Death Threats for Lawyer Suing Over Chevron's Toxic Legacy
"They said to me: 'Think very carefully about what you are doing, because it would be a shame if something happened to you and your family.'"
The lawyer representing villagers in Ecuador suing Chevron for its toxic legacy in the Amazon says he has received multiple anonymous death threats, The Guardian reports Wednesday.
"People are constantly following us in Ecuador," Juan Pablo Saenz, the Ecuadorian lawyer, told The Guardian. He reportedly said that he has received two death threats over the phone. "They said to me: 'Think very carefully about what you are doing, because it would be a shame if something happened to you and your family.'"
Damages of $18 billion were awarded by the Ecuadorian courts in 2011 after villagers sued over the activities of Texaco, which was acquired by Chevron in 2001, including decades of contamination and pollution of the Lago Agrio region in northeastern Ecuador, which has led to a spike in cancer, reported birth defects and ongoing devastation of the environment. Between 1964 and 1992, the oil giant dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste and spilled millions of gallons of crude oil on over 1,700 square miles of land.
The damages were cut to $9.5 billion by Ecuador's highest court in November. Yet, Chevron has repeatedly refused to pay the fine on unproven charges that the trial was corrupt and has removed most of its assets in Ecuador in an apparent bid to avoid paying. Earlier this month, a US judge ruled in favor of Chevron's claims of corruption, declaring that claimants cannot pursue damages through U.S. courts.
Last year, a Canadian court ruled that indigenous and farmer communities in Ecuador can seek enforcement in Canada of $9.5 billion owed to them.
Saenz, who now has the protection of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission along with the other lawyers, told The Guardian."We will win this fight, however long it takes. We want to show that if poor communities organize, they can get justice," Saenz told The Guardian.