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  • Environmental and indigenous activists argue Chevron should be forced to pay up for pollution at Ecuador's  Lago Agrio. (Photo: Reuters)

    Environmental and indigenous activists argue Chevron should be forced to pay up for pollution at Ecuador's Lago Agrio. (Photo: Reuters) | Photo: Reuters

Published 25 October 2014

Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patino says international law must reign in abuses by multinational corporations.

Ecuador's long running legal battle against Chevron is just the latest example of international law prioritizing corporate profits over people, the country's foreign minister Ricardo Patino warned on Friday.

“Despite losing a court case in Ecuador raised by affected indigenous communities, Chevron ... is illegally and illegitimately using an international arbitration system to avoid complying with the judicial sentence in Ecuador,” Patino wrote in an article published by the Huffington Post.

Patino was referring to a dispute over environmental contamination at the Lake Agrio oil field in northern Ecuador.

The dispute dates back to the early 1990s, when local residents began demanding oil company Texaco clean up chronic pollution in the area caused by decades of oil drilling.

In 2011, an Ecuadorian court ordered US$8 billion in compensation for residents from Texaco's parent company, Chevron.

The company has refused to recognize the court's decision, and in March a U.S. judge ruled Chevron doesn't have to pay up after all.

“The massive damage caused by Texaco in the Lago Agrio area of the Amazon rainforest is well known, and is still evident in the form of ubiquitous black pools of toxic sludge twenty years after the oil company formally left our country,” Patino argued.

Patino accused Chevron of “illegally and illegitimately using an international arbitration system to avoid complying with the judicial sentence in Ecuador.”

“This is but one example of how international trade and investment agreements place transnational corporations above sovereign national law, allowing them to use their money, influence and lobby groups to escape accountability for their actions,” Patino stated.

On it's website, Chevron claims Ecuador's government had a role in “denying” the company justice, and cites the U.S. court finding that the Ecuadorian ruling was reached through fraud and other misconduct.

However, Patino says Chevron has escaped justice in Ecuador because of a wider problem of international law failing to hold companies accountable for human rights and environmental abuse.

“The plight of victims of environmental violence at the hands of transnational corporations, such as by Union Carbide in Bhopal, Shell in the Niger Delta, and Chevron-Texaco in Ecuador, demonstrate just how dangerous this legal gap is. All of the victims in these cases and others are still waiting for remedy and fair compensation,” he stated.

“It is detrimental to our nations that today no international legal basis requiring multinational corporations to respect and abide by human and environmental rights standards exists,” Patino argued.

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