Anti Chevron Day, on May 21 to commemorate the ‘Amazonian Chernobyl’ that went unpunished

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by Diego Battistessa

On May 21st for dozens of association and trade union acronyms, social movements, indigenous ethnic groups and thousands of people all over the world, is the international day #AntiChevron.

Chevron today it is one of the largest oil multinationals in the world, a company different from the one we remember at the time of “Seven Sisters” of oil. After purchasing Gulf Oil in the 1984 and later merged with Texaco, today Chevron Corporation is together with ExxonMobil the leading actor in the United States of America on oil. But why is there an international Anti Chevron day?

The events date back to the intervening period between 1964 and 1990, when Texaco (which as mentioned in 2001 was purchased by Chevron) was responsible for oil extraction in Ecuador in the province of Sucumbios is Orellana. During this long span of almost 30 years, it has been proven that the US company poured 71,000 million liters of waste oil and 64 million liters of crude oil into 1000 small pits open 3/4 meters deep in an area covered by over 2 million hectares of Ecuadorian Amazon. To give a dimension of the ecological disaster that has occurred, it is possible to make a comparison with what happened in the Gulf of Mexico between 20 April and 19 September 2010, when an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon, owned by the British Petroleum, caused an ecological catastrophe. In that accident they escaped 780,000 m³ of crude oil while in Ecuadorian Amazon the toxic waste produced by Chevron-Texaco amounted to 68.140.000 m³, therefore 87 times greater.

In 1993 (a year after Texaco abandons Ecuador) the local population organizes and creates the “Amazon Defense Front” to ask for environmental damage to be paid and for communities and people who suffer the effects of contamination. Thus began a long and tortuous process involving the lawyer and human rights defender Pablo Fajardo Mendoza plead the claims of the Ecuadorian victims brought together by the 2012 under the initials of the UDAPT (Union of Persons Victims of Chevron-Texaco Activities) against the US multinational.

In 2013 the Ecuadorian Supreme Court of Justice ratifies the previous sentences in favor of the victims and grants compensation for 9.5 billion dollars that Chevron will have to pay. However, the sentence to date has produced no results and Udapt (the organization formed by the indigenous peoples Siona, Siekopai, Kofanes, Kichwas, Shuar together with the settlers) continues its struggle to raise awareness of the international community and induce Chevron Corporation to pay what due.

The Chevron-Texaco case is also known as “the Amazonian Chernobyl” and today more than ever, efforts to preserve the Amazon rainforest make it current. The Synod on the Amazon, strongly desired by Pope Francis in autumn 2019, has also re-lit the spotlight in Italy on the conditions of the Amazonian indigenous peoples, on the necessary due diligence of companies in terms of environmental protection and human rights (Ruggie Principles 2011) and on the responsibility of states to protect ancestral communities strongly linked to the territory.

If on the one hand indigenous peoples are not alone in facing this legal battle that has lasted for 27 years, on the other hand it is true that they do not have the economic means to bear all the necessary expenses. Many fundraising campaigns have been launched to support the Udapt representatives who in the meantime have received, Pablo Fajardo in the first place, several death threats and intimidation.

“Justice has proved us right, because we have truth as our ally. We will continue our struggle until our desire, the repair of our home, of Mother Nature, becomes a reality, only there will we see true justice. When no other human life, plants or animals die from the contamination left by Chevron ” says Humberto Piaguaje, president of UDAPT (Unión de Afectados y Afectadas por las operaciones de la petrolera Texaco).

Again, as often happens in the Latin American region, we are called to active vigilance to drive away the specter of impunity looming over the lives of the most vulnerable communities. Of those whom the first inhabitants of ABYA YALA (the name that indigenous peoples give to the American continent) and custodians of the Pacha Mama (Mother Earth).

* Professor and researcher at the “Francisco de Vitoria” Institute of International and European Studies – Carlos III University of Madrid. Latin American specialist in International Cooperation, Human Rights and Migration. www.diegobattistessa.com

In photo: Rigoberta Menchu ​​visits an area affected by Chevron-Texaco contamination (EFE / Jose Jacome, 2015)

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