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.

Environment watch