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Ecuadorans block Chevron-Texaco oil pipeline construction


Last month in the Ecuadorian Amazon provinces of Sucumbios and
Orellana thousands of striking construction workers and local
residents protesting against the new oil pipeline were attacked by
the country’s armed forces.
Three children were killed by
asphyxiation from tear gas, close to forty people were arrested
and over three hundred people were wounded after the military
crackdown ordered by President Gustavo Noboa. Demonstrators
occupied over 60 oil wells and 5 refineries-halting all
construction on the pipeline bringing oil production to a near
standstill and erected roadblocks. Nearby in the highland cloud
forests of the Mindo, people continue to put their lives on the
line by tree-sitting to block the pipeline’s passage. The
government declared a state of emergency for the provinces in
defence of the oil multinationals, immediately suspending civil
rights, and invoking the military to break up the demonstrations
while the local radio stations were kept off the air.

Meanwhile on Monday Indian tribal leaders from Ecuador began the
lengthy and expensive process of taking Chevron-Texaco to the US
courts. This groundbreaking environmental class-action lawsuit,
the first filed by foreigners in a U.S. court, is being watched
closely to see if federal courts find American corporations
accountable to crimes abroad.

“We simply want Chevron-Texaco to pay to clean up the damage it
caused.” The lawsuit asserts that Texaco installed defective
drilling technology that led to the spillage of millions of
gallons of toxic wastewater over a 20-year period. Rather than
pump the poisonous water back into the ground - as is the industry
standard, and as Chevron-Texaco does in the United States - they
dumped it into hundreds of unlined pits. From the pits, the
wastewater contaminated with oil and heavy metals slowly poisoning
the rivers and wetlands of Ecuador.

“To Chevron-Texaco, the clean-up costs represent a small fraction
of its annual profits,” said prosecuting lawyer Joseph Kohn, “To
our clients in the Amazon, this is a matter of life or death.

” Texaco and Occidental Petroleum have extracted more that $60
billion dollars worth of oil from these provinces in the last 30
years, yet 90% of the region’s population lives in poverty.
Despite the huge profits from oil the locals surprise, surprise
have seen none of the loot and all of the pillaging has left them
impoverished and sick with cancer.

* At the end of last month a court gave the go ahead for the
families of Ken Saro-Wiwa to take Shell/Dutch Petroleum to court
for participation in crimes against humanity, torture, summary
execution, arbitrary detention, cruel, inhuman, and degrading
treatment. Environmentalist activist and writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, and
eight other Ogoni activists were hanged by the Nigerian military
government in 1995. The “Ogoni Nine” had opposed Shell’s pollution
and oil development in the Niger Delta. Saro-Wiwa told the
military tribunal that sentenced him to death, “Shell is here on
trial. The Company has, indeed, ducked this particular trial, but
its day will surely come...”

Judith Chomsky, Attorney for the prosecution commented , “Shell
had direct involvement in human rights violations against the
Ogoni people. Any company that profits from crimes against
humanity should be brought to justice wherever they are.” Lawsuits
have also been filed against Exxon-Mobil by people from Indonesia’
s embattled Aceh province, Members of ethnic minorities in Myanmar
(formerly Burma) against Unocal And Chevron-Texaco (again) by
other Nigerian groups:



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