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Published on Saturday, January 16, 2010 by CommonDreams.org
Chevron CEO John Watson: Is the New Boss Same as the Old Boss?
Chevron has a new boss man, and in an ironic kick in the pants Chevron’s new CEO John Watson is the very man that orchestrated Chevron’s takeover of Texaco, and with it the 18 billion gallons of toxic waste water and 17 million gallons of crude oil deliberately dumped in Ecuadorian rainforest communities. Given Watson’s intimate understanding of Chevron’s toxic legacy there is no question he knows what is necessary to clean up their mess and compensate the communities that have been living with the effects of Chevron’s contamination for decades. In response to Watson's new tenure the Clean Up Ecuador Campaign has launched a global petition to Mr. Watson, with an accompanying video-message (Spanish / English) the affected communities of the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Watson is stepping into a mess that former CEO Dave O’Reilly left behind when he skipped out on the reeling company on 12/31. Unfortunately, judging the reaction by Chevron today in Houston where marathon runners had their free speech silenced, and comments attacking Amazon Watch's global petition in yesterday’s Sphere article it seems that Watson is committed to enabling the same negligence towards human rights as his predecessor. Watson may choose to define his tenure by continuing down the O’Reilly path that just last year had Chevron publicly aligning themselves with known felons, losing precedent setting refinery battles, being wholly rejected by the US Trade Representative, and being a lightning rod for a thriving climate justice movement at their front door.
However, dealt such a rotten hand Mr. Watson stands at the most opportune time for an oil giant’s CEO to actually step it up…or just step in it. RAN's newest campaign Change Chevron see that Watson holds an unmatched opportunity to right past wrongs and transform an industry from criminal to catalyst. Yet, there is a long way to go. Prior to this moment Chevron has not only ignored the communities they impact, they blatantly insult them. Chevron relies on lobbying and a brutal PR campaign to evade responsibility of, what experts call, the "Amazon Chernobyl". As a recent Independent article points out Chevron seems to be standing firm in it's refusal to pay any damages, even if ordered in a court. In fact a Chevron spokesman has promised a "lifetime of litigation."
Will Watson build a tenure on human rights or legal fights?
“It’s Human Right’s my Dear Watson”
In the above video, community members hope Watson's tenure stands human rights, asking him to visit Ecuador and address the oil company’s toxic legacy. The video and petition lead the calls being made for John Watson to take this new approach as CEO and to rectify the human rights and environmental disaster experts call the "Amazon Chernobyl."
Emergildo Criollo, a leader from the Cofan tribe, and rally cry for this weekend’s Chevron Houston Marathon where activists are running on his behalf, says in the video, “We don’t want to continue dying from cancer.” Criollo lost two sons to fatal illnesses after coming into contact with toxic waste-water dumped into Amazon waterways by Texaco. Mariana Jimenez, another community member living with Chevron's lifetime litigation strategy invites CEO John Watson to Ecuador and says that he “will be received well” and that they are only “hoping for a rational person”. Seems like a reasonable request. However, considering the last guy, rational has never been one of Chevron’s (or any oil companies) strong point.
Around the contaminated region, an area roughly the size of Rhode Island, there are thousands more cases like Emergildo and Mariana's. Joining with 30,000 other indigenous people and campesinos, they are plaintiffs in the landmark lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador that has the potential to change the landscape of the oil industry and catalyze a new era of accountability to the communities big oil operates in.
I’m pretty confident real solutions to the human rights violations and climate crisis are not going to come easily from Watson and Chevron. However I am confident that as pressure continues to boil over, the oil giant will be held accountable to their past, present, and continuing attempts to sell out communities and the climate for a cheap barrel of crude.