On eve of Ecuador pollution trial, Chevron (predictably) stalls




Yesterday, in what they’d like to have come off as a higher-road detour, Chevron made a big deal about dropping the fraud claims against one of the major funders of the plaintiffs in the Chevron/ Ecuador pollution case, the London-based Woodsford group. This will certainly be nice PR, but it might also be useful in that Chevron no longer has to squirm in court as overwhelmingly condemning evidence against them continues to flow, unchecked.

As Chevron continues to flail and cry like a child who refuses to pick up his toys, the fraud allegations against the fundraising group that has been supporting not even the Ecuadorian villagers, but their foreign lawyers, amounted to nothing more than yet another tantrum designed to stall the legal process. But Chevron didn’t even believe its own bluster, and so we see their last-minute swerve, dropping the ridiculous claims in this game of chicken.

The oil giant is continuing to claim, as they will in today’s appeal, that the legal team representing the poisoned and polluted Ecuadorian villagers acted like a crime syndicate in falsifying their evidence in court and paying off key players. If you can’t remember why that sounds familiar, it’s from the time that Chevron actually did act like a crime syndicate in falsifying their evidence in court and paying off key players. We’ve also had a lot of time between last year’s trial and today’s appeal to consider how Chevron’s star witness had trouble remembering which version of their story to tell, and how Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled in favor of Chevron without the aid of a jury or the plaintiff’s main body of evidence.

In case today’s trial doesn’t go well, though, Chevron can point media to the dubious consolation prize of these dropped charges. If that, too, sounds familiar, it might be from last year, when Chevron decided to “pardon” the Ecuadorian legal team at the last minute for, as Chevron claimed, filing “bogus” charges against them. The gall it takes to mount an “I know you are, but what am I?” defense amid such obvious evidence of wrongdoing is, really, quite astonishing.

"Chevron, pay what you need!", via Creative Commons

“Chevron, pay what you need to!”, via Creative Commons

That dropped charge, by the way, was the very one that would have necessitated a jury to be present for last year’s trial. Throw out the charges and the jury, and you get the judge who was able to rule unilaterally in favor of Chevron, in order to protect them from suffering even more “high legal fees” and “harm to its reputation.” Because while justice may be blind, it has a nose for brand loyalty.

Putting aside the ludicrous nature of Chevron appealing to every court it can, including the Hague, to protest the lack of fairness the corporate multinational has suffered at the hands of leukemia- and cancer-plagued indigenous farmers, the question remains as to why New York is where the trial is taking place at all. Why is a court based in New York able to stand in judgement of a foreign legal process? How disgraceful is it that the Ecuadorian villagers have had to go through foreign legal teams and financial backers to get justice for ongoing crime in their own land? If Chevron is so guilty that the fact that Ecuador is polluted because of them isn’t even in question anymore, what could possibly be left to argue?

If today’s decision lets Chevron off the hook again, corporate giants will look to Chevron’s playbook of denial for inspiration. Next up: How BP has the balls, literally, to deny ongoing Deepwater Horizon damage.

It’s all just too familiar.


Ariana Chomitz is a Kenyon College graduate with a B.A. in Anthropology. A specialist in international and experiential education, she has lived, studied and taught in urban Asia. She likes talking about culture, education and the environment.

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