NOBEL PEACE PRIZE LAUREATE RIGOBERTA MENCHÚ JOINS WITH INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO SHOW SUPPORT FOR ECUADOR AGAINST CHEVRON’S ATTACKSThursday, April 23rd, 2015
On Tuesday, Nobel Laureate and renowned indigenous rights advocate Rigoberta Menchú joined more than one thousand civil society demonstrators from across the hemisphere—including Ecuador, the U.S., and Canada—who gathered in front of the World Bank in Washington DC to show their support for the Ecuadorian Government and Ecuadorian people against Chevron’s attacks. Inside, a panel of international arbitrators for the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) court began hearing arguments in Chevron’s unprecedented attempt to hold the Ecuadorian State responsible for the $9 billion that Ecuadorian courts ruled the oil giant must pay to alleviate the damages caused to the environment and villagers affected by its contamination in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest after 20 years of operations in the Andean country.
“We cannot allow Chevron’s impunity, which has devastating consequences, including for the sovereignty of Ecuador,” said Dr. Menchu. “We are going to seek justice wherever we can find it … Chevron now wants to become the victim. That is the biggest cynicism we have ever heard in our efforts to defend our mother earth. Chevron was responsible for massive contamination in Ecuador and committing ecocide.”
Ecuadorian Charge d’Affaires A.I., Ambassador Efrain Baus, speaking about the grassroots show of support for Ecuador, said: “It is powerful to see the passion of citizens who have traveled from near and far to let their voice be heard. The unfounded attacks against our country by a company that caused so much damage to the people and environment of Ecuador is audacious, and it is even worse that they now want to have the people of Ecuador pay for their actions. For years they wanted the case to be brought to Ecuador, but only when that court ruled against them did they change their tune.”
Following the demonstration in front of ICSID, Dr. Menchú joined Mexican researcher and Economist Ana Esther Ceceña and Ambassador Baus at the International Trade Center, near the White House, for a forum on “Ecuador: Transnational Corporations and Human Rights”. At the forum, they discussed the threats that irresponsible transnational corporations pose to the human rights of indigenous peoples in places like Ecuador and Canada.
Ana Esther Ceceña, who specializes in the study of power relations and economic dominance, said that the Chevron case at the International Court of Arbitration is setting a precedent “Of suing a country for the damage they caused with the intention to make that country pay for the damage. This situation is senseless and evil but it secures the power companies have on countries and peoples around the world. If we allow Chevron to win this case, how many more big transnational companies do you think would follow Chevron’s example? All of them.”
Representatives from various Canadian indigenous nations, who have also suffered damages by transnational companies that operated in their territories, participated at the gathering in front of the ICSID, where the arbitration hearings are taking place, and in the forum to show their support in the position of Ecuador and the affected communities—mainly from indigenous Ecuadorian nations.
In a press conference after the forum, Rigoberta Menchú told the press “It is very important to factor in the human dimension, because there has been an impact on the quality of people’s lives. There is evidence of infection, poor health, and mortality that have been documented. In the coming months we will have to go visit the affected areas and show the impact on human rights,” she added. “Do not let Chevron’s ecocide become standard practice. We need to continue seeking justice and demand no impunity for Chevron.”
These events overlapped with the 2015 Earth Day celebrations taking place in Washington, D.C., where a tent was arranged at the Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day Festival and concert by the Washington Monument to spread the message of the “We Deserve Justice” campaign. The tent coalesced support for the campaign through the signing of a petition to seek justice for the Ecuadorian State against Chevron’s attacks. The “We Deserve Justice” campaign also participated on the main stage of the event with a video that portrays Chevron’s tactics to avoid responsibility for the environmental damage caused in the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle to the more than 250,000 people who attended the event.