QUITO, ECUADOR – Pink Floyd front man Roger Waters took a break from his South America-Mexico tour on Tuesday to visit Ecuador and denounce oil giant Chevron Texaco. Rogers said he wanted to draw attention to cleanup in the Amazon Rainforest the company was ordered to carry out by a judge in Ecuador, who also ordered the oil giant to pay affected communities $9.5 billion in damages. The case has been ongoing for 25 years.
“This case is fundamentally important to everyone in the world,” Waters said at a press conference Tuesday morning in Ecuador’s capitol city of Quito, referring to the case of the Ecuadorian communities of Lago Agro against Chevron Texaco. He was joined Tuesday by some 12 members of the non-governmental organizationAmazon Defense Front (ADF), which would arbitrate any payment of damages from Chevron.
Waters was also joined by Steven Donzinger, a U.S. lawyer who previously represented the Ecuadorian plaintiffs, before Chevron accused him of fraud.
“The whole world at some point has to decide whether the law is there to serve the people of the world or whether it’s there to serve the insatiable appetites of the oligarchs and the corporate tyranny under which we all have to survive,” Waters said during the press conference.
The long, complex case between Ecuadorian communities and Chevron Texaco began in 1993 when local residents of Lago Agrio filed a class action lawsuit against the oil company Texaco for decades of dumping toxic oil waste in the Amazon rainforest. According to plaintiffs, the toxic waste has seeped into the soil and local rivers, killing off several species of fish and contaminating the only water source for many local communities.
At least 30,000 people living nearby have also been affected by this contamination, according to the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre. Many have reported increased rates of cancer and other serious health problems.
The black pools of oil in the area have become infamous. Local environmental groups run so-called “toxic tours” to show people contamination, while images of black oil-covered hands emerging from local water wells have become a symbol of the region.
When Chevron Corporation acquired Texaco in 2001, it also acquired responsibility for this cleanup and compensation.
(Photo credit: Jonatan Rosas)