US Courts Rule in Favor of Chevron, Against Ecuador

Rafael Correa holds up an oil-covered hand (wikimedia).

EspañolA United States Court of Appeals blocked a ruling this week that would have awarded Ecuador US $8.6 billion in compensation for pollution caused by Chevron.

The decision made in the federal court in Manhattan Monday validated the opinion of the lower court, which had held that a lawyer who represented the Ecuadorian community in the dispute used “corrupt means” to access the compensatory amount.

“There is no authority to suggest that one of the parties, ignorant of the fraudulent actions of their lawyers, can implement a judgment obtained fraudulently,” the courts argued in a Monday decision. “Even the innocent customers can’t benefit from fraud by their lawyers.”

Ecuadorians of the Lago Agrio region sought to have Chevron held liable in the United States for pollution of water and soil allegedly caused by operations by Texaco — which Chevron acquired in 2001— between 1964 and 1992.

Pablo Fajardo, one of the lawyers representing Ecuador, told Reuters the court’s decision did not interfere with the collection of the sum the plaintiffs were seeking.

“So far the doors are still closed to collecting what’s due in the decision in the United States,” he said, “but we will fight until the end because we will not rest until Chevron pays us what they owe us.”

The legal dispute dates back to 1993, when Donziger filed a lawsuit in the New York courts on behalf of 30,000 indigenous people of Lago Agrio in northeastern Ecuador demanding financial compensation from Texaco for pollution of waters in the region caused by its extractive practices between 1964 and 1992.

Texaco got the suit admitted in Ecuador and, when Chevron acquired the company in 2001, it also inherited the legal battle.

In 2011, Ecuadorian Judge Nicolas Zambrano ruled against the multinational corporation, condemning it to compensation of US $19 billion, the most in response to environmental pollution to date. The sentence was subsequently reduced to half — US $9.5 billion — by the National Court of Ecuador. Chevron has repeatedly refused to pay the fine.

Sources: El País, Reuters

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