Ecuador v. Chevron, Part II

A couple links my parents found on the lawsuit between Ecuador’s Amazon tribes and Chevron. First, a 2003 press release from Chevron; second, the transcript of a Democracy Now radio show that discusses Chevron’s actions in Myanmar, Ecuador and DC.

When I studied abroad at St. Andrews, I took an International Political Economy course with Ben Thirkell-White. In addition to mountains of information, one of the most useful tools I took away was the idea of contrasting narratives. Every story has at least two versions, every debate at least two sides.

Narrative number one:

For the last fifty years, big bad Chevron has been operating, with total impunity, across the globe. In Myanmar, they constructed a pipeline that has provided the financial life support to the vicious Burmese junta. In Ecuador, they carelessly dumped/leaked 18 billion tons of toxic waste into streams and lakes, contaminating the only drinking sources in an isolated area the size of Rhode Island. Now that it looks like the latter decision might pinch, Chevron has ramped up its lobbying efforts in DC, pressuring the Bush administrationto punish Ecuador if they don’t squash the case.

That’s a pretty compelling narrative, at least literarily speaking. It sounds like a plot for a Michael Moore film, or a companion to Blood Diamond.

Narrative numero dos:

In the tradition of American litigiousness, a handful of high-powered American lawyers have convinced a couple of Ecuadorian NGOs that they can pretty easily suck some cash out of Chevron for alleged contamination of lands in Ecuador by Texaco, which Chevron purchased in 2001. Ecuador’s schizophrenic political system makes it as likely as not that a friendly administration will award damages in an otherwise frivolous case. If the coin flips well, the lawyers and NGOs (not the indigenous folks, mind you) will be swimming in cash.

The key question, of course, is: How then to tell which is more accurate? More background information welcome.


Aug 12 update:

An article from CNN yesterday suggests that Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa is resisting involving the Ecuadorian executive branch in the case (suggesting that Chevron’s lobbying in DC has proven, or will prove, ineffective).

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