October 3, 2015
The Cuban Five have expressed solidarity with Ecuadorean plaintiffs locked in a legal battle with oil giant Chevron.
A group of Cuban national heroes condemned Chevron Friday while visiting the site of an environmental disaster in the Ecuadorean Amazon.
“We are truly outraged. These big corporations think they can trample … and abuse our people with impunity,” said Gerardo Hernandez, a member of the Cuban Five.
Hernandez made the comment during an official visit to Ecuador’s Lago Agrio region, where local residents have been waging a drawn out international legal battle demanding compensation from Chevron over massive pollution in the area.
The Cuban Five were imprisoned in the U.S. in 1998 and sentenced in 2001, accused of espionage. They had been monitoring Miami-based terrorist groups plotting to attack Cuba, and carried out no known espionage against the U.S. government.
At one former oil site, Aguarico 2, Hernandez described the stench as “suffocating,” and said he fully supported the local people in their fight against the oil giant.
“Today the (Cuban) Five are here to support the Ecuadorean people in this just demand,” he said.
Tens of thousands of Lago Agrio locals have been involved in the legal case against Chevron, with many blaming oil pollution in the area for health problems including cancer.
Earlier this year a group of Ecuadorean plaintiffs made progress in their battle against Chevron when a Canadian court ruled victims of the oil disaster could seek compensation through Canadian courts.
In 2011, an Ecuadorean court found Chevron responsible for environmental contamination in the Ecuadorean Amazon and ordered the company to pay billions in compensation. A 2013 ruling by the Ecuadorean Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling and set the compensation at US$9.5 billion.
However, Chevron has refused to pay and as a result the plaintiffs were forced to try to enforce the ruling by seeking the seizure of Chevron’s assets internationally.
The plaintiffs are indigenous Ecuadorean people from the Lago Agrio region. Contamination caused by the oil company in that part of the Amazon is estimated to involve over 80 times the amount of oil spilled in the infamous 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.
Texaco, acquired by Chevron in 2001, conducted oil extraction in the Ecuadorean Amazon from 1964 to 1990, and dumped over 16 billion gallons of oil and toxic waste as a cost-saving measure.
There are 30,000 plaintiffs currently involved in the lawsuit against Chevron. The campaign against the oil company has drawn support from a wide-array of people, including famed human rights defender and Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchu, as well as other indigenous peoples throughout the continent.