Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network Response to Chevron's Statements About Meeting with Emergildo Criollo, Indigenous Leader from Ecuador:
On Tuesday, March 2nd, Emergildo Criollo, an indigenous leader from the Ecuadorian Amazon met with Chevron executives at the company's headquarters in San Ramon, CA, accompanied by campaign staff from Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and Amazon Watch. On Thursday, March 4th Chevron wrote publicly about the meeting. The following is a response from RAN and Amazon Watch.
Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network requested to meet personally with new Chevron CEO, John Watson, in order to allow Emergildo the opportunity to deliver a direct appeal, and tell the story of how Chevron's contamination has affected him and his family. Emergildo was also delivering 325,000 petitions from more than 150 countries in support of his appeal to Chevron to clean up Ecuador.
John Watson did not receive Emergildo and he was met instead by Chevron public relations executives; Rhonda I. Zygocki, Vice President for Policy, Government and Public Affairs, Silvia M. Garrigo, Manager for Global Issues and Policy, Gary Fisher, General Manager for Corporate Public Policy, and Don Campbell, Manager of External Communications.
Emergildo was accompanied by supporters from RAN and Amazon Watch, two organizations that work in support of the communities in Ecuador who are demanding remediation of Chevron's oil pollution, and compensation for the horrific health and environmental impacts. Maria Ramos, director of RAN's Change Chevron campaign, and Mitchell Anderson, Director of Corporate Accountability campaigns for Amazon Watch accompanied Emergildo into the meeting with the Chevron executives.
Today, Chevron wrote about the meeting on the company's official blog with the misleading title, "Important First Steps – Chevron and Rainforest Action Meet, Share Common Ground."
The blog post shares a comment that Silvia Garrigo, Chevron's Manager of Global Issues and Public Policy, posted on a RAN blog update about the petition delivery. Garrigo writes, "We can all agree that [Emergildo's] story is moving and heartfelt. And we can all agree that there are unacceptable environmental conditions in Ecuador's Amazon." The comment concludes: "We look forward to continuing a constructive dialogue." Chevron also posted a link to the blog on its Twitter account.
After delivering his letter and the 325,000 petitions to the Chevron executives, Emergildo told supporters, "I traveled from my home in the rainforest in Ecuador to Chevron's headquarters to ask the company to clean up the toxic contamination that killed two of my sons, and has caused suffering for my people and thousands of others. I went to Chevron CEO John Watson's home to ask him personally to clean up the toxic mess in Ecuador, but they sent only company spokespeople to hear my story."
"We have always been open to communication with the company but it is hard to understand what Chevron means by 'common ground' while the company continues to evade responsibility and blame others for the devastation in the Ecuadorian Amazon," said Mitchell Anderson of Amazon Watch. "Chevron appears to be cynically trying to score public relations points from the brief meeting with Emergildo Criollo. The meeting was an opportunity for Emergildo to tell his devastating story and ask Chevron to stop the lies and clean up its toxic mess once and for all."
"We will consider our dialogue with Chevron 'constructive' only when they agree to fulfill the communities' consistent demands that the company fully remediate its contamination, compensate them for the health and environmental impacts, and provide access to potable water and health care," said Maria Ramos of Rainforest Action Network.
Emergildo's letter was addressed to Chevron CEO John Watson, who was also the target of the 325,000 supporting petitions. The affected communities and their supporters are asking that Mr. Watson lead the company in a new direction by ending the attempts at evading responsibility and satisfying the affected people's demands for a clean-up.
After delivering his letter, Emergildo expressed disappointment that Mr. Watson failed to show up, as well as hope that a solution is possible. "I am glad that I was able to come here and share my story," said Criollo. "But Mr. Watson must understand that people are still dying. Chevron, clean up Ecuador now."
30,000 residents of Ecuador's rainforest region are plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit that was first filed in 1993 against Chevron-owned Texaco, which dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into Amazon waterways and the forest, and abandoned more than 900 unlined waste pits filled with crude oil and toxic waste amidst the communities. Abundant scientific evidence shows massive contamination throughout the area where Texaco was the sole operator of the oil fields from 1964 until the company left in 1992. The indigenous and campesino communities continue to suffer an epidemic of illness, cancer, birth defects, and premature deaths due to the contamination.