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Chevron Lobbies White House to Pressure Ecuador to Stop $12 Billion Amazon Pollution Lawsuit
by via Democracy Now
Tuesday Aug 5th, 2008 8:21 AM
Tuesday, August 5, 2008 :Chevron is being accused of promoting geopolitical blackmail in its efforts to stave off a lawsuit accusing it of contaminating the Ecuadorian rain forest. Nearly 30,000 Amazon residents are seeking $12 billion from Chevron for dumping billions of gallons of toxic oil waste. According to Newsweek, the oil giant is urging the Bush administration to yank special trade preferences for Ecuador if the country’s government doesn't force the Amazon residents to drop the case. If the White House agrees, it would be the second major lobbying victory for Chevron in just a matter of weeks. Last month, the Senate dropped an effort to penalize Chevron for maintaining extensive ties to the military junta in Burma.
We turn now to Chevron. The oil giant is being accused of promoting geopolitical blackmail in its efforts to stave off a lawsuit accusing it of contaminating the Ecuadorian rain forest. Nearly 30,000 Amazon residents are seeking $12 billion from Chevron for dumping billions of gallons of toxic oil waste. Activists have described the disaster as an Amazon Chernobyl. Earlier this year, a court-appointed expert recommended Chevron be required to pay up to $16 billion to clean up the rain forest. Now, Newsweek magazine has revealed new details of how Chevron is lobbying the Bush administration to pressure Ecuador. Chevron is urging the Bush administration to yank special trade preferences for Ecuador if the country’s government doesn’t force the Amazon residents to drop the case.

Chevron’s lobbying team includes former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, former Democratic Senator John Breaux and Wayne Berman, a top fundraiser for John McCain. The Ecuadorian government has staunchly backed the case. In an interview for Democracy Now earlier this year, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa told journalist Greg Palast “Ecuador is no longer for sale.”

The Bush administration has confirmed its considering Chevron’s request to pressure Eucador to drop the case. If the White House agrees, it would be the second major lobbying victory for Chevron in just a matter of weeks. Last month, the Senate dropped an effort to penalize Chevron for maintaining extensive ties to the military junta in Burma.

The Senate approved new trade sanctions against Burma but excluded a provision that would have eliminated a large Chevron tax break. Burmese activists had supported the provision to pressure Chevron to end its ties with the junta. The measure had been named after the late Tom Lantos, a Burma advocate and the only US lawmaker to have survived the Nazi Holocaust.

To talk about these developments, I”m joined by three guests. On the line from Washington, D.C., Michael Isikkoff is an investigative reporter for Newsweek magazine. He broke the story on Chevron”s recent lobbying of the Bush administration to pressure Ecuador. Joining me from Burbank, California is Atossa Soltani, Executive Director of Amazon Watch, a group that has worked closely with the Amazon residents suing Chevron. And in Washington, D.C., Marco Simons is Legal Director of Earth Rights International, one of the leading campaigners against Chevron”s presence in Burma.

Michael Isikoff, investigative correspondent for Newsweek. He wrote about Chevron’s lobbying efforts against the Ecuador lawsuit in last week’s issue of Newsweek. The article is called “A Sixteen Billion Dollar Problem.”

Atossa Soltani, Executive Director of Amazon Watch.

Marco Simons, Legal Director of Earth Rights International.

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