The Struggle For Justice In The Amazon Spans Generations

By Rainforest Action Network
Ecuadorean delegation
The three members of the Ecuadorean delegation outside Chevron's shareholder meeting on May 25th (in foreground, from left): Servio Curipoma, Humberto Piaguaje, Carmen Zambrano.

Over the past few weeks we’ve told you a lot about the courageous Ecuadoreans who traveled to America to take their calls for justice directly to Chevron’s management and board at the company’s annual shareholder meeting. But it’s important to note that the members of the Ecuadorean delegation were only the latest generation battling the oil company that has devastated their home in the Ecuadorean Amazon, lest we lose sight of the fact that the struggle for justice in the Amazon has spanned generations.

It takes an incredible amount of resolve and courage for forest-dwelling peoples and farmers to stand up to one of the largest multinational companies on Earth and prevail. But that’s just what Humberto Piaguaje and the rest of the Ecuadorean plaintiffs did when the verdict came down in February finding Chevron guilty of its pollution in the Ecuadorean Amazon and ordering the company to pay $18 billion to clean it up. Humberto’s uncle, Elias Piaguaje, helped pave the road to this historic victory when, in 1993, he traveled from Ecuador to New York to represent the Secoya people of the Ecuadorean Amazon.

Elias joined representatives of other indigenous tribes and campesino communities to file a landmark lawsuit demanding that Texaco — which Chevron bought in 2001 — clean up the oil contamination that had devastated the Secoya people’s rainforest home. Now Humberto, himself a leader of the Secoya people, followed in his uncle’s footsteps and traveled to New York prior to coming to California for the shareholder meeting. Check out this video about the journey:

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Humberto was joined in the delegation by Carmen Zambrano and Servio Curipoma. Both were inspiring to work with, but I especially can’t stop thinking about Servio’s incredibly moving speech outside of Chevron’s annual shareholder meeting. Servio lost both of his parents to cancer caused by Chevron’s oil contamination: His mother succumbed to uterine cancer, and his father died of stomach cancer. You can read an interview with Servio’s mother, Rosana Sisalima, who took part in a project to tell the stories of people affected by Chevron’s oil pollution in the Ecuadorean Amazon. Rosana passed away in May 2006, but Servio is honoring the memories of his mother and father by carrying on their fight.

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Like Servio, we must be unwavering in our resolve to hold Chevron accountable. As an American, I think it’s incredibly important that we hold this American company accountable for its crimes in foreign countries. When BP, a UK-based company, came to our country and devastated the Gulf Coast ecosystem, the Obama Administration forced the company to set aside $20 billion to compensate the victims of the oil spill. We should expect no less from an American company that went down to Ecuador and did the same thing — the fact that Chevron/Texaco deliberately dumped over 18 billion gallons of oil pollution in the Ecuadorean Amazon makes it all the more important to hold the company responsible.

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Not one more generation of Ecuadoreans should have to live with Chevron’s oil pollution and the cancer, birth defects, and other diseases and health problems that are a direct result. Enough is enough.