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Standing Together
to hold Chevron Accountable: 
A visit to Ecuador to build Solidarity
Message from Mayor McLaughlin
September 25, 2013

EcuadorDear friends,

At the invitation of the Ecuadorian government and President Rafael Correa, on Sept 15th I left for a deeply informative, one-week, all expense paid trip to Ecuador to see the Chevron-Texaco contaminated areas of the Ecuadorian rainforest.  Accompanying me on my trip were Doria Robinson, reporting for La Voz (a new community newspaper) and John Geluardi , a local reporter from the East Bay Express. 

Our trip coincided with a campaign launched by President Correa called “The Dirty Hand of Chevron” to expose the massive damage done in the Amazon Rainforest by Texaco (now Chevron).    While I had seen pictures and heard testimonies of the environmental and health damage, seeing this contamination up close made a profound impact on me.  This catastrophe occurring over 26 years of Texaco’s dumping crude oil and toxic wastewater into the rainforest is unconscionable.  Crude oil was dumped in the rivers and streams and on the roads. 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater was dumped into the rainforest.  All this is quite extensively documented.  There currently exists nearly 1,000 unlined pits with toxins seeping into the groundwater and migrating into the rainforest as we speak.   I visited one of the pits and experienced first-hand the sludge that fills these pits left by Texaco.    Texaco (now Chevron) clearly disregarded the environment and simply disposed of its toxic products in the most cost-saving way…..just tossing them into the rainforest, its rivers, streams and roads!  As a result, the indigenous community who drank the water, bathed in the rivers, cooked their food and washed their clothes with the water, as well as fished from the rivers and streams, suffered monumentally and continue to suffer from cancers, birth defects and miscarriages.

We in Richmond also know all about the “dirty hand of Chevron” and the impact of their pollution on our community and the impact of their repeated “incidents” like the explosive fire that occurred last August 6 (2012).  

It is for that reason that part of my trip centered on networking with the affected community members of Ecuador.  I made contact with the Mayors of Lago Agrio and Shushufinda, both areas deeply impacted.  I proposed that we set up a sister city relationship between Richmond and the affected areas of the Ecuadorian rainforest, and these mayors were excited to join with Richmond is such an endeavor.   I also met directly with the Union of Affected Peoples (who are suing Chevron) and talked about creating an international union of people affected by Chevron internationally.  From Richmond to Ecuador to Nigeria to Brazil and to Argentina, there is a great swelling of people who have felt the “dirty hand of Chevron.”  It is in our interest to join together and say “enough is enough!”  Chevron needs to take responsibility for its actions the world over.

I also had the opportunity to speak directly with those indigenous community members who have sued Chevron and won an 19 billion  dollar ruling from the Ecuadorian courts.   Rather than pay up for the damage they have caused to the largest rainforest on the planet, which sustains us all,  Chevron is contesting that ruling in the court system in New York.    Chevron runs from its responsibility again and again.  In Richmond, they have called our local lawsuit against them (as a result of the fire last year) “without merit.”

But we know better.  We know what the local regulatory agencies and the Chemical Safety Board have released.  Chevron has been fined millions of dollars recently for dozens of violations  of criminal willful neglect at their Richmond refinery and they continue to have 3,000 clamps in place rather than replacing pipes with the best technology available.

When I returned to the office on Monday after my trip to Ecuador, I was greeted with a package from Chevron stating that they knew about my trip, and once again stating misinformation and downright lies about their actual liability.   They misstate information from a recent Abitration Tribunal to make their case.  However, the tribunal does not state what Chevron says it states.   Chevron deliberately attempts to confuse the matter presenting the Ecuadorian lawsuit as a suit between the Ecuadorian State and Chevron and saying a previous Ecuadorian administration signed an agreement releasing Chevron-Texaco from liability.  What they fail to say is that the lawsuit was filed by individuals of the indigenous, affected communities - independent of the State of Ecuador - and NO RELEASE of liability is considered, let alone decided, in the findings of the Tribunal in regard to this case.   Chevron needs to step up to the plate and comprehensively clean up the rainforest, the lungs of the planet, and compensate the Ecuadorian indigenous communities whose life-style and health has been compromised dramatically. 19 billion dollars is not even enough to turn around the biggest environmental catastrophe on the planet (larger than the Exxon/Valdez and the BP Gulf Coast catastrophes).  But rather than “own up” and begin the clean-up, Chevron would rather shift responsibility to Petroecuador, an Ecuadorian oil company, which did not even come into existence until after 26 years of Texaco’s mammoth contamination!

We, the people, of affected communities everywhere must unite in solidarity.  This is a David vs. Goliath struggle.  Let’s make sure there are many Davids joning hands to demand that we shift the focus of our world away from corporate domination and irresponsibility and onto people’s needs.   This will not happen overnight.  It is a long-term international struggle.  But the time to begin is now.  Toward that end, I am inviting members of the Union of Affected Peoples and their lawyer from Ecuador to join us in Richmond for an event in mid-October.   This event will be a report-back on our recent trip, as well as an update on the Ecuadorian indigenous struggle to acquire the 19 billion dollars from Chevron, as a result of their lawsuit and mandated by the Ecuadorian court.  Stay tuned for more information on this upcoming event!


Gayle McLaughlin
Mayor, City of Richmond

Contact Information:

Gayle McLaughlin for Mayor 2010
PO Box 5284
Richmond CA 94805
Phone: (510) 237-1456
317 11th Street (must access 11th Street from Nevin)

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