Deaths, Illnesses & Other “Irritant” Problems Stack Up As US Oil Giant, Chevron, Denies Justice For Ecuadorians

Connections Between Julian Assange, Chevron, Trump, Paul Manafort, Ecuador President Moreno, and a US Judge & US Ambassador

My deceased mother, who grew up on a tenant farm in Mississippi, often said death is the solution to serious problems, especially when powerful and influential people are in control of our lives.

Ain’t much the everyday person in the Deep South can do about it, she said.

She died the same year the US oil giant, Chevron, filed a counter-lawsuit against 30,000 poverty-stricken Ecuadorians, living a bit more South of her, in the Amazon rainforest. I hope her counsel to me was and remains wrong.

Recent news about several powerful and influential players — such as Julian Assange, Chevron Chairman Michael Wirth, Ecuador’s President, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, a US judge and a US ambassador — are part of a larger, disturbing story about how deaths, illnesses and other “irritant” problems are stacking up against the Ecuadorians, as we all get closer to the grave.

Julian Assange recently got the boot from the Ecuador embassy in London. This made governments in Ecuador, the UK, the US and some other countries extremely happy.

Julian Assange of Wikileaks

Assange obviously is not so happy, but Ecuador President Lenin Moreno is celebrating because he may now sidestep corruption allegations exposed by Wikileaks and/or Assange after former Ecuador President Rafael Correa resigned and Moreno, Correa’s first vice president, won his seat.

Correa allowed Assange to hang at the embassy for seven years, but Moreno pushed him out when promised at least $17.2 billion in foreign investments, either for his economically-struggling country or for himself. Chevron likely played an important role.

Moreno’s agenda is to restore Ecuador’s economy and, as a result, his own reputation.

Enter stage left (or maybe right).

Five years ago, a U.S. federal judge, Lewis Kaplan, found the Ecuadorians and their lawyers guilty of fraud and bribery after they won a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron in Ecuador’s courts for deadly oil contamination. Chevron and Kaplan quickly bonded, and both are working as a team to save themselves from growing evidence of lies about their fight to avoid responsibility for a five-decade-old environmental disaster in the Ecuadorian rainforest that has killed or harmed thousands of poor Indigenous Ecuadorians and villagers.

U.S. Federal Judge Lewis Kaplan
Chevron Chairman Michael Wirth
Ecuador President Lenin Moreno

The Ecuadorians, their lawyers and supporters are perplexed by Moreno and a partnership of sorts with Chevron. Moreno recently praised a $7 billion investment in Ecuador coming largely from members of the Americas Society-Council of the Americas organization. The AS-COA’s website describes its mission as “uniting opinion leaders to exchange ideas and create solutions to the challenges of the Americas today.”

That sounds terrific — bringing together “opinion leaders” from countries near each other to solve problems. Most of these leaders, however, represent many US corporations that will indeed help solve problems, if one of their own problems gets solved along the way.

Corporate membership in the AS-COA includes the most despised oil company in Ecuador, Chevron, and the law firm Gibson Dunn that, in addition to its membership, also represents Chevron in the 27-year-old legal battle filed against it by Indigenous Ecuadorians and villagers suffering from the massive oil contamination dumped by Texaco, now owned by Chevron.

Ecuadorian nurse Rosa Moreno in her health clinic in San Carlos, Ecuador. She passed away in 2017 from cancer.

Chevron has not paid a dime of the $9.5 billion judgment award for cleanup and the building of hospitals. The only recipients of significant amounts of money from Chevron are thousands of US and foreign lawyers to protect the oil giant against the Ecuadorian litigation with a counter-lawsuit against them and their lawyers.

During a May 2018 AS/COA co-hosted conference in Ecuador, the government announced that it expected “to receive investments of 7 billion dollars between 2018 and 2021” — almost 90 percent of what Chevron now owes for destroying the Ecuadorians’ environment and their lives. And, we also have learned that another $10.2 billion in IMF loans is making its way to Ecuador. The United States not only controls the largest share of the International Monetary Fund, but also pays for the bank’s overhead, a bill that amounts to over $164 billion annually.

How much of the $17.2 billion has been made possible with Chevron’s help? Did Chevron help Moreno collect investments as a way to try and convince him to close down the Ecuadorians’ litigation by threatening no financial assistance from US-supported entities and companies? In 1993, the Ecuadorian people brought the lawsuit, not their government. But, Moreno a few weeks ago announced he would spend $10 million for a contamination cleanup — enough money to pay for one or two oil pits out of a thousand or more.

Was this Moreno’s way of “cleaning up” the pollution to clear Chevron of any responsibility?

Paul Manafort, former Chair of Trump campaign
Ivonne Baki, Chevron lobbyist & former Ecuador Minister of Commerce

The “highly-disrespected” Paul Manafort, in prison now for a laundry list of crimes, was once a lobbyist for Chevron in the Ukraine. He likely introduced Chevron to the newly-elected Moreno in February 2017, when Manafort made a trip to Quito. Many national media outlets described the trip.

Arranging the Manafort meeting was Ivonne Baki, a notorious former Minister of Commerce in Ecuador and a longtime Chevron lobbyist who repeatedly has tried via unethical means to help the company extricate itself from the Ecuadorians’ lawsuit.

The meeting also took place at a time when several Trump Administration officials had urged Ecuador’s government to try to eliminate the oil giant’s liability as part of a general “re-set” of bilateral relations between the two countries.

The United States Ambassador to Ecuador, Todd Chapman, recently called the Chevron liability an “irritant” that affects relations between the two countries. So the deaths and illnesses of poor Ecuadorians is just an “irritant” or is Chevron’s problems with the massive contamination lawsuit the “irritant”?

US Ambassador to Ecuador Todd Chapman who called the Ecuadorians’ lawsuit an “irritant”.

Will Moreno, with his incoming cash, clean up all of the pollution and improve the health of Ecuadorians living in the contaminated rainforest? Does the foreign “investment” of $17.2 billion in Ecuador help the Ecuadorians in the rainforest or just in the government capital of Quito? Does it also help Chevron finish its war with the Ecuadorians and their lawyers and supporters who have worked for almost three decades to restore the lives of Indigenous and poverty-stricken Ecuadorians? More about this here.

Are Chevron and Moreno partners now? Will Ecuadorians accept such a partnership with a US company that harmed and killed their family members and friends? Will any of the money in investments help cleanup the massive oil contamination in part of Ecuador’s rainforest?

One of a thousand unlined oil pits that drain into streams and on land, contaminating the source of food and drinking water. Texaco, now owned by Chevron, built them all.

Chevron likes to say Texaco cleaned up its own pollution. But pouring dirt over a small percentage of 1,000 huge pits of toxic oil only hid, not cleaned, the contaminated pits. Texaco, the first energy company to drill for oil in Ecuador, developed economic relationships across the country while making money, polluting the rainforest and killing and injuring the Ecuadorians, many Indigenous, as a result of Texaco’s intentional spoiling of land and water.

Chapman’s “irritant” problem isn’t about Chevron’s bad temperament. The real “irritant” is the health condition that brown and black Ecuadorians must live with, even today, because Chevron has refused responsibility for the contamination it bought from Texaco.

Does the powerful and influential care? The US judge? The US President? The US Ambassador to Ecuador?

Our President pretends to be extremely concerned about the conditions that people of color face on the border between Mexico and the US, as well as in Venezuela. But, no one in our government speaks on the behalf of brown and black Ecuadorians. Even President Obama said very little. The US news media has either tired of the legal battle or been intimidated into silence by Chevron.

Meanwhile, Chevron’s legal argument is worse than wrong because it is based solely on invalid evidence paid for by Chevron in Kaplan’s court; see here if you want to read more. Chevron has subpoenaed and deposed dozens of lawyers, fundraisers and supporters to pressure them to stay away from the case, accusing them of bribery, fraud, lying or just being stupid.

With Kaplan’s support, Chevron has taken the Ecuadorians’ evidence of contamination and buried it in a US court.

Many Americans may no longer admire Assange, including the Government of Ecuador. He may have broken laws. He may have sexually abused two women in Sweden. A court somewhere may decide.

The Ecuadorians, though, have not broken a law anywhere, despite what a U.S. federal judge thinks. The truth is found in the 1,000 toxic pits in the rainforest and the grave sites of dead Ecuadorians.

A picture of two Ecuadorian family members who died from cancer in drilling area in rainforest.

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Karen Hinton

Karen Hinton

I am the author of Penis Politics: A Memoir of Women, Men & Power. I also worked for several Democratic politicians as press secretary and in public relations.