Texaco pollution of Ecuadorian rainforest
On November 13, 1996, a federal district court in New York ruled
that it did not have jurisdiction over a suit brought by thousands
of Ecuadoran indigenous people against Texaco for pollution of
the Equadoran Amazon. The court ruled that the case must be heard
in Ecuador, if it is to be heard at all.
The indigenous people of Ecuador have charged that during two
decades of oil drilling in the Amazon, Texaco has dumped more
than 3,000 gallons of crude oil a day-millions of gallons in total-into
the environment. The indigenous people say their rivers, streams
and lakes are now contaminated, and the plentiful fish and wild
game which once made up their food supply are now decimated. They
asked in the suit that Texaco compensate them, and clean up their
land and waters.
Texaco denies the indigenous peoples' allegations, but its defense
in a New York court was that the case should be heard in Ecuador,
where the pollution took place. The federal judge agreed with
Texaco, finding that it would be easier to have the case heard
in Ecuador, where many key witnesses and parties are located.
No one, least of all Texaco, believes the Ecuadoran indigenous
will find justice in Ecuadoran courts, however. Unless the federal
judge's decision is reversed on appeal-a very unlikely prospect-the
Ecuadorans' case is effectively finished.
The Ecuadoran indigenous have undertaken a campaign to organize
themselves and publicize corporate and government predatory practices
in their territory. But given the dynamics of global power, justice
for the Ecuadorans will require cultural, as well as political
and economic, changes in the United States and other wealthy countries.
The burden rests now on industrialized country citizens to end
the double standard which permits Texaco and other multinationals
from escaping liability for the most heinous of abuses of people
living outside of U.S..
One way to get the message to Texaco would be to not buy its gas
until it treats people in the Third World better.