THE CHEVRON CASE IN ECUADOR: CORPORATE IMPUNITY
The Chevron-Texaco case, promoted in Ecuador by UDAPT (Union of People Affected by Texaco’s oil operations, including more than 30 thousand members) is an example of the structure of global impunity that benefits Transnational Corporations (TNC’s) in the violation of Human Rights worldwide and in particular in the Global South.
After 25 years of trial, despite the fact that the reparation award against Chevron (formerly Texaco) has been ratified at every level of Ecuador’s justice system, it has still not been enforced. Chevron (formerly Texaco) removed all its assets from Ecuador. The affected communities turned to foreign courts to homologate and enforce the Ecuadorian verdict. In Brazil, Argentina and Canada, their lawsuit was dismissed. As an attempt to stop impunity, the affected people have also filed without success a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Meanwhile, the 30,000 affected people continue to suffer serious health impacts. Deaths with cancer are 130% more frequent and the mortality risk is 260% higher than in other areas of Ecuador. Cancer represents 32% of all deaths, 3 times more than the national average. Miscarriages are 150% more frequent than in other areas. The rates of morbidity, dermatitis, respiratory, renal, hepatic and digestive troubles are more frequent in this area. On the ground, the more than 880 pits filled with oil left Texaco are still there. The rivers are still full of hydrocarbon sediments and contaminated by oil spills. For more than 40 years, these impacts have not been adequately remedied. The crime continues.
The Chevron case in Ecuador is not an isolated case. Transnational corporations can count on a system that guarantees their impunity worldwide. For affected communities, many obstacles raised by this system seem sometimes insurmountable. Chevron uses the legal structure of its subsidiaries to evade responsibility. The company uses its economic power to pressure on governments with investment offers. It uses its country of origin support and protection, bilateral investment treaties (BITs) and international arbitration systems. It takes advantage of a weak or non-existent international justice system to judge corporations. It uses domestic justice systems to pressure and turn them against those affected. It uses the media to put its truth and defame affected communities. Despite this reality, the affected communities grouped in UDAPT continue to struggle to break the system of corporate impunity and to access to justice.
DAMAGE IN FIGURES
- It is considered the worst environmental disaster in the history of Ecuador, and one of the most serious in the world. Between 1964 and 1990, the Texaco oil company spilled 80,000 tons of toxic waste and more than 60 million litres of oil in the Ecuadorian Amazon. With these actions the corporation violated the rights of the local population and destroyed an invaluable heritage of biodiversity forever.
- Two indigenous ancestral peoples became extinct, the groundwater was contaminated with toxic hydrocarbons and nowadays, it is enough to dig a few centimetres into the ground to bring to the surface remains of oil buried by Texaco.
- More than 235,000 pages of information have been accumulated, 80,000 chemical analyses were performed; more than 25 years of process.
- The Ecuadorian Court has confirmed the existence of 880 graves (similar excavations Olympic-sized swimming pools, 50 by 25 meters by two meters deep). Each pit filled with solid waste.
- Chevron employs more than 2,000 lawyers to defend and attack the affected population. So far the oil has spent more than two billion dollars in its defence.
Chronology of the judgment
- On November 3 1993, the legal proceedings against Chevron (formerly Texaco) were established. The demands were raised on behalf of the 30,000 affected indigenous and peasants in the Ecuadorian Amazon, in the Court of the United States.
- On August 16 2002, under the company pressure, the Court of Appeals of New York sent the case to Ecuador. The plaintiffs decided to continue the action and on May 7th 2003 it was submitted again in the Superior Court of Nueva Loja (Lago Agrio).
- On February 14 2011, Chevron was sentenced to pay 9.5 USD billion to be used for the repair of environmental, cultural and social damages caused in the Ecuadorian Amazon between 1964 and 1992.
- On November 12 2013, the National Court of Justice (Supreme Court) of Ecuador unanimously ratified the sentence for the damages caused by Chevron and its obligation to pay 9.5 USD billion.
- On September 4 2015, seven judges of the Supreme Court of Canada decided to accept jurisdiction to carry out an enforcement or “exequatur process” in Canada, upholding the legitimacy of the Ecuador Supreme Court´s decision on Chevron. This decision brought strong hopes to the indigenous communities gathered in the Union of People Affected by Chevron – Texaco in Ecuador (UDAPT) that justice could be achieved.
- On October 31 2017, the Court for Appeal of Ontario dismissed Chevron’s claim to order security costs to be paid by the affected communities. In May 2018 the Court for Appeal for Ontario ruled that the Canadian subsidiary cannot be held liable for the award against Chevron.
- On May 23, 2018, the Court of Appeals of Ontario rejected the demands of the affected people, arguing that Chevron Canada is an autonomous and independent entity from the parent company Chevron and therefore with no obligation to the Ecuadorian justice system. This represented another heavy blow for the Ecuadorian indigenous people, who filed an appeal contesting that decision.
- On June 27 2018, the Constitutional Court of Ecuador (CC) dismissed the Protection Action initiated by Chevron Corporation and ratified the reparation verdict against the company. With this sentence Chevron has no further instances to appeal the case.
- On August, 2018, an International Private Arbitration Panel issued an award in favour of Chevron. The arbitrators retroactively applied the BIT between Ecuador and the United States and found that Ecuador violated Article 2 of the BIT. In a clear example of abuse of rights and favouring the transnational, the arbitrators ordered the Ecuadorian State to annul the sentence that condemned Chevron to pay 9,500 billion dollars to repair the disaster in the Amazon; and to prevent the Ecuadorian plaintiffs from executing the sentence outside Ecuador. Finally, it ordered Ecuador to pay Chevron for the damage caused to the company by the victims’ lawsuit. These provisions are inapplicable in Ecuador. If the government tries to apply the arbitration award, it would be violating its own constitution, nullifying the constitutional rights of the 30,000 affected and openly favouring Chevron’s interests. In other words, the government would comply something illegal and illegitimate in order to break the legitimacy and rights of the affected communities and of nature.
- On April 4, 2019, the Supreme Court of Canada, refused to admit the appeal filed by the communities affected by Chevron -formerly Texaco- in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
UDAPT’s Website: http://texacotoxico.net/en/
- Twitter: @Chevron_Toxico / @Pablofame
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChevronToxicoOficial/
Also available in: Spanish