The Ecuadorian lawyer representing small farmers in the Chevron oil pollution case says he has received death threats.
“People are constantly following us in Ecuador,” said lawyer Juan Pablo Saenz, who told the Guardian newspaper he has received two anonymous death threats by phone. “They said to me: ‘Think very carefully about what you are doing, because it would be a shame if something happened to you and your family’.”
He does not know who made the threats. Lawyers working on the Chevron case in Ecuador – known as the “Amazon Chernobyl” – now have protection from the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.
In an historic judgment three years ago, an Ecuadorian court ruled that Chevron should pay $18 billion in damages for pollution in north-eastern Ecuador. The court subsequently reduced damages to $9 billion.
But earlier this month, a U.S. district judge found that “corrupt means” had been used to persuade the Ecuadorian court to reach that verdict. The U.S. judge said the claimants could no longer pursue their claims for damages in U.S .courts, though the campaigners said they will appeal the decision.
The judge said the corruption claim was baseless. He said the key witness in the U.S. trial was a former Ecuadorian judge, Alberto Guerra, who has received more than $10,000 a month from Chevron. The oil company paid for him and his family to emigrate from Ecuador to the U.S., court documents show.