Humberto Piaguaje and Robinson Yumbo, indigenous from Ecuador's Amazon rainforest led a protest against Chevron outside the Petroleum Museum in Midland, Texas, where the company held its annual shareholder's meeting.
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Dozens of protesters including Ecuadorian indigenous and activists gathered outside the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum in Midland, Texas, to ask Chevron to take responsibility for the widespread contamination in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest.
The crowd, led by Humberto Piaguaje of the Secoya nation, and Robinson Yumbo of the Cofán nation from the affected communities, held banners and signs condemning Chevron’s refusal to remediate the pollution that its predecessor, Texaco, left in Ecuador after decades of operation in the country’s Amazon region. Texaco, which merged with Chevron in 2001, was found guilty and fined approximately $19 billion by an Ecuadorian court for polluting the rainforest. The decision was ratified by the country’s highest court but reduced the amount to $9.5 billion.
The company refuses to pay and instead sued the Ecuadorian plaintiffs and their lawyers under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which was designed to combat organized crime. Judge Lewis Kaplan, who presided the case, ruled last March that the Ecuadorian sentence against Chevron was obtained by fraudulent means and is unenforceable in the United States. The Ecuadorians and their lawyers appealed the decision.
Many of the signs read “Chevron you can run but you can’t hide,” alluding to the company’s decision to hold the annual meeting in Midland, a remote city located in the oil-rich region of the Permian Basin, instead of its San Ramon, California, headquarters, allegedly to avoid protesters.
Humberto Piaguaje told the local press that Chevron’s strategy to avoid its responsibility in Ecuador has rendered the affected communities as “double victims.” “Chevron-Texaco destroyed our home and our lives in the rainforest, and we are only trying to hold the company accountable for the destruction, but Chevron in return is using its power to make us appear as criminals and extortionists,” said Piaguaje.
Many of the protesters pointed to John Watson, Chevron’s CEO, as the force behind the company’s strategy in the Ecuador case.
Simon Billenness, an activist shareholder who was at the meeting, moved a resolution calling on the board to separate the positions of CEO and Board Chair currently held by John Watson. “By serving as both CEO and Board Chair, Mr. Watson is in effect his own boss,” said Billenness in an interview.
Mr. Billenness questions the company’s handling of the Ecuador case, and further stated that the ruling in New York by Judge Kaplan is not binding on any court outside the United States. “The judgment is under appeal and could be overturned. Its protection of Chevron’s assets outside the United States is very limited,” he said.
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