May 09, 2007

Ecuador President Expresses Anger With Chevron

President Rafael Correa of Ecuador ventured deep into the country’s Amazon jungle to express his anger towards the Chevron Corp. Chevron is currently on trial in Ecuador for allegedly failing to clean up billions of gallons of toxic wastewater.

The News-Sentinel reports that Correa is a U.S.-trained economist in power since January, who is the first Ecuadorian president to support the estimated 30,000 settlers and Amazon Indians who are currently suing the U.S. oil company.

Correa has accused the company of causing 30 times more damage than the 11-million gallon Exxon Valdez spill off the Alaskan coast in 1989.

Farmers have reported that the oil residue has kept them from cultivating their land and caused stomach and skin ailments among residents in the area.

The News-Sentinel reports that the plaintiffs are seeking $6 billion in damages, alleging that Texaco dumped more than 18 billion gallons of oily wastewater into the verdant rain forest, and then failed to properly clean it up. Their evidence includes studies showing elevated cancer rates in the area.

Chevron maintains that there is no proof oil contamination was the cause of the cancers. It also says that Texaco, which ended its operations in 1992, followed Ecuadorian environmental laws in a $40 million cleanup that began in 1995.

Just three years later, Ecuador's government certified the cleanup as complete.

Correa still contends that there was no cleanup, and the damage was just covered with dirt.

Chevron has refused to settle out of court and is now worried that political pressure might threaten its chances for an impartial trial in Ecuador.