Last week Newsweek reported that Chevron is lobbying the U.S. Trade Representative to withhold U.S. trade preferences from Ecuador, to pressure the Government of Ecuador to interfere against a lawsuit brought by peasants in Ecuador seeking redress for the dumping of toxic oil waste in the Amazon. Incredibly, USTR confirmed that it was considering Chevron's request.
The attitude of Chevron towards democracy and the rule of law in Ecuador was summed up by a Chevron lobbyist:
"We can't let little countries screw around with big companies like this -- companies that have made big investments around the world."
Oregon Representative Peter DeFazio has initiated a letter of Representatives to USTR, urging USTR to reject Chevron's request, and to affirm that access to the U.S. market will not be used as leverage to interfere in Ecuador's legal process.
Last week, Chevron announced a second quarter profit of $6 billion -- an increase of 11% over the same period in 2007. It would seem that Chevron could afford to compensate Ecuadoran peasants for toxic dumping in the Amazon.
In 2006, Senators Obama and Leahy wrote to USTR, urging the Administration to let the Ecuadoran peasants to have "their day in court." That's otherwise known as "respecting the rule of law." An Obama spokesman said recently that the senator "stands by his position" that the case is a "matter for the Ecuadoran judicial system."
You would think, given that Senator Obama is standing by his position that the U.S. should not interfere in the case, Representatives who think that the U.S. government should respect the rule of law in Latin America would be willing to raise their voices.
Let's put this proposition to the test. Ask your Representative to sign the DeFazio letter.
Robert Naiman is Senior Policy Analyst at Just Foreign Policy.