Friday, 9 May 2003
Inter Press Service
Vol. 11 - No. 82 UN Journal

Oil Giant Lawsuit Signals Power of Third World Courts
By Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON, May 8 (IPS) ˆ Attorneys representing some 30,000 Ecuadorian Indians have filed a billion-dollar lawsuit against ChevronTexaco Corporation in Ecuador’s Oriente region in a case that could greatly boost the power of local courts in developing countries to hear complaints involving multi-national corporations. The case, which was filed in the oil town of Lago Agrio, charges that ChevronTexaco systematically destroyed the environment and homeland of a number of rainforest peoples through massive dumping of billions of gallons of highly toxic wastewater and crude oil from 1971 to 1992. In addition, the company left behind nearly 350 open waste pits, some just a few feet from the homes of residents, that sickened and killed hundreds of people and animals over the past three decades, claims the lawsuit.

The case, which has bounced around U.S. courts in the past decade, is being filed under a new Ecuadorian law that requires mining companies doing business in the country to pay for the costs of cleaning up pollution caused by their operations. California-based ChevronTexaco has insisted that it fulfilled all of its obligations under Ecuadorian law by paying 40 million dollars for a clean up that ended in 1998. “We have not seen the complaint, so we cannot comment on it specifically,” said
Chris Gidez, a company spokesman. “However, we believe that the statements and allegations made by the plaintiffs’ attorneys are baseless, outrageous and irresponsible. Since bringing their initial legal action a decade ago, the plaintiffs have not presented any credible and independently substantiated scientific evidence to support their claims.”

What makes the case potentially so important is a decision last August by a U.S. federal appeals court that the case should be brought in Ecuador, and that any final ruling and financial penalty imposed against ChevronTexaco by the courts there would be enforceable by U.S. courts. If plaintiffs were unable to effectively pursue the case in Ecuador, then U.S. courts could proceed with it here, added the decision. The unprecedented ruling appeared designed to ensure that plaintiffs would get their full day in court. Multinational corporations frequently prefer to have cases of this kind brought against them in local countries in order to take advantage of weak judicial systems that are susceptible to lengthy procedural delays and even corruption.

In those cases where a judgement is eventually rendered against them, companies then claim they did not receive due process and refuse to pay, counting on their economic weight in the country where they have been sued to ensure that the government does not move to enforce the decision. But with the U.S. courts retaining jurisdiction, companies could find their leverage substantially reduced. “This case has the potential to establish a new accountability for U.S. oil companies that think they can operate abroad without adhering to responsible environmental practices,” said Cristobal Bonifaz, the lead attorney for some 88 named plaintiffs.

“On the face of it, this is a ‘David versus Goliath’ battle. However, the United States court has leveled the playing field by ruling that a small court in a remote town of Ecuador has the same power over a 99-billion-dollar multinational corporation as a federal court in Manhattan,” he added. “This alone is a breakthrough.” The case is being filed at a time when U.S.- based energy and mining companies operating in Latin America are coming under growing attacks for the environmental and social damage their operations have caused. Projects, such as the Crude Oil Pipeline (OCP) in Ecuador, and the proposed Camisea gas project in neighbouring Peru have been so controversial that underwriters have had difficulty raising the funds needed to complete them.

In addition, Latin American courts are increasingly permitting “class actions” by workers against multi-national companies for environmental and health damages. In January, for example, a Nicaraguan court ordered Shell Oil, Dole Food and Dow Chemical to pay nearly 500 million dollars to 450 workers exposed to a pesticide that rendered them impotent. So far, the companies have refused to pay. In the opinion of the plaintiffs’ attorneys,

ChevronTexaco’s performance in the Ecuadorian Amazon region was particularly egregious. Over 20 years, the firm dumped almost 500 million barrels of wastewater containing crude oil and cancer-causing heavy metals, in addition to the open pits it left behind. “We believe that what ChevronTexaco did in the Ecuador rainforest was not only negligent, but might rise to the level of reckless behaviour,” said Joseph Kohn, another of the plaintiffs’ attorneys. “The company claims it was fine because it did not violate any of Ecuador’s laws at the time, but, at the time, Ecuador had no environmental laws governing oil extraction because it had no oil industry.” The actual complaint alleges that the company engaged in “negligent, reckless, deliberate, and outrageous acts” in the Ecuadorian Amazon by refusing to adhere to accepted standards of the oil industry to clean up toxic waste from drilling.

The waste pits now blanket much of the northern Amazon region, and their contents have leeched into groundwater and rivers that residents rely on for drinking water and bathing. One study of one small community by the London School of Epidemiology found that cancer rates were many times higher than historical norms and that larynx cancer in particular was found to be 30 times higher than the norm for males. The toll has been fearsome, according to the attorneys, with three indigenous tribes - the Cofan, Secoya and Siona ˆ especially hard hit. Many members have contracted cancer and died, and most of the rivers are so polluted that many others have left their ancestral lands.

The Cofan, who in 1971 - when Chevron first began operations on their land - numbered 15,000, have seen their population in the area fall to less than 300. For its part, ChevronTexaco stresses that its subsidiary, Texaco Petroleum Company (TexPet) was a minority partner in a consortium led by PetroEcuador, the state oil company, that its clean-up was certified by the government and that PetroEcuador continues to use the same practices in the region since TexPet ceased its operations there.

SEPT  2 2002

Dear John,

I got a few documents from Sarayacu yesterday, which I attach as txt-files. The english translations are made by myself, sorry if it is hard to read, I
tried to translate as much word-by-word as possible. If you could get some people to send protest letters, that would be great. Who knows, maybe even
the ChevronTexaco executives will be surprised to know what kind of criminals and swindlers they employ in Ecuador (see the press release).


1. All the associations present at the summit (Sarayacu, Boberas, Pucayacu, Santa Clara, Curaray, Canelos y Copataza), except that of Pacayacu which decided consult its members, decide to support the presentation of a constitutional protection lawsuit.
2. The participating associations decide to make a local, regional and national march in order to present our demands to the central government.
3. All the grassroot associations of OPIP unanimously decide to expel the company CGC and its subcontractors from the territorial circumscription of the Kichwa people of Pastaza.
4. No person of member of any community has got autorization to speak and negotiate without consultation in the name of the communities, much less to make decisions or sign any document by unilateral decision and with personal interests.
5. All the associations definitively reject all the divisionist manueveurs and intents to enter our traditional territories, in the Territorial Circumscription of the Kichwa People of Pastaza.
6. The grassroot associations of the organization autorize the Government Council of the OPIP to take legal actions based in the agreements and resolutions of the summit.
7. From this date, all the Territorial Circumscription of the Kichwa People of Pastaza is declared in state of emergency. Therefore, the presence of any elements foreign to our people will be considered an aggression and violation of the integrity and harmony of our peoples.
8. We totally reject the agreement signed on august 7, 2002, in the community of Pitirishca between the company CGC, the organizations FENAKIPA, AIEPRA, FENASH, and other communities, that do not represent criteria, of unity and of consensus among all peoples and indigenous nationalities of the province and the Amazon region.

Signed on august 24, 2002





The Kichwa people of the Association of Indigenous Communities of Sarayaku, TAYJASARUTA; is deeply concerned because of the permanent harassment and aggression by the corporations TEXACO, CHEVRON, CGC; and their consultant of community relations, DAYMI SERVICE S.A. With the purpose to convince, by any means, the people of Sarayacu, they have associated themselves with community criminals and swindlers, indigenous persons of dubious reputation and quality, whith a past in prison. These people use a subtle discourse of manipulation and have an experience of easy life in order to receive money without working, according to themselves because of unemployment and development to the benefit of the grassroot communities.

The people who stroll about with the discourses of heroes and defendors of the life and the valuable patrimony of the rainforest, who cheat and exploit persons and institutions, particularly foreign ones (appendix), are people paid and used by CGC and its consultant DAYMY SERVICE for the campaign of supposed benefits from the petrol exploitation. For this purpose they secretely gather signatures, their main activity is to visit each community, house by house, with a message of fraud and bribery; when they hand out for free to each one, expecially to the elders, rations of food; rice and canned food.

Other of the activities of the campaign without moral of these corporations and persons is to sistematically and sickly black mail leaders and officials with arguments like:

"what has the organization done, what have the leaders done, the leaders live eating in our name, the organization does not serve in benefit of the grassroots, for the development, for the culture, the OPIP has not done anything during these twenty years, enough corruption, no to community ecotourism, this gives no benefit, managed by the gringos, by environmentalists, married to gringos, the organization does not permit development, they have received millions of dollars that does not reach the grassroots, they must get eliminated, the community authorities do not represent us, we as grassroots must decide"

These actions have seriously affected the equilibrium of the families of Sarayaku, destroying the family harmony, bringing about division, threats and conflicts between communities, calumnies and manipulations, racism against leaders in a sick way, threats against leaders, the psychological consequences area: violence, confusion and instability of the community equilibrium and their inhabitants.

The persons, who supposedly represent the people of Sarayaku and other communities, sign a document in the name of Sarayaku for the exploration and exploitation of petrol in the block 23, dated PUYO, MARCH 18, 2002, directed to the Engineer Ricardo Nicolas, the General Director of the CGC where it, among other thigs, says the following:

"We support the unselfish actions for development of our grassroots by the comrades: Freddy Vargas and Antonio Moncayo, we are members of Sarayaku, we sign by our own rights the present document, with copy, to the Department of Energy and Mines, Petroecuador, Subsecretariat of Environmental Protection, Unity of Environment of Adm. Contracts and Petroleros of Ecuador."

The people who sign are:

TELMO GUALINGA (With the nickname Machín): Ex-Teniente Politico, Ex-Curaca, Ex-President of Sarayaku. Person who got used to bad habits when he was Teniente Político. All he did with the money he earned was to live an irresponsable life, wasting his salary and abandoning his family. He has lived based on debts, he cheated his community, he exploited the trust of his people, he is the direct responsible of the dissapearence of the material goods of the Office of Sarayaku, the objects were left in a pawnshop in the town of Shell.

He took advantage of airflights provided by the company in order to collect payment without autorization. He got accused for corruption by the communty, and at various assemblies he was asked to rectify his behaviours, without representativity he participated in various meetings, illegaly compromising the good reputation of the community and violating the internal statues of the community.

In march 2002, according to the internal regulations of the community, he was sentenced by the community to a drastic punishment, accused for theft, debts and desequilibrium of the community, in families where there is violence and even death; for calumnies against leaders and officials of Sarayaku. For these crimes he got imprisoned. In the early morning he escaped from the prison and threatened various community members with a gun, but later got captured again.

After a twelve hour trial he was released, under a sacred oath in front of his people, his children and authorities from the catholic church, he publicly promised to rectify his behaviour and abandon his activity, recover his family and work in a dignified way.

Today he continues working for the CGC and does not keep his oath. His family is left in absolute abandonment, he has got 9 children. He is considered one of the most dangerous persons in order to cheat and betray, encased in hypocracy without moral and principles, he has sworn to destroy the unity.

FRANKLIN SANTI: The main part of his youth he lived at the coast and in Santo Domingo in dangerous environments. Very little he has followed closely the efforts of the community in order to develop and find solutions to the multiple problems of the community. He does not even the know the history of the organization Tayjasaruta.

He has got a record of imprisonment, he spent two years in the prison of Ambato for having participated in a homicide. He finished his studies promising to change and work for the development of his community. He became a victim of Telmo Gualinga, manipulated by CGC and DEIMY SERVICE, which offered him a scholarship for higher studies.

IVAN MALAVER: From the village of Calicali; He has lived in permanent conflict without participating in the organizative life of Sarayacu, most of the time in the headwater of the Rotuno River. He is unaware of the current situation and movement. Uninformed about present times, deeply ignorant about the petrol project; one more of the victims of Telmo Gualinga, CGC and its consultants.

CARLOS GUALINGA, village of Cali-cali: Totally ignorant about the petrol process, victim of manipulation; CGC has offered him an outboard motor, which is the reason why he persists in that he wants the company to enter. He is totally unaware of all the changes of the present times.

CALIXTO MACHOA, village Calicali: Youngster who is totally ignorant of all what is happening. He lived his life in Rutuno, without involving himself in the organizative life of searching for development proper of Sarayacu, victim of manipulation and innocent of the signature.

LUIS GUALINGA, village Shiguacocha: Youngster who finalized his secondary studies in Sarayacu, CGC offered him a scholarship.

Other people who influence are:

DAVID GUALINGA, village Molino: Expelled from Sarayacu more than 15 years ago, ex-prisoner of penitentiary for theft; He always lives asking for money in the name of the grassroots. Evangelic pseudo-pastor.

Proclaims development with gifts such as bags of candy, rice and tools in order to convince the communities. He pretends to be the saviour of the situation of the communities. He does not live in his community, but in the town of Tena. He organized the counter-march against OPIP in 1992 when the Indigenous peoples of Pastaza obtained more than a million hectares of their territories legally issued.

Unilaterally he legalized three thousand hectares witihn the territory of Sarayacu, Molino sector, depriving mobility of more than ten families, by means of titling by IERAC, blackmailed Sarayaku as COMMUNISTS, GUERILLA WARRIORS, TERRORISTS, ANTI-DEVELOPMENTALISTS.


The coroporations Texaco, CHEVRON and CGC and their consultant DEIMY SEVICE and the high ministers of the state and the current government seem to have selected the most negative persons for their activities of consultation and community participation. In modern and democratic terms, this is nothing more than a distorted picture of lies and frauds in complicity with the authorities of the country right in the twentyfirst century.

Block 23 affects two hundred thousands hectars of primary rainforest in historical territories of the indigenous peoples. 85% of the area is kichwa, most of which is territory of Sarayacu. Sarayaku is in the center of Block 23. The other affected territories are Achuar 10% and Shuar 5%.

The Kichwa people of Sarayacu form one of the settlements with recognized historical trajectory and with the largest population. It possesses a big territorial circumscription within the watershed of the Bobonaza river, legally issued by the ecuadorian state.

To Sarayacu belong the villages: Sarayaquillo, Cali Cali, Chonta Yacu, Shiguacocha, Centro Sarayaku and Teresa mama, totally we are a population of about a thousand five hundred people. Each one of these villages is led by a Curaka elected in the annual assembly of the Sarayaku people, together with the TAYAK APU (President), these form the Government Council of TAYJASARUTA.

The assembly of the people of TAYJASARUTA is the maximum authority over all other existing instances. It takes decisions related to the conduction and actions of the organization, especially issues related to natural resources and territories.

The families and communities settled within the Indigenous Territorial Circumscription of Sarayacu depend to a high degree on the use of the natural resources such as hunting, fishing and gathering, which are complemented with productive agricultural activities and raising of small animals, as reserves of primary forest (purinas).

The limits of the Territorial Circumscription of our association are: to the north with the community Morete Cocha; to the south with Achuar territory (Shamimi community); to the west with the association Pacayaku, and to the east with Zapara territory (Community Jandia Yacu and Association Boberas).

The Sarayacu association has a territory of approximately one hundred and thirty thousand hectars (130.000 Has) of primary forest in the Bobonaza river basin. Within this space also the community of Molino is settled, in the intermediate part, with three thousand hectareas. Thus Sarayaku is the most important parish center in the Bobonaza river basin.

The people of Sarayaku will no permit the injustice and barbarism that they try to impose at the cost of the most basic necessities that we require as ecuadorian citizens. We have been forgotten by high minsteries and governments.

We denounce that the activities undertaken by CGC are, from a moral point of view, hypocratic, with arguments that do not have any transparency whatsoever, and that are not in agreement with the principles of the indigenous peoples. They cause psychological damage, violence, dependency, indolence in our comrades that have fallen in the games of these corporations.

As long as there is no clear transparency to discuss and dialogue in search for a true solution in order to reach democratic agreements about substantial changes in the petrol politics and the security of our communities, we will maintain our position and we will not give way to frauds and bribes in modern times.

The ones who sign below are: the council of TAYJASARUTA and the People of Sarayaku (Men, women, elders, children)

Abdón Gualinga

Fausto Aranda

Miltón Gualinga

Euclides Malaver

Galo Manya

Mario Santi

Franco Viteri

Cesar Santi

Hilda Santi

Camilo Gualinga

María Machoa

Liza Cisneros

Isidro Gualinga

Camilo Guerra

Teresa Aranda

Félix Santi

Sabino Gualinga

Bolivar Dahua

Dionisio Machoa



1. We categorically oppose the petrol exploitation because it threatens the fundamental base of our present and future: economically, culturally, cognitivelly, nutritionally, ecologically, and spiritually, which is our TERRITORY; at the same time undermining our social equilibrium.

2. We demand respect of our right to decide about our future in freedom, to promote our own processes of economic, social, political, cultural, scientific and technological consolidation, based on our world view and our values.

3. As a guarantee for the forementioned we demand de validity of the Kichwa Indigenous Territorial Circumscription of Sarayaku and the recognition of the AUTONOMY, as political-administrative status that will permit us to progress as a people.

4. The companies CGC, Chevron - Texaco and DAYMI SERVICES S.A. are provoking the dislocation of the fundamental bases of the society and culture of the Kichwa people of Sarayaku. Therefore, we accuse these companies and the ecuadorian state of applying a PLAN FOR CULTURAL ETHNOCIDE through the petrol exploitation policy.

5. We deny any agreement made by means of fraud between the petrol companies and people not authorized by the assembly of the Sarayaku community.

6. We exercise our norms and codes of conduct against persons and families that compromise the rights, the integrity and the ancestral collective property of our territory.

7. We demand from CGC, Chevron-Texaco, Daymi Service SA and the ecuadorian state; indemnization for damage done by the conflicts, for the desequilibrium of our life, for the calumnies, for all the time we have lost and for the psychological impact. Because these are responsible for the great insecurity that we confront, the inhabitants of the Kichwa Territory of Sarayaku.

8. We demand respect for and validity of the constitutional collective rights.

9. We demand the immediate withdrawal of CGC, Chevron-Texaco and Daymi Services SA from our territory and of their activities in what is called block 23 in the ecuadorian Amazon.

10. We disavow any version about supposed economical support that the companies claim having provided to Sarayaku.

11. We will not permit the intiation of the seismic phase in our territories, and we make the companies and the state responsible for the regrettable situations that may occur.

12. We will continue to maintain our firm position in quest of the truth, transparency and justice, and we will make respect our rights valid at national and international level, if possible with our lives.

13. We propose to the International Labor Organization, the Interamerican Court of Human Rights, and the Office of the High Comissioner of Human Rights of the United Nations, the initiation of an investigation in order to establish the responsibilities of the companies and the state for all the actions indicated in this document.

14. We authorize the OPIP to initiate legal actions of constitutional protection lawsuit against the CGC corresponding to our collective rights declared in the constitution of the republic, in the convention 169 if the ILO and other national laws and international treaties.

15. We consider that all the peoples of the world contribute to the diversity and the richness of the cultures that constitute our common patrimony of the humanity. We, the Kichwa of Sarayaku, will continue to defend, by all means, our habitat, the biodiversity, the natural resources, the nature, and our right to be an live as a people, with rights prior to those of the state.

Sarayaku, august 25, 2002

SEPTEMBER 15, 2000


This petition involves pledging to boycott Texaco until they clean up their mess in Ecuador's rainforest. For 20 years, Texaco Inc. pumped oil from the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest, one of the Earth's gems of biodiversity, and home to Quichua, Siona, Secoya, Cofan, Shuar, and Huaorani indigenous peoples. After extracting more than a billion barrels of crude, Texaco washed its hands and pulled out of Ecuador in 1992, leaving behind a colossal mess of cleared rainforest, toxic waste pits, oil spills, and poisoned communities.

Rainforest Relief has submitted over 1,200 signatures on this petition to Texaco at its 1999 shareholders meeting. Author and attorney Judith Kimerling has told us that the communities in the affected area were encouraged that we had kept this issue alive with the petitions.

The Texaco petition can be downloaded and printed from the Rainforest Relief website:


More information about Texaco's activities in Ecuador is available at:


We have found that almost anyone will sign these kinds of petitions if approached in the right way. Just say "Would you like to sign a petition to help save the rainforest?" Sometimes it helps to point out that anyone, registered voter or not, child or adult, may sign these petitions. When they are full, send them to us (Rainforest Relief) and we will forward them to the corporations.

Please distribute blank petitions to your friends!



Globalized grievance  - Over the past seven years a precedent-setting legal case over multinational corporate responsibility has been winding its way through the U.S. legal system. A group of indigenous communities in Ecuador is suing Texaco for $1.5 billion in an environmental lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in New York.

By Ana Arana and Garry M. Leech
Full story at:

JULY 2000


CONAIE Holds Two Protests in Quito After Weekend Attacks on Colombia’s U’wa

Quito, Ecuador—Ecuador’s powerful indigenous confederation, CONAIE, today demanded that Occidental Petroleum leave Ecuador and Colombia. In a letter delivered to Occidental’s Quito office by a delegation of fifty indigenous rights and environmental activists, CONAIE promised nonviolent direct actions against the company’s facilities in Ecuador if Occidental does not abandon its proposal to drill on the land of the U’wa people of northeastern Colombia. After delivering their demands to Occidental, the demonstrators—led by Blanca Chancoso of CONAIE and including representatives of the international Oilwatch network—presented a letter from the Confederation to the Colombian Embassy calling for the suspension of Occidental’s drilling plans and the release of protesters detained over the weekend.

Today’s protests, which also included a demonstration at the Colombian Embassy in Quito, were prompted by the Colombian government’s latest round of violence against peaceful U’wa protesters. On Saturday, some 300 anti-riot police and soldiers participated in a surprise attack against 200 U’wa blockading a road in northeastern Colombia. The police and soldiers removed the protesters with tear gas and physical blows. U’wa spokespeople report that twenty-eight people were injured, with some requiring medical attention. At least one U’wa man was treated for bullet wounds. On Sunday, another protest was attacked and as many as 70 protesters have been detained. The attacks came just days after the US Congress approved over $1 billion in aid to Colombia’s military.

In a statement read by Blanca Chancoso, CONAIE denounced Occidental’s "inhuman and aggressive attitude" towards indigenous peoples and called for the company’s "definitive exit from Ecuador and Colombia." The Confederation cites three
reasons for its show of solidarity of the U’wa: First, the weekend’s attacks on the U’wa suggest that the Colombian government is on track to continue its civil war, which also brought suffering to Ecuador. Second, communities represented within CONAIE, the Secoya and Quichua peoples of Ecuador’s Amazon, have also seen their environments damaged by Occidental Petroleum. Finally, the U’wa and Ecuador’s indigenous people have developed strong ties through past struggles. CONAIE has a long history of effective mobilizations against the oil industry and for political change in Ecuador. In January, CONAIE organized uprisings that brought Ecuadorian life to a halt and toppled the government of President Jamil Mahuad. Earlier mobilizations prompted a rewrite of the constitution declaring Ecuador a "plurinational" state and increasing recognition of indigenous rights.

Since the attacks, U’wa protesters holding out against Occidental’s plans to drill a well called Gibraltar 1 have been joined by thousands of peasants and other non-indigenous supporters. These nonviolent blockades are the latest phase in a nine year struggle by the U’wa to stop drilling on traditional lands which they hold sacred. The U’wa have repeatedly stated that they are willing to die to stop the project, which they see as a threat to the spiritual equilibrium of the world, the environment and their physical safety from Colombia’s civil war.

"Ecuador’s indigenous people are demonstrating that violence against the U’wa will bring great costs for Oxy around the world," said Carwil James, Oil Campaign Coordinator of Project Underground. "Occidental Petroleum and the Colombian and American governments must abandon force as a solution, and recognize the U’wa people’s right to a peaceful future in a healthy

Project Underground is the North American focal point for Oilwatch, an international network of resistance to the oil industry led from the Global South.

Contact: Carwil James, +1 510 666 0520 (-6pm PDT), +1 510 705 8981



ACTION ALERT:  Letter to Ecuadorian Environmental Minister
ACTION ALERT: Letter to Chase Manhattan Bank

By Alexandra Almeida

Quito, Ecuador    29th December 1999

Oil activity in Ecuador has been, and continues to be, a permanent threat to protected areas. Unfortunately, and much against our wishes, we now find ourselves obliged to end the old millennium and to begin the new with the announcement of two terrible pieces of news related to oil:

The first refers to Yasuni National Park and the North American oil company, Vintage Oil Ecuador S.A.. Vintage is the inheritor of the infrastructure and operations of the French company Elf Aquitaine , which transferred its operations and rights to block 14 in October of this year, has made its debut with its first oil spill. With this event which we can begin to perceive the environmental management methods which lie in wait both for this protected area and the peoples which live in the surrounding areas. The spill occurred on the 17th of December of 1999 due to a break in the pipeline, and polluted a stretch of approximately 100 metres of a 10 metres wide stream which flows into the Tiputini river. The Tiputini crosses Yasuni National Park and later discharges into the Napo river and subsequently into the Amazon.

During its 12 years of operation, Elf made a negative mark on the zone: affecting primary forest within the park, and thus making a mockery of the idea of a protected area; affecting the hunting area of the Huaorani people; building infrastructure and roads which have become the gateway to the devastation of the forest, from which timber such as Caoba, Cedro and Guayacan is illegally taken for sale in Colombia. Game animals such as Monkeys, Armadillos, Danta, and Guanta also are taken from the area and sold as meat in the city of Coca.

Elf operated in this area with polluting technology, did not re-inject the formation water and produced frequent spills from the pipelines. The same practices are operative today. However, the most paradoxical and irrational thing is that besides all this damage, the company produces only 4,500 barrels of oil a day (1.5% of national production). This implies that for the production to be profitable and for the company to stay operational, the Ecuadorian government has to subsidise it, as it has been shown to do with all the trans-national oil companies. Thus leading to the absurd situation in which the Ecuadorian Government is actually subsidising the destruction of the protected areas in the country.

The second piece of news is that this month , the City Investing oil company entered the Cuyabeno Animal reserve in order to carry out seismic prospecting . This leads us to wonder about the interests or reasons which motivated the adoption by the Ministry of the Environment of a resolution authorising oil activity in the Reserve and Siona ancestral territory. This resolution flies in the face of the environmental conservation discourse of the Minster, Yolanda Kakabadze, who is also the President of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The most astounding part of this is that precisely at the beginning of the year, by means of an Presidential decree, the government declared two zones within Yasuni National Park and Cuyabeno Animal Reserve to be off limits to oil, timber and mining activities in perpetuity. We ask ourselves once again, How will it be possible to protect an area while at the same time it is being destroyed.?

The threat to these areas is even greater if we consider the danger posed by the much heralded concession of the Ishpingo Tambacocha Tiputini project within Yasuni National Park, and the construction of a new heavy oil pipeline which will come out of these same areas.

We call on all people and organisations who receive this message send letters demanding that the companies involved, together with the Ecuadorian government, stop these events and the threats to protected areas. We are attaching a sample letter which you can use.

In solidarity,

Alexandra Almeida

Letter to Ecuadorian Environmental Minister

Modelo de la carta a la Ministra de Medio Ambiente

Sra. Yolanda Kakabadse
Quito, Ecuador
Fax: (593 2) 564 037

De nuestras consideraciones

Reciba un saludo de quienes hacemos Accion Ecologica. El objetivo de la presente es darle a conocer la profunda preocupación que tenemos respecto a la reciente autorizacion que la Subsecretaria de Medio Ambiente del Ministerio a su cargo ha dado a la compania petrolera City Investing para realizar prospeccion sismica dentro de la Reserva Faunistica Cuyabeno y areas de Patrimonio Forestal del Estado.

Esta decision contradice los principios y fundamentos por los que se crearon las areas protegidas, contradice el discurso de Conservacion que Ud. y el gobierno han proclamado y contradice la declaratoria de intangibilidad de inicios de este año a dos zonas en la Amazonia, una de ellas muy cercana al area donde se pretende realizar actividad petrolera.

La otra preocupación que tenemos esta relacionada con el reciente derrame de crudo producido en el bloque 14, dentro del Parque Nacional Yasuni. En Octubre de este año la compañía Elf Aquitaine traspaso sus acciones y derechos a la compañía Vintage Oil Ecuador S.A. en el bloque 14. La Elf fue responsable de una serie de conflictos socio-ambientales y ha ocasionado muchos derrames de crudo que han afectado a esta area protegida, ahora se ha ido del pais "lavandose las manos" y sin atender sus responsabilidades ambientales para con el pais. Su heredera, con este primer derrame nos demuestra que la situacion no va a cambiar y que el futuro del Parque Nacional Yasuni, reserva mundial de la Biósfera, seguira estando en segundo plano.

Por todo esto, es necesario y urgente que el Ministerio de Medio Ambiente revea la decision de autorizar la entrada de la compañía City y la actividad petrolera en la Reserva Faunística Cuyabeno. Y en consideración de todos los daños que ocasionó la Elf que estan siendo prolongados por la Vintage, le solicitamos que luego de la correspondiente auditoría ambiental y restauración de la zona, esta empresa salga del país porque ademas debido a su poca producción representa una gran pérdida económica, por lo que el Estado ecuatoriano está subsidiando la destrucción de las áreas protegidas.



We have recently learned of Chase Manhattan Bank's involvement with the construction of Heavy Oil Pipeline in Ecuador.

The undersigned wish to express in the strongest terms their opposition to the construction of this new pipeline in Ecuador because:

1. SOCIAL & LEGAL ISSUES: The Heavy Oil Pipeline will encounter social and legal opposition, as Ecuador has developed specific laws governing. If the pipeline is constructed it will be necessary to increase national production by 250,000 barrels per day. Oil that will come from new concessions located in indigenous territory and protected areas.

The indigenous people who live in these territories have told the national government of Ecuador, and the oil companies themselves, that they will not permit the exploration for, and exploitation of oil. They have declared their territories as intangible areas and have made this public both on a national and international level.

In Ecuador, the national government has signed international treaties such as Convention 169 of the International Labour Organisation, Collective Rights have been enshrined in the Constitution, and specific laws have been passed. All of that prohibit the carrying out of projects which cause or can affect the environment or our rights.

2. POLITICAL RISK: to guarantee the operation of the heavy oil pipeline it will be necessary to exploit the Ishpingo Tambacocha Tiputini (ITT). The ITT has faced significant political risks that have caused companies such as Shell and BP to withdraw. The ITT project is located in the heart of Yasuní National Park, which has been declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO and which is also part of the traditional territory of the Huaorani people.

The whole world has expressed its opposition to the possible exploitation of these oil fields, due to their location in one of the most fragile and diverse zones on the planet.

A number of campaigns have been carried out in defence of Yasuní National Park , for which reason companies which were initially interested, such as Shell and BP, have been forced to withdraw. In the latter case, BP was obliged to sell the oil projects of ARCO before the two companies were merged.

3. NOT FINANCIALLY VIABLE: It is also necessary to mention that the Heavy Oil Pipeline project may NOT be financially viable, because it relies on the success of the ITT project, a drilling operation based on overestimated oil reserves and facing significal political opposition.

The Heavy Oil Pipeline faces significant downside risk associated with the environmental and social controversies surrounding the pipeline and the ITT project. The undersigned groups strongly oppose the Heavy Oil Pipeline and request thet Chase Manhattan Bank avoid or cease all financial involvement in this project.


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Quito, Ecuador
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December, 99  


Leaders of the Secoya Indigenous Organization of Ecuador (OISE) and officers of Occidental Exploration and Petroluem Company (OEPC), signed a code of conduct setting out the "principles, procedures, requirements, responsibilities, and obligations with which OISE and Occidental must comply" during discussions related to the company's oil activities in Secoya territory.

The Code, signed on October 29 in Quito is unprecedented in Ecuador and was the culmination of four months of intense negotiations between OISE, the democratically elected representative body of the Secoya Nation, and OEPC, the local subsidiary of Los Angeles, California, based Occidental Petroleum. The code of conduct aims to
ensure the recognition and protection of the rights of the Secoya. It also establishes OISE as the sole representative body in all negotiations relating to oil mining on Secoya territory.

The Secoya number about 300 and live in the rainforests of northeastern Ecuador. Much of their territory lies within what is known as Block 15. The area slated for development is over 494,000 acres (200,000 hectares) and was signed over to Occidental by the Ecuadorian government in 1985. The Secoya has been fighting off Occidental's advances ever since. According to Occidental's own estimates the entire production of this area would satisfy the total oil consumption of the United States for about 13 days.

"In the past, Occidental confused and divided us by not dealing with the Secoyas as a whole but only with the leaders of certain villages by giving them gifts," said Humberto Piaguaje. Occidental has been exploring on Secoya territory since 1992 on the basis of a secret "agreement" signed by the residents of one Secoya community, in
exchange for chainsaws, medicine chests and raincoats.

Once OISE discovered the agreement they and the group who had originally signed rejected and canceled the agreement. Situations such as these have been typically the way Occidental has dealt with the community and they are what has fuelled OISE's determination to set a code of conduct in place.

"We are a small people and we are tired of arguing with Occidental," said Humberto Piaguaje, president of OISE. "We are worried that oil exploration will completely change our culture and that the animals and fish will leave if exploration starts in our territory."

The Code of Conduct promises access to information about the possible environmental, social and cultural impacts of proposed oil activities and gives the community the right to choose independent and appropriately qualified advisers to assist them to understand and respond to Occidental's proposals.

Finally, the code secures the right to make decisions according to Secoya norms and traditions, free from pressures of any kind. Occidental is also responsible for providing, unconditionally, the financial means for OISE's full and informed participation in the negotiations.

OISE with the help of international observers and a group called the Secoya Survival Project will continue to force Occidental to respect their rights as a community to control development on their territory. Occidental is currently pressuring OISE to agree by March 31, 2000 to the drilling of three exploratory wells in the territory. Occidental claims it is contractually bound to carry out exploration by the end of 2000.

Meanwhile, in northeastern Colombia, 200 men, women and children of the U'wa indigenous tribe have marched to the Gibraltar 1 wellsite where Occidental plans to start drilling for oil in the coming weeks. The U'wa have established a permanent settlement at the site, with hundreds more U'wa expected to peacefully occupy the area. This action follows the failure of legal battles and direct appeals to the company and Colombian government to cancel all plans to drill for oil.

"We U'wa people are willing to give our lives to defend Mother Earth from this project which will annihilate our culture, destroy nature, and upset the world's equilibrium. Caring for the Earth and the welfare of our children and of future generations is not only the responsibility of the U'wa people but of the entire national and international society," read a statement from the traditional U'wa authority.

SOURCES: Personal Communication with The Secoya Survival Project and Centro de Derechos Economicos y Sociales (Center for Economic and Social Rights); "Deal With It; The Secoya and Other Complex Communities in a World Turned Around", by the Secoya Survival Project; "200 U'wa Assemble at Oxy Oil Well Site to Block Drilling; Tribe Calls for International Support to Stop the Oil Project", U'wa Defense Working Group Press Release, November 17, 1999.

September, 99

Indigenous Tribes March Against Oil Development Project

From: Amazon Coalition amazoncoal@igc.org
Written by Kevin Koenig, Rainforest Action Network
September 1, 1999

Legal injunction presented against Atlantic Richfield Corporation (ARCO)
for rights violations
"The Shuar women will not die on their knees.
We will die fighting until every last drop of blood is gone."

- Shuar woman, August 24, 1999

 August 24, 1999

Macas, Ecuador.

Some had traveled by plane, some by bus, but the majority traveled by foot.Carrying spears and enough chicha (a traditional  fermented drink) for     everyone, the Shuar and Achuar tribes mobilized from their communities deep within the rainforests of the southern Ecuadorian Amazon and descended upon the town of Macas to deliver a message: their land, culture, and conscience
are not for sale.

Bearing the brunt of the collaborative efforts of aggressive transnational oil companies and a debt-ridden Ecuadorian government vying for the reserves of black gold that lie beneath their territories, close to four hundred Shuar and Achuar had made the multiple day journey to speak out against the crude oil project slated for their ancestral homelands. The tribes inhabit
some of the last untouched old growth rainforest in all of Ecuador, a region known as one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world and commonly referred to as the "lungs of the planet." The physical, cultural, spiritual, and economic existence of both tribes continues to be based on the abundance and diversity of uncontaminated forests and rivers. However, in April of 1998, the Atlantic Richfield Corporation (ARCO) was granted a 500,000-acre oil concession known as block 24 that falls entirely on Shuar and Achuar territory.

While the Ecuadorian government claims control of sub-surface minerals, the indigenous communities have never relinquished their rights to defend their lands and culture. For this reason the Shuar and Achuar are taking a stand against ARCO´s Block 24 project.

The Shuar and Achuar are organized into three federations which collectively represent roughly 100,000 people- and have repeatedly resolved "to not permit the penetration of oil, mining, or logging companies or their respective subcontractors in our territory." Tito Puanchir, president of the Shuar federation FIPSE explains, "We are unconditionally saying no to oil exploitation on our land. Our rivers, our forests, which are the source of life for us, for our children, and for our children's children, can not
be bought. We are demanding that our right to develop our communities in a sustainable manner be respected."

Carrying signs that read "Oil companies - ghosts of death," and chanting "No more Texacos,"--referring to the toxic legacy left by the oil giant in the northern Ecuadorian Amazon-- the sea of men, women, children and elders marched to the Superior Court office of the southern Province of Morona Santiago to present an "Acción de Amparo," a legal injunction to prevent
further rights violations by ARCO. According to the tribes, since ARCO bought the concession, the company has violated numerous rights of the Shuar and Achuar guaranteed under international law and the Ecuadorian constitution. They point to the total disregard for the authority of their tribal organizations to represent their peoples´ decisions and will. The injunction would prevent ARCO from entering the tribal territory or approaching communities without the consent of the general tribal assembly,
whose positions are represented by the federations. Indigenous leaders explain that ARCO, faced with the unified opposition of all tribal federations in the area, secretly approached threeindividual communities, offering each roughly $2,500 USD, plane rides, and food contributions for an agreement to permit oil exploration. ARCO spokesperson in Ecuador Herb Vickers, explained that the company, "has concentrated on working more on the local level because, in its opinion, the large indigenous organizations no longer represent the people," and that the majority of them, "want ARCO to construct roads in the area, like we have promised." The Shuar and Achuar view this     statement as an example of the blatant subversion of the legal and recognized    tribal representative federations. Santiago Kawarim, the Achuar president,    feels that through statements like this and divisive actions on the ground,    ARCO is intentionally manipulating the indigenous communities.

"The politics of negotiation of these companies are dirty, tricking the leaders with small candies like airplane rides, invitations, money, and in this way enter their territories. Then, when they enter the territory, they contaminate the rivers and emit dirty gases that contaminate the air, which then kills animals.  Then what are we going to eat? Where are we going to hunt? How are we going  to feed our children?" asks Kawarim.

The traditions of the Shuar and Achuar remain strong, and the people are determined not to suffer the same fate as their indigenous neighbors to the north, who, at the hands of Texaco, have seen their once-pristine homelands crisscrossed with roads, their rivers run black with crude, and their land dotted with more than 600 abandoned toxic-waste pits. "The Shuar and Achuar are here today to send a message to ARCO and any other company that wants to enter our territory: we fundamentally reject the presence of oil companies on our land," explains Ricardo Vargas, an Achuar leader. "We don't want our territory contaminated, nor do we want the sicknesses caused by oil companies in indigenous areas in the north of the Ecuadorian Amazon. We want to live in a clean environment. We also know that these companies create conflicts and divisions between nationalities, communities, and families. This is why we will resist."

The combination of rising oil consumption, technological advances making previously inaccessible reserves recoverable, and free market policies imposed on heavily indebted countries by international creditors, is opening the way for big oil to penetrate deeper and deeper into frontier ecosystems and indigenous homelands. While the total reserves that lie beneath the larger homelands of the Shuar and Achuar are still unknown, ARCO's Block 10 operations further north are estimated to yield close to 200 million barrels, less than what the US consumes in a mere two weeks.

Written by Kevin Koenig, Rainforest Action Network
September 1, 1999

(InterPress Service, June 2 & July 20, 1999)

ECUADOR: 11,000 barrels of crude oil spilled from the Trans-Ecuador pipeline owned by Petroecuado r -- the seventh spill in 15 months. Landslides in Santo Domingo and Esmereldas caused the rupture that has seriously damaged the Toachi River and local fisheries. Pedro Freile, the pipeline's administrative director, admitted that the spill would cause significant enviornmental damage. Petroecuador transports 365,000 barrels of crude oil a day from the oil fields of the Amazon jungle to a refinery in the Esmereldas. Elsewhere in Ecuador, an army unit in the Pastaza province blocked a group of environmentalists and indigneous rights activists from entering the village of San Virgilio Saturday to check on an oil spill caused by ARCO.

Community members say that the pipeline has been leaking for over a month and that according to an employee, ARCO has been covering it up. The 40 kilometer of oil flowline adjacent to villages populated by Quechua, Shuar and Achuar has been heavily militarized raising the potential of violence against them. ARCO says it had no choice but to militarize the area because of threat to blow up the pipeline.

July 15, 1999

Indigenous Group takes on US Oil Giant
Copyright 1999 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.

By Danielle Knight

QUITO, Ecuador, July 15 (IPS) - Oil companies, pushing ever deeper into the biologically-rich Amazon rain forests in their hunt for "black gold" have been confronted by demands from an indigenous group for a code of conduct to continue their operations. The 300 strong Secoya community wants to negotiate an agreement with the California-based Occidental Petroleum Corp. before it can continue exploring for oil in Secoya territory in north-east Ecuador.

''In the past, Occidental confused and divided us by not dealing with the Secoyas as a whole but only with the leaders of certain villages by giving them gifts,'' Humberto Piaguaje, the president of the Secoya Indigenous Organisation of Ecuador, known as OISE, told IPS. ''Now we want the company to negotiate only with OISE with the full approval of the assembly of the Secoya people,'' he said.

In 1985, California-based Occidental Petroleum signed an agreement with the government of Ecuador giving the company the right to extract oil for 20 years from an area of more than 200,000 hectares known as Block 15. This region includes part of the protected Limoncocha Reserve and the traditional indigenous territory of the Secoya, Siona and Quichua groups. Using Occidental's own estimates of the existing reserves, the entire production of Block 15 would supply the total oil consumption in the United States for about 13 days.

In 1992 the company developed five oil fields near the town of Limoncocha and constructed a 30 kilometer pipeline to connect to the country's Transecuadorian pipeline that goes to the coastal refineries for foreign export. Later Occidental began negotiating with individual Secoya communities to allow them to explore for oil. In exchange for chain saws, medicine chests and rain-coats, one community signed an agreement that allowed the company the right to conduct ''petroleum activities'' in the all indigenous territories of Block 15.

Other Secoya and Siona communities located in Block 15, however, were outraged and immediately called on Occidental to cancel the agreement. The company eventually did retract the contract but made it clear that they intended to continue to push for access to Secoya lands.

Under the new code of conduct, OISE wants to make clear who will be the exact representatives on each side with the complete agreement of all the Secoya people. As currently written, the draft agreement would prohibit the company giving gifts to indigenous communities.

''We are a small people and we are tired of arguing with Occidental,'' says Piaguaje. ''We are worried that oil exploration will completely change our culture and that the animals and fish will leave if exploration starts in our territory.''

Human rights organisations in Ecuador are closely watching the negotiations and hope it will set a precedent for other indigenous communities fighting against oil exploration on their territory.

''This is the first time in Ecuador that such negotiations are taking place on an agreement that will regulate the dialogue between an indigenous group and an oil company,'' said Paulina Garzon, coordinator of the Quito-based Center for Economic and Social Rights.

When asked about the current negotiations, Occidental spokesman Lawrence Meriage told IPS that the code of conduct was a matter between the indigenous people and the company. He pointed to the efforts the company had made to reduce the number of roads, drilling pads and structures built in Block 15 in order to minimize the impact on the environment.

''We basically have set the standard for stringent environmental behavior in Latin America,'' Meriage said and added that the company was replanting native tree species in areas disturbed by Occidental.

Piaguaaje said, however, past experiences with pollution and health problems that followed the operations of another US oil company, Texaco, weakened his faith in Occidental's promises.

''From our experience with Texaco, there is no more trust,'' says Piaguaje. ''We don't feel in harmony with nature like we did before oil was discovered here,'' said Piaguaje.

Several members of the Secoya people are plaintiffs in a class-action suit against Texaco currently in New York, which accused the company of deliberately dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste water into the environment without treatment or monitoring.

In addition to the contamination caused by oil exploration, environmentalists warn that because of the expanding petroleum frontier, Ecuador has one of the highest rates of deforestation in South America. Between 140,000 and 340,000 hectares of rain forest were being cut each year in Ecuador, according to the Nature Foundation, Ecuador's largest environmental group which is affiliated with the World Wildlife Fund.

If the current rate of deforestation continued, environmentalists with the California-based Rainforest Action Network estimated that Ecuador's rain forests would be decimated within 15 years.

By Lydia Fernandez/Native Americas

The following article is provided by Native Americas, published by the Akwe:kon Press at Cornell University. For more information on how to stay informed of emerging trends that impact Native peoples throughout the hemisphere visit our website at http://nativeamericas.aip.cornell.edu

The Achuar people are seeking international support in their fight against the U.S.-based ARCO oil company. ARCO has bought oil exploration rights for nearly 2.5 million acres of rainforest from Ecuador's government, including a large section of Achuar territory.

The tribe has proposed an alternative that would allow the land to be purchased by ARCO to be set aside in perpetuity as a biological reserve. This plan would create a development mechanism, as described by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, to absorb excess carbon released from the burning of fossil fuels. The Kyoto Protocol, if ratified, would require developed countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent. One of the ways to do this is through flexible reduction methods like the carbon offset process.

The Achuar nation, of about 4,300 people, hold communal title to nearly 2 million acres of old-growth rain forest. They maintain that any group affected by proposed development should have a voice in how traditional land is used.

The Achuar have joined a number of indigenous nations like the Machiguenga of Peru and the U'wa of Colombia, to prevent oil development on their territories.

"The Achuar are doing everything they can to open these doors peacefully," said Shannon Wright, the Amazon Oil Campaign director at the Rainforest Action Network in California.

The Achuar proposal is similar to an arrangement in place in Costa Rica, where territory, though not under indigenous ownership, has been conserved for carbon dioxide reduction. Wright said the Achuar are trying to meet with the Ecuadorian government on the carbon offset proposal. The Achuar have environmental consultants working with them on the project to ensure its feasibility.

"The Ecuadorian government could actually make money by keeping this territory because of its ability to absorb carbon," Wright said.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, if ratified, countries like the United States could purchase the rights to lands in rainforest areas in exchange for conserving them. This would earn them credits toward their greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

ARCO officials say they are committed to dialogue with the Achuar, but the Achuar remain opposed to oil extraction no matter what, Wright said.

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