Chevron leaves trail of anger in Ecuadoran Amazonia

CAMPO AGUARICO 4, Ecuador.—Almost 30 years have passed since Texaco, now Chevron, ceased operations in the Ecuadoran Amazon, but campesino Wilmo Moreta still bears a profound anger toward the U.S. transnational.

Standing a few steps away from a bog contaminated with tar and crude left behind by the oil company after it ceased operations in Ecuador in 1992, Moreta told Prensa Latina that Texaco-Chevron was never concerned in the least about the inhabitants of the region.

Over the years, the agricultural worker has seen many local residents die of cancer after drinking contaminated water, while plants and animals are perishing from the same cause.

“When it rains, we collect the rainwater to drink, but in summer we are forced to use water from streams and rivers,” said Moreta, who took part in the initiation of the Dirty Hand of Chevron campaign promoted by President Rafael Correa to expose the environmental damage caused by the company.

The President, accompanied by the Mayor of Richmond, California, Gayle McLaughlin, and various members of his cabinet, put his hand in the pool left by Texaco in Aguarico and pulled it out covered in tar and crude.

According to Correa, there are more than 1,000 pools like this scattered throughout Ecuadoran Amazonia and the ecological damage, he affirmed, is 85 times greater than that caused by the British Petroleum spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

An Ecuadoran court ruled that Chevron must pay compensation amounting to $19 billion to approximately 30,000 people affected by its careless oil drilling practices, but the company refused to abide by the ruling and is now accusing the national legal system of corruption.

Correa stated that, as a policy, the state does not involve itself in lawsuits between private individuals, but it cannot allow the country to be discredited; hence the international campaign to expose the transnational which began operations in Aguarico.

But Moreta says he knows nothing about trials or compensation, that being a matter for lawyers. He just wants his compatriots to stop dying of cancer and to once again be able to cultivate his 20-kilogram bunches of bananas which he harvested from his farm before the arrival of Texaco. (PL)

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