EspañolOn Wednesday, August 27, the Cuban regime officially announced their support for Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa’s campaign against Chevron. The specific legal challenge against the multinational began in 2003, over alleged industrial contamination in the Amazon region.
After Ecuadoran courts ruled that Chevron must compensate the government for social and environmental damages, the oil company responded with a civil suit in New York Federal Court in February 2011.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, under the Bilateral Investment Treaty (TRI), also ruled in favor of Chevron, forcing Ecuador to suspend the original sentence.
Cubans Visit Affected Zones
On August 4, Yolanda Ferrer, Cuban politician and president of the International Relations Commission, Rolando González, writer and director of the High Institute of Arts in Cuba, and Jorge Rodríguez, Cuban ambassador to Ecuador, visited one of the most heavily affected zones in Ecuador.
The tour of the damaged area was part of a campaign carried out by a global network of environmental activists, known as the “Dirty Hand of Chevron,” which aims to bring attention to the damage still present in areas where the company once operated.
Ferrer says she stands in solidarity with the legal challenge brought by Ecuadorian residents against the company, and accused Chevron of committing an environmental crime. She urged the oil company to pay for damages caused in the region.
“Cuba is well aware of the damages caused by Chevron-Texaco in Ecuador, specifically against residents of the Amazon who are suffering as a result of the oil company’s irresponsibility. They have violated the human rights of those that live in the area,” she said.
In July, Cuban deputy, Kenia Serrano, expressed her support for the campaign during a discussion held at the joint Cuba-Ecuador Parliamentary Friendship Group: “For us, this is the typical case where they want to turn the victim into the victimizer, and that is how they are playing it,” she said.
For their part, the Cuban Assembly and the president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People (ICAP), Kenia Serrano, said supporting Ecuador’s fight against Chevron is the duty of any legislator and any revolutionary: “The purpose of our position is to transform, create awareness, and to represent the best interests of all our people.”
— Última Hora EC (@ultimahoraEC) July 4, 2014
The Cuban ambassador also expressed continued support for the struggle of the Ecuadorian people. “More than to just verify, we have come here to express our support and solidarity with the government of Ecuador, and particularly the affected groups,” Rodríguez said, suggesting that corporations are often responsible for attempts to overthrow governments in Latin America.
“The cause must be known to prevent impunity and to impose international law, and so that multinational corporations have to fulfill their financial, environmental, and all other types of obligations,” said Rolando González, in an interview with HispanTV.
As part of its legal challenge, Ecuador claims Chevron used advanced extraction technology that prevented contamination in the United States, but failed to do so in Ecuador.
“The visit was very enlightening, because the experience of smelling and touching the oil is unique and very powerful,” said González.
As for the wildlife affected by the pollution, Ecuador’s Ministry of the Environment said that Chevron spilled 680,000 barrels of crude oil and burned 235 million cubic meters of gas into the open air.
The campaign against Chevron has gone global, and includes the participation of various members of the scientific and academic communities, as well as the support of actors and performing artists.
Among the many notable supporters to have visited the area thus far are musical artists Luis Eduardo Aute and René Pérez Joglar (Calle 13), the environmentalist and documentarian Alexandra Cousteau (granddaughter of Jacques Cousteau), actress Mia Farrow, and progressive French politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
The Latin American Parliament (Parlatino) has also expressed its solidarity with the Ecuadorian government. Elías Castillo and Gabriela Rivadeneira, the president and alternate president of the assembly, respectively, offered Ecuadorian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility Ricardo Patiño a document of support, agreed upon by the entire international body.
In 2003, Ecuadorian indigenous communities sued Chevron, accusing the company of exploiting the region and spilling more than 80,000 tons of waste between 1964 and 1992.
However, Chevron claimed they “had never operated in Ecuador.” In a statement on the company’s official website, Chevron explains: “Texaco Petroleum (TexPet), which became a subsidiary of Chevron in 2001, was a minority partner in a consortium of oil production in Ecuador along with the state oil company, Petroecuador, between 1964 and 1992.”
Chevron argues that once TexPet broke its partnership with Petroecuador, a cleanup of the affected areas was performed, in accordance with an agreement with the Ecuadorian government.
According to Chevron, the success of this operation was audited and certified by the government, releasing TexPet of all liability for environmental damage.
“Petroecuador, however, failed to conduct the cleanup it promised and has continued to operate and expand oil operations in the former concession over the past 20 years,” says the company.
Ecuadorian courts ruled in February 2011 that Chevron must pay US$9.5 billion in social and environmental damages. Chevron took the case to New York Federal Court in March 2014, where a decision against Ecuador was issued, concluding the court ruling in Ecuador was the product of fraud.
While the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague has already ruled that the Ecuadorian government released Chevron from liability, the company is now currently seeking to hold the Republic of Ecuador accountable through this same tribunal.