September 20, 2017. –The Union of People Affected by Chevron-Texaco (UDAPT) report that it has decided to withdraw their Exequatur action, which has sought to enforce the Ecuadorian judgment against Chevron, in Brazil. During a press conference led by the leaders of UDAPT, the Executive Coordinator of the association Willian Lucitante explained that the decision was motivated by various evidence related to the loss of a guarantee of a fair trial in this jurisdiction.
The people affected by the oil company’s operations presented the enforcement action of the sentence before the Brazilian High Court of Justice on June 27, 2012. From that moment on, the process was marked by many obstacles and it slowly moved forward. Chevron deliberately caused many of those obstacles, such as by delaying the process for more than six months by denying to have received notification of the lawsuit. But there are also serious problems with the administration of justice in Brazil at this time. For UDAPT, this process demonstrates that Brazil is a country susceptible to corruption and that its institutions do not currently have the strength to resist the pressures of a giant such as Chevron.
Pablo Fajardo, lawyer of the Ecuadorian plaintiffs, explains that “at the beginning of the case in Brazil, the rapporteur was Minister Felix Fisher who is well recognized for his rightness of conduct. In the course of the process, Chevron hired one of his assistants to inspire him to resign from the case, without there being a basis to do so in the law.” The maneuver seems to have been meant to have Judge Luis Felipe Salamao assume the position, who, out of the blue announced the hearing would be held today, September 20th, without having given the Ecuadorian legal team the opportunity to analyze documents the oil company submitted in recent months and were not, as they should have been, shared with the Ecuadorian legal team.
Recall that Chevron previously managed to get attorney Nicolao Dino to issue an opinion in the name of Brazil’s Public Ministry recommending to not enforce the Ecuadorian judgment. In that opinion, Dino copies language from U.S. Judge Lewis Kaplan, who had a blatant bias toward Chevron in the RICO case. The attorney’s opinion is practically a Portuguese translation of Kaplan’s statements. In essence, Dino disregarded Ecuador’s Supreme Court decision, and preferred instead to adopt the words of a U.S. District Court judge. In his opinion, Dino not only repudiated the existence of the environmental crime that Chevron committed in Ecuador but also ignored all evidence invalidating the claims of U.S. judge.
Since that opinion, UDAPT’s lawyers in Brazil presented great evidence suggesting that the Public Ministry had been plagued by falsehoods, inaccuracies, and errors. That evidence was not accepted by the Judge-Rapporteur who in suspect manner called the hearing. This most recent maneuver prevented UDAPT’s lawyers from exercising their right to formulate a statement on more than one thousand pages of information that Chevron presented in the last few months and had not been provided to them.
Faced with this situation and after thorough analysis by the case lawyers, together with the members of the of UDAPT’s Executive Board and several of the plaintiffs’ community representatives, the decision was made: “we have decided to withdraw the Exequator action in Brazil, for which we have submitted an application with the Superior Court of Justice. We are not going to fall for Chevron’s game and await a preconceived judgment, a product of transnational imperialism, which we know has used its economic influence to push justice aside,” said Willian Lucitante, executive coordinator of the affected people.
This decision was made by UDAPT’s Executive Council during a permanent hearing held on Friday, September 15, Saturday the 16th and Monday the 18th after recognizing there was no possibility of a fair review in Brazil, mainly because of the institutional weakness across the country rendering it vulnerable to Chevron’s influence.
Humberto Piaguaje, UDAPT’s leader, said this decision does not affect the other actions in Argentina and Canada, the former of which will be holding another hearing October 10th and 11th of this year. Additionally, he announced that depending on the outcome in Canada, UDAPT will pursue other foreign jurisdictions where a greater guarantee of access to justice may exist.
Minister of Foreign Affairs’ Declarations
On a separate issue, UDAPT leaders expressed their concern about the statements by Ecuador’s Foreign Trade Minister Pablo Campana, who said that he would like to negotiate with Chevron in order to resolve “the 23-year problem.” In this regard, Willian Lucitante warned the government that the affected communities will take all measures allowed by Ecuadorian, regional and supranational legislation to protect the case against what would be a clear interference by the Executive Function over justice, a blatant violation of the independence of the Courts and the affected people’s human rights.
The leader reminded the government that this is a private trial and that the sentence has been ratified through the country’s appeals system, so neither the President nor any official of the state has the right to negotiate on behalf of the plaintiffs, nor the right to pressure the Ecuadorian justice, nor the Constitutional Court.
If the position of the Trade Minister is approved by the President of the Republic, this would demonstrate the inconsistency of public discourse and actions, such as the promotion of the Binding Treaty of the United Nations and will violate indigenous’ and peasants’ human rights, who have been facing the global impunity system that protects multinationals like Chevron. This situation would make any negotiation by the government problematic, since the “Chevron-Texaco Case” is an emblematic struggle assumed by Ecuadorian people and global organizations supporting the Binding Treaty who have now been made to wait for how the President of the Republic will deal with the environmental judgment.
On the other hand, lawyer of the affected people Pablo Fajardo reminds that for more than three years Ecuador’s Constitutional Court has not resolved the Extraordinary Action of Protection even though the procedure is supposed to be handled within thirty days of its admission, which was in 2014. This represents a rights violation and appears to play a part in the negotiations that Minister Campana announced with Chevron. After all, the government interfering in this way favoring Chevron plays a pivotal role in Chevron’s Arbitration action against the Ecuadorian state.
Fajardo also stated that, in the Arbitration Tribunal, Chevron’s claim against the Ecuadorian state is based on its own efforts to pressure the government to annul the judgment against the corporation, demanding that it violate legal norms and the independence of judicial function, which it is obliged to respect, according to the structure of the state as established in the Constitution of the Republic.
He said that the members of UDAPT are aware that Chevron has been making economic offers to the Ecuadorian government for years, in exchange for interfering in its favor before the Ecuadorian courts. “Fortunately, until now this has yet to happen,” but that as long as the Protection Action remains unsettled, in law, in the Constitutional Court, it is open to being used for blackmail and other kind of pressure by Chevron through offering bribes to the Ecuadrian government. “We can hardly believe that Minister Campana is falling into this trap,” the lawyer said.
Contact: The Union of People Affected by Chevron-Texaco (UDAPT)
Telephone: + 593 2 273533
María Eugenia Garcés: + 593 9 99225516
Nancy Rodríguez: + 593 9 99949337