Chevron Arbitration Ruling Against Ecuador ‘Completely Off Base’
September 18, 2018
Yves here. Due to having limited resources, we don’t spend as much time on smaller economies as I wish we could. This Real News Network story on Ecuador’s loss against Chevron seemed important in and of itself, and is also a compact illustration of how much the international order is skewed to favor multinationals.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: This is Dimitri Lascaris, reporting for The Real News from Montreal, Canada.
As the Real News has previously reported, in 2011, the courts of Ecuador rendered a nine point five-billion-dollar judgment against Chevron, one of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies. The Ecuadorian plaintiffs persuaded the Ecuadorian courts that from 1964 to 1992, Texaco, which was later purchased by Chevron, dumped polluted wastewater into open pits across vast swaths of Lago Agrio in the Ecuadorian jungle, contaminating the water used by locals. Locals call the area the Amazon Chernobyl.
Indigenous tribes have seen their cultures decimated by the pollution. Ecuador’s environmental judgment against Chevron is thought to be the highest ever to emerge from a court, but Chevron is doing everything it can possibly do to block collection. After Chevron sold off its assets in Ecuador during the trial there, the Ecuadorian plaintiffs sought to enforce the judgment and jurisdictions in which Chevron owns, directly or indirectly, substantial assets. Chevron has threatened the villagers with a “lifetime of litigation” and has vowed never to pay the judgment. So far, it has been true to its word. The plaintiffs’ attempts to enforce the judgement in The United States failed.
Early this year, the Ontario Court of Appeal rejected the plaintiffs’ attempt to enforce their massive judgment in Canada, another country in which Chevron indirectly owns substantial assets. Then, on September 7, an international tribunal found that Ecuador violated a treaty with the United States by allowing its court system to issue a nine point five-billion-dollar judgment against Chevron in this case. Now here to discuss this with us is Steven Donziger, a human rights attorney based in New York who has been representing these indigenous and farmer communities in Ecuador’s rainforest for more than two decades. He joins us today from New York.
Thank you for coming back on The Real News, Steven.
STEVEN DONZIGER: Sure, it’s good to be here.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: So, Stephen, echoing earlier U.S. court rulings, this international tribunal, which rendered a five-hundred-page decision in this case on September 7, said the Ecuadorian case was tainted by fraud and corruption and that the nine point five-billion-dollar judgment cannot therefore be enforced lawfully. The tribunal detailed conduct by a judge they called “grossly improper by any moral, professional and legal standards.” How do you respond to those statements by the tribunal?
STEVEN DONZIGER:They’re just, in my opinion, completely off base. If there’s improper court proceedings it was done by the tribunal itself. I think we need to take a step back and understand the big picture here. The communities in Ecuador won the case in their home country courts because Chevron insisted the trial take place there and accepted jurisdiction there and promised to pay any adverse judgment. As the evidence in that case mounted against the company- and I’m talking about tens of thousands of chemical sampling results from water and soil samples that showed massive amounts of pollution that were and continue to cause a slow genocide in Ecuador to the indigenous groups.
Thousands of people have been affected. Many have