled in favor of the transnational corporation in 2018, arguing that the Lago Agrio’s court ruling presented irregularities related to fraud, bribery and corruption.
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Credit: Telesur, www.telesurenglish.net

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