“Our People are Dying…We Can Wait No Longer” Ecuadorian Indigenous Leaders Arrive in Bay Area to Implore ChevronTexaco to Clean Up Toxic Waste in Amazon Region -- Leaders vow: “CLEAN UP. PAY UP. AND NEVER COME BACK!” as the petroleum polluter c

Amazon Watch

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Paul Paz y Miño, +1.510.281.9020 x302 or paz@amazonwatch.org

San Francisco, CA – As ChevronTexaco contemplates renewed operations in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest, indigenous leaders, representing 30,000 people, today traveled to San Francisco to tell the petroleum giant: “CLEAN UP. PAY UP. AND NEVER COME BACK!”

ChevronTexaco’s current seismic exploration in a remote region of Ecuador in the Quichua Community of Sarayacu (“Block 23”) comes more than three decades after it first entered the country to extract 1.5 billion barrels of oil from the pristine Amazon region known as the Oriente. In order to save millions of dollars – an estimated $3 per barrel – ChevronTexaco simply dumped the toxic wastes from its operations into the rivers, forest streams and wetlands, ignoring industry standards. The result is one of the most infamous social and environmental disasters in the history of industrialized society.

At a press briefing held at the World Affairs Council, the indigenous leaders called on ChevronTexaco to accept responsibility for the catastrophe that has destroyed their homeland and killed tens of thousands of their people. Twice the size of the Exxon Valdez and systematically and knowingly perpetrated by ChevronTexaco over a 20-year span, the toxic tragedy has exacted a staggering toll:

· Three indigenous cultures are on the brink of collapse
· The Cofan People, which numbered 15,000 when ChevronTexaco’s first well was built on their territory, now number less than 300
· 2.5 million acres of pristine rainforest have been lost
· 20 billion gallons of highly toxic wastewater was dumped into the waterways

“ChevronTexaco came to our home in Ecuador more than thirty years ago promising hope but ended up giving us nothing but misery,” says Toribio Aguinda, a leader of the Cofan, “Today we come to ChevronTexaco’s home in the United States to seek justice for our people.”

Spanning 1971 to 1991, ChevronTexaco’s original Ecuadorian operations represent one of the most heinous corporate crimes ever perpetrated by a U.S. company. At a time of renewed scrutiny of corporate accountability, ChevronTexaco has thus far almost unilaterally escaped its financial obligation to ameliorate its destruction, contributing merely $40 million towards an environmental cleanup cost that is widely valued in excess of $1 billion. Astonishingly, ChevronTexaco made approximately $6 billion in profits from its two decades of Ecuadorian operations.

Approximately 350 poisonous open pools still remain in the backyards of many indigenous and forest communities, laden with some of the most cancer-causing chemicals known to man including Benzene, Toluene, Arsenic Lead, Mercury and Cadmium. Studies by a Harvard medical team, British researchers and Ecuadorian health authorities have found eight different types of cancer in communities affected by Texaco’s operations: bile duct, stomach, larynx, liver, melanoma, leukemia, lymphoma, and cervical. In some villages near polluted water sources, the rate of cancer is 1,000 times higher than the historical norm.

“We will not roll over and let this corporate killer bury our families,” vowed Luis Ahua, a leader of the Huarani People. “We will achieve justice and we will muster every available tool and tactic – modern or traditional – to prevent ChevronTexaco from returning to Ecuador.”

In 1993, Ecuadorian plaintiffs representing 30,000 indigenous people and campesinos filed a class-action lawsuit against Texaco in U.S. court. The case was the first environmental lawsuit ever filed in the U.S. by foreign plaintiffs alleging that a U.S. corporation violated the law of nations by causing pollution abroad. At numerous junctures, ChevronTexaco sought to have the case dismissed, claiming that Ecuador – and not the U.S. – was the appropriate jurisdiction.

On August 16th, 2002, the Second Court of Appeals in New York subjected ChevronTexaco to the jurisdiction of Ecuadorian courts where the case is expected to be reinstated. The New York judge did not reach a decision on the merits of the case, and Texaco has never denied its liability in the district court.

"This was an environmental crime of epic proportions that has created a black plague of cancer through the Amazon where ChevronTexaco drilled,” said Luis Yanza, a community organizer for the Frente de Defensa de Amazonia, which represents many of the affected communities. “We will spend this week in the Bay Area joined with Amazon Watch and meeting with other organizations and affected communities to explore any and all options to make ChevronTexaco stop the killing.”

Atossa Soltani, Executive Director of Amazon Watch, said, “Not even today’s most disgraced CEOs and captains of corruption can lay claim to the devastation that ChevronTexaco leaders wreaked in the Ecuadorian Amazon. We will engage a dialogue with ChevronTexaco CEO David O’Reilly and remind consumers that ChevronTexaco’s gasoline boasts more Amazon destruction per gallon.”

The damage that was done by Texaco in the Ecuadorian Amazon is irreversible. But, ChevronTexaco needs to be held accountable for its irresponsible and deadly world operations. ChevronTexaco needs to clean up its mess and compensate those that it has affected.

For more info on the campaign or how to get involved further, check out www.chevrontoxico.org or www.amazonwatch.org or contact Amazon Watch at 510-419-0617 or at 310-456-9158

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