Mar 17, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 26 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Last week, a federal judge ruled that a $9.5 billion judgment for environmental damage in Ecuador could not be enforced against Chevron. American environmental lawyers had brought suit against Chevron for polluting the Amazon basin in Ecuadorean courts, which in turn handed down the astronomical judgment. But U.S. District judge Lewis Kaplan concluded that the Ecuadorean judgment could not be enforced in America, because the evidence that the plaintiffs’ lawyers were corrupt was “voluminous.” Chevron presented evidence of bribe payments, coded emails, and secret meetings with Ecuadorean judges—a sinister plot that would “normally come only out of Hollywood,” wrote Kaplan in his 497-page ruling.
In fact, this case did come out of Hollywood. Mark Hemingway’s article last week on the truthiness of politically charged documentaries (“A Documentary in Name Only”) noted that Chevron’s RICO suit against the corrupt attorneys came about in part because they subpoenaed the raw footage from an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker who made a documentary about the case. It turns out that the raw footage—not included in the film—showed the plaintiffs’ lawyers engaged in dubious conduct. The outtakes even showed the lead attorney, Steven Donziger, talking about intimidating an Ecuadorean judge. The lawyer said it would be good if the judge feared for his life.
From there, it all started unraveling. In the end, Kaplan concluded that the legal team was responsible for writing the multibillion-dollar judgment and the Ecuadorean judge merely signed his name to it. A former Ecuadorean judge, Alberto Guerra, testified he’d been paid to ghostwrite the opinion. And Chevron’s legal team pointed out that sections of the judgment had been copied word-for-word from internal documents held by Donziger’s legal team.
Donziger has responded to the stinging rebuke by accusing the judge of “implacable hostility” directed at him personally and of having no respect for Ecuador’s legal system. In Judge Kaplan’s defense, the evidence would suggest Donziger is an unlikable bully, and there’s little reason to respect the legal system of a country known for its corruption and judicial malfeasance.
Along with the initial $18 billion judgment against Chevron in 2011, that same year an Ecuadorean court heard a defamation case brought against the publishers of the newspaper El Universo by Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s president. “All four defendants were found guilty of aggravated defamation and sentenced to three years in prison and an unprecedented fine of $40 million,” notes Freedom House. “International human rights and press freedom organizations, the Organization of American States (OAS), and the United Nations denounced the court decision as a clear effort to intimidate the press.” Correa further tried to hire a Spanish firm to lodge frivolous copyright claims in order to remove documentary outtakes from YouTube that blew holes in the case against Chevron.
Chevron is still engaged in arbitration over this matter, but it’s worth noting the pollution in question was the result of a joint project between Texaco (later purchased by Chevron) and the state-owned oil company Petroecuador. Texaco reached a settlement on the matter in 1998. Nonetheless, the pillars of the liberal base—environmentalists, trial lawyers, and Hollywood—all appeared to line up against Chevron, when the case was far from black and white. Unable to deny evidence of his own wrongdoing, Donziger’s defense boiled down to asserting his transgressions are trivial because all right thinking people know oil companies are irredeemably evil. Judge Kaplan didn’t buy it: “Justice is not served by inflicting injustice. The ends do not justify the means. There is no ‘Robin Hood’ defense to illegal and wrongful conduct. And the defendants’ ‘this-is-the-way-it-is-done-in-Ecuador’ excuses—[are] actually a remarkable insult to the people of Ecuador.”
1:01 PM, Jun 23, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Ricardo Patiño Aroca, Ecuador's minister of foreign affairs for trade and integration, announces on Twitter that they've received a request for asylum from Edward Snowden:
2:14 PM, Jun 18, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
The Chinese organ Xinhua reports that Ecuador might offer asylum to Edward Snowden.
"Ecuador would consider granting asylum to whistleblower Edward Snowden, the ex-CIA employee who single- handedly disclosed the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA)'s PRISM mass-surveillance program, a top Ecuadorian official said Monday," the outlet claims.
2:50 PM, Feb 14, 2013 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
About two years ago, a senior Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) official said that a certain Latin American country was becoming a veritable “United Nations” of organized criminal activity, attracting gangsters from such diverse and faraway places as Albania, China, Italy, and Ukraine. He was not talking about Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, or Brazil. No, Jay Bergman, the DEA’s Andean regional director, was describing Ecuador, a small nation of 15 million people that is tucked between two of the largest cocaine-producing countries on earth. “If I’m an Italian organized drug trafficker and I want to meet with my Colombian counterpart,” Bergman told Reuters, “I would probably prefer to meet in Ecuador than to meet in Colombia.”
Chávez disciple Rafael Correa has escalated his persecution of journalists.10:00 AM, Aug 8, 2011 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
Back in May, Ecuadorean voters approved a referendum that gave President Rafael Correa broader authority to regulate opposition journalists. At the time, Freedom House expressed concern that Correa was acquiring “undue influence over the country’s media,” and its senior program manager for Latin America, Viviana Giacaman, said that “Correa’s continuous demonization of independent media and the use of criminal defamation suits to silence journalists are having a chilling effect on the press in Ecuador.”
Rafael Correa’s latest anti-democratic power grab.1:03 PM, May 26, 2011 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
By endorsing the judicial and media “reforms” in this month’s constitutional referendum, Ecuador has moved a step closer to Venezuelan-style autocracy. President Rafael Correa, a Hugo Chávez disciple who has attacked opposition journalists, harassed private companies, and weakened democracy, will now have greater powers to regulate media content and punish reporters, judges, magistrates, and businessmen who disagree with his radical agenda. This represents a huge setback for those Ecuadoreans struggling to preserve the basic civil liberties that Americans take for granted.
Chile and Mexico have renewed diplomatic ties with Tegucigalpa.11:10 AM, Aug 9, 2010 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
In recent days, Chile and Mexico became the latest Latin American countries to reestablish formal diplomatic relations with Honduras, which (unfairly) became a pariah after the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya last summer.
Nearing irrelevance.10:55 AM, Mar 29, 2010 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
Last week in Washington, the Organization of American States (OAS) held an election for secretary general. As expected, incumbent José Miguel Insulza won reelection to a second five-year term.
In past years, OAS elections have been full of pomp and circumstance, with presidents and foreign ministers from across the region in attendance. This year, however, not a single president made the trip. There were only two foreign ministers present, one of whom, Alfredo Moreno of Chile, was obliged to be there because Insulza is a Chilean.
He remains a very real threat to U.S. interests in Latin America and beyond.5:22 PM, Feb 9, 2010 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
Last week, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dennis Blair presented the “Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community” to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. While the report notes that Venezuela is “struggling” to deal with the post-2008 drop in oil prices and with production declines, it also outlines a variety of ways in which Hugo Chávez remains a very real threat to U.S. interests in Latin America and beyond.
Start with Iran. The mullahs have identified oil-rich Venezuela as a potential shield against the impact of international energy sanctions. Even if the U.S. and other Western powers further restricted Iran’s access to gasoline, Venezuela (and China) could help soften the blow. As U.S. policymakers evaluate the effectiveness of gasoline sanctions, they must remember that Tehran and Caracas have formed an increasingly close alliance. This past June, after Iran’s stolen election, while government thugs were murdering student demonstrators in the streets, Chávez congratulated Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his “very big and important victory.”
‹‹ More Recent