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Ecuador: Historic sentence against an oil company

“A sentence of the Corte Provincial of Sucumbios (Provincial Court of Sucumbios) in Nueva Loja orders ChevronTexaco, an American oil company, to pay US$9.5 billion to the Frente de Defensa de la Amazonía (Organization for the Defense of the Amazonia; or double that amount if the company fails to publicly apologize for ‘26 years of social and environmental destruction of the Ecuadorian jungle.’ The sentence argues that Chevron-Texaco failed to apply existing and available technologies to reduce the impact of its operations, deciding to reduce the cost of its operations instead.

“If the sentence is executed, it could become a milestone in protecting the environment and the right of communities to receive a compensation for ecological damages in their territories. Some people in Ecuador argue that this constitutes an opportunity for government action to prevent future environment damages from mining and oil companies’ operations. But Chevron-Texaco can appeal against the sentence. Even in the case of Chevron-Texaco accepting the sentence and making the payment, there are no mechanisms in the sentence to allocate these funds to mitigate the problems caused. Nevertheless, several local organizations have indicated that they will organize demonstrations and other activities to enforce the sentence and follow the whole appeal process.”

Implications from IFTF:
This may signal the beginning of a trend towards recognizing indigenous rights. This case holds sway throughout the world and can set the precedence for cases against not just oil companies but other extractive industries, and perhaps even biopiracy and cultural appropriation for commodification.

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FORO February 2011, page 8