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They are also expecting Ecuador´s Constitutional Court to dismiss the Action of Protection filed by the oil company in 2014.
The legal battle against the oil company started 25 years ago. On November 3rd, 1993, approximately 75 people, among them Cofane, Secoya and Kichwa indigenous people and settlers from Orellana and Sucumbíos filed a complaint against Texaco-Chevron at the court of the District Court for the Southern District of New York (US), accusing it of polluting the environment and affecting the health of the environment “due to the use of cheap and obsolete technology during oil exploration works in the Ecuadorian Amazon (1964 through 1990)”.
Today this lawsuit represents over 30 thousand indigenous people and has gathered peasant organizations, women, human rights groups, youth, unions and neighborhoods that decided to support this demand and call on more social organizations of the region to create a coalition to support the process: the Union of People Affected by Texaco (UDAPT).
In 2011, an Ecuadorian court ruled against Chevron and ordered it to pay 9.5 billion dollars for damages. This unprecedented ruling was also used to prosecute the transnational company in Brazil, Argentina and Canada, but the courts of those countries argued that it was not possible to “validate” the Ecuadorian ruling: these decisions were made after the governments were pressured or bribed (for instance, with investment offers), such as the case of the Vaca Muerta oil deposit in Argentina, said Pablo Fajardo, lawyer at UDAPT, in an interview with Real World Radio.
A week before Chevron´s Shareholders Meeting, the company obtained two favorable rulings in Ontario (Toronto) and Gibraltar courts.
In order to enforce the 2011 ruling, “the plaintiffs have to resort to different countries with Chevron investments in order to validate our ruling and also enforce it. We chose Brazil, Argentina and Canada”, said Fajardo. Canada was the country where they had advanced the most, but Toronto´s Appeals Court ruled in favor of the oil company. “It is a way of mitigating the pressure we are exerting around the world”, said the UDAPT lawyer.
“The main obstacle for those of us who defend the environment, the land, indigenous and peasant communities, is the legal structure built by transnational corporations, who are represented by different subsidiaries or “holdings” aiming to hide themselves and avoid their responsibilities”, said Fajardo.
“At the hearing held on May 23, the people affected, represented by their Canadian lawyer Alan Lenczner, submitted evidence of the fact that Chevron Canada belongs to and economically depends on Chevron Corp. For this reason, they delivered wealth statements submitted annually by the US headquarters, where the company acknowledges ownership over all its subsidiaries, among them Chevron Canada. They also submitted documents that prove that the acquisitions made by Chevron Canada are carried out with the approval of the main office, and other documents that establish that Chevron Canada is an intermediary in the investments of the company in other countries, such as Nigeria and Indonesia. In addition, they revealed the existence of seven subsidiary levels, under which the multinational company aims to hide its capital and avoid any legal liability”, the UDAPT reported.
The lawyer stated that these judicial decisions are a consequence of the “bribery strategy” that transnational corporations such as Chevron use in the different countries where they are settled, as the case of Argentina when the embargo on the Vaca Muerta oil deposit –inhabited by the Mapuche people- was reversed in 2012, after the company offered to invest there in exchange of the Supreme Court of Justice dismissing the lawsuit filed by Ecuador.
“This is why we want to strengthen the passing of a binding treaty for corporations to stop circumventing their responsibilities”, since now the affected communities “are completely disregarded in their search for justice”.
Meanwhile, the Union of People Affected by Texaco is waiting for the delayed decision of the Ecuadorian Constitutional Court which must decide over the Extraordinary Action of Protection filed by Chevron Corporation in 2014. “Chevron has taken advantage of the inexistence of a ruling so far to bribe the Ecuadorian government”, said Fajardo. “They are offering to invest money in exchange of the government interfering with the Court´s decision in favor of the company”. On May 22, the Constitutional Court held a hearing among the parties and the UDAPT expects a definitive ruling in the next two to three weeks.
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