Exposed: Chevron's Cover-up of Gross Environmental Abuses in Ecuador
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That affected me a lot, because, as a father, I think that if the company hadn't come to the Amazon, my two children wouldn't have died. That's the reason why I have to do absolutely everything I can to fix this thing, because, otherwise my grandchildren -- I have 13 grandchildren -- the same thing will happen to them. I have to fight for the company to solve this problem in the Amazon.
CS: How much time went by after you found out the water was polluted and before there was any other source?
EC: Ha! There still isn't. Last year, we got two tanks from Trudie [Styler]'s project [the Rainforest Foundation] that we're using to collect rainwater. But if it doesn't rain, we still have problems because there's no water; if it rains, we have water, but it's not enough because the community is big. Whenever we have water, everybody comes to the tank and then there's no more water. And as far as drinking water, we have it, but it's not really clean water. We know that the whole area is polluted, so even if we have drinking water [from springs], it's not completely without pollution.
CS: No one denies that your land has been terribly polluted. The only question in people's minds is who exactly is to blame. Is it just Chevron Texaco, or is it shared between Petroecuador and Chevron? How do you personally approach that issue?
EC: For me, that Chevron talking point is absurd. Chevron always says, We're not to blame; we left everything clean when we left. They say the guilty party is Petroecuador, which still continues, up to this day, exploiting petroleum. But that's not true. In 1974, Petroecuador didn't even exist. It wasn't for 25 years that Ecuadorian companies started drilling for oil in the Amazon. But in 1964, Texaco started working near us. That's why Texaco has to be responsible.
Last year, we came up here to Chevron's headquarters and they showed a Petroecuador video. But it was a joke because what it showed didn't belong to Petroecuador; it belonged to Chevron Texaco! To obfuscate their own guilt, they showed this Petroecuador video. I was born in 1959 and I know for sure that in 1974 Texaco was polluting the Ecuadorian Amazon.
I want to invite [Chevron's new CEO] John Watson to come down to the Amazon to see if there's pollution or not and who drilled the wells that still, to the present day, have open pits.
CS: So you saw pollution very early on?
EC: Exactly. We've seen pollution since the beginning -- not since the middle, since the beginning. When the company arrived and dumped for the first time, we've been living there and we know; and that's why, for us, the responsible party is Chevron Texaco.
CS: I wonder if, after this lawsuit, if you'd also want to sue Petroecuador like attorney Pablo Fajardo suggests in Crude? Or do you not see Petroecuador as having any blame in this?
EC: As the people who've been affected, we know that Texaco is the father of the contamination. That's why we have to go after the father first and then after the "children," like Petroecudaor, so that they can also take responsibility.
CS: How did you first learn about the lawsuit, and how did you decide to become a part of it?
EC: In 1993, some of us came to the United States, to Boston, as students to do an exchange program for different indigenous groups. During our 21 days in Boston, we met a lawyer, Cristobal Bonifaz. He had visited the Ecuadorian Amazon and he'd seen, as a lawyer, what a disaster it was. When we were in Boston, he said, Let's take advantage of you being here. Let's file a suit against Texaco just on the off chance that we can get them to clean up the mess they left in the Amazon. So I filed suit in New York, and that's the case that we're still fighting.