On September 19th, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals order brought the oil-ravaged indigenous and rural communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon a step closer to winning an $18 billion dollar suit against oil giant Chevron for contamination in the rainforest region.
Previously, U.S. District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan placed an injunction on collection of the $18 billion after Chevron provided evidence that lawyers manipulated the legal system in Ecuador.
However, Wikileaks cables have been revealed that Chevron lobbied the U.S. government to kill the case.
According to the Amazon Defense Coalition:
Chevron engaged in a clandestine lobbying campaign of Ecuador’s government to improperly shut down the historic environmental case brought by thousands of indigenous persons where the oil giant was found to have contaminated the rainforest and ordered to pay $18.2 billion to clean up the damage, according to a series of cables written by U.S. government officials and recently disclosed by Wikileaks.
The diplomatic cables (see here, here, here and here) also reveal that Chevron and U.S. embassy officials in Ecuador enjoyed such a close relationship that the oil giant’s lawyers were tipping off U.S. ambassadors about their legal strategy before it would be revealed in court, said Karen Hinton, the U.S. spokesperson for the 30,000 Ecuadorians who recently won an $18.2 billion judgment for clean-up, despite efforts by Chevron to undermine the case.
The Ecuador court found that Chevron, from 1964 to 1992, dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste onto the ancestral lands of indigenous groups, causing an outbreak of cancer and other oil-related diseases
Ecuador’s Constitution prohibits government interference in the judiciary, so Chevron’s lobbying in effect was trying to coax Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa to violate the country’s laws to benefit the oil giant in a private litigation. The company offered to fund “social projects” in exchange for a government agreement to shut down the trial.
“These diplomatic cables reveal a shocking level of misconduct on the part of Chevron’s lawyers to undermine the rule of law in Ecuador,” said Hinton. “They also demonstrate the company’s extremely close ties to U.S. embassy officials in Ecuador who seemed open to helping Chevron shut down the legal case.”