The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.
Five years ago this month the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster began in the Gulf sixty miles off the coast of Louisiana. Five years later the region is still suffering the consequences of the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
In the late 1960s the Texaco Petroleum Company got the concession to search for oil in a remote region of Ecuador. Eventually some 16 billion gallons of toxic waste were dumped in one of the most fragile ecosystems in the world, covering approximately 1,500 square miles, about the size of the state of Delaware.
I first wrote about the Ecuadorian oil field called Ispingo-Tiputino-Tamboccocha back in 2007 and again in 2012, see Los Afectados. As well, I had lived in Ecuador in the early 1970s. It is now an old story but still a new story and one that is ongoing.
A major difference, however, is that some forty years later the size of Los Afectados (The Affected Ones) has grown well beyond Ispingo-Tiputino-Tamboccocha, the country of Ecuador and the continent of Latin America.
On March 4, 2014 the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said that the $9.5 billion Ecuadorian judgment was—regardless of its merit--the product of fraud, racketeering, false testimony and bribery instigated by the plaintiff and its lead attorney, Steven Donziger, with the defendant being Chevron Corp. The judge stated that Chevron did not have to pay anything. It was “unenforceable.”
Some people have referred to this case, which has been going on for some twenty years, as “never-ending litigation,” even though Chevron has some very deep pockets with considerable political influence. According to an analyst with OilPrice.com, Chevron in 2013 in the fourth quarter alone made $4.9 billion.
As of April 2015 the plaintiff expects the case to come before the Canadian Supreme Court. A Chevron subsidiary is developing the Alberta tar sands. Chevron also has assets in Argentina and Brazil, which Donziger has indicated he will go after.
The way the world is
Lost in this endless litigation, political maneuvering and money exchanging hands, the fact is that no one is disputing that a large portion of the Amazon region in Ecuador has suffered serious environmental damage along with crops, soil and water having been contaminated and people getting sick.
Above all else it is the indigenous community voices in the region that may have been drowned out. Will many of them die before there is any conclusion to this case? Will their children have to contend with the same environmental damage?
A brief story
From the plaintiff—LosAfectados
From the defendant—Chevron
From Rolling Stone: SludgeMatch: Inside Chevron's $9 Billion Legal Battle with EcuadorianVillagers
About BP Deepwater Horizon: “The endless horrors of the BP oil spill”
A smoking gun: “ChelseaManning and the Deepwater Horizon Deaths”
I got mine
Was “evil” committed in Ecuador forty years ago? I suppose it depends on your point of view. Did the executives at Texaco know the difference between right and wrong back then? Did the military junta who ran the country care about what happened in the jungle?
Texaco was well aware of “best” practices. They chose to ignore them. I doubt the generals cared at all about indigenous people in the Amazon. They wanted the money. Can Chevron be held responsible for what Texaco did? The government of Ecuador “oversaw and certified” the successful completion of remediation by Texaco. Texaco became a subsidiary of Chevron in 2001. Chevron never drilled for oil in Ecuador. The case of course will play out.
The only real option is confrontation. Unless we afflict the comfortable everywhere, our actual future at the very least will be a dreary 21st century serfdom. We are Los Afectados across the globe and ultimately we have only ourselves to blame.