Posts Tagged ‘Ecuador’

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One more chapter in the biggest environmental justice case in history

February 15, 2011

Happy Valentine’s Day: a court in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, has ordered Chevron to pay $9 billion in compensation for damages wrought by Texaco during its time operating in a section of the Ecuadorian jungle about the size of Rhode Island. The case was filed in 1993 and surely won’t end with this ruling, as Chevron has already vowed to appeal. There are further legal complications given that Chevron has no assets in Ecuador and thus any reparations must be enforced by U.S. courts. Still, this is a pretty major step in the right direction.

Want more background on the case? I have two books to recommend: one academic and one photographic. And, of course, an excellent documentary.

Aside from that stuff, my uber-glib summary is: think the Erin Brockovich story, only with worse environmental degradation, worse health impacts, a much more complex legal environment thanks to cross-border issues, and – most importantly – vastly bigger power imbalances between the plaintiffs and defendant.

ADDENDUM: Here’s a breakdown of what the damages are supposed to go towards, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal:

  • $5.39 billion — To restore polluted soil
  • $1.4 billion — To create a health system for the community
  • $800 million — To treat sick people affected by pollution
  • $600 million — To restore polluted sources of water
  • $200 million — To recover native species
  • $150 million — To transport water from other sites to supply the community
  • $100 million — To create a community cultural reconstruction program
  • Total: $8.64 billion

Plus, I believe, a 10% legal fee that is supposed to go mostly to the Frente de Defensa de la Amazonía, the Ecuadorian organization that has taken the lead on representing the plaintiffs (and also helping organize them, and publicize the case domestically and internationally).

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What happened in Ecuador?

October 4, 2010

Was it an attempted coup? Was it just a protest gone horribly wrong? Does it leave Correa empowered (especially given the support he received from unlikely governments like Colombia, Peru and… the United States), or does it leave him more vulnerable to future possible coup attempts? Is the United States to blame for this given its late, weak condemnation of the coup in Honduras last year?

Fun things to read, organized by… well, it should be obvious:

I like Weisbrot and he says all signs point to attempted coup. I find Keating’s article mostly solid, asserting that democracy is alive and well in Latin America, although he has a bizarre paragraph in which he claims that U.S. opposition to the Honduran coup and a “quick return to democracy” there is a big reason “coups happen a lot less often than they used to” in Latin America. Huh?

When your only source of news is various media outlets, without any contacts on the ground, it’s hard to know what to believe. The only things I’m willing to concretely take away are: Correa seems firmly in power; the U.S. response was much more encouraging this time around than last year with Honduras, although I remain very skeptical of Obama administration policy towards Latin America; and there was a freaking gun battle to evacuate Correa from a hospital, and I doubt it even cracked the awareness of the vast majority of Americans, which is pretty amazing.