Friday, June 11, 2010

Whistleblower Receives Death Threat for Revealing Chevron Corruption in Ecuador

As I wrote about here on Wednesday, the whistleblower Santiago Escobar returned to Ecuador to testify before the Prosecutor General's office – the Fiscalia – about the corrupt activities of his former friend and longtime Chevron contractor Diego Borja.

Escobar made public recordings he made of Borja admitting to helping Chevron tamper with evidence in the trial over the oil giant's contamination in Ecuador. And only hours after giving his testimony, he received a threatening email message, which his father reads briefly in this news report from Ecuador's Gamanoticias:

The chilling email Santiago Escobar received that evening suggests the sender was watching Escobar:

"you looked good today at the Prosecutor's office"... "are you really safe in the place where you find yourself?"..."as they say, it's only a matter of time."

The message was signed "we'll be in touch -cmdte. nestor." Of course, cmdte is an abbreviation for comandante, or commander.

The email came from an "Arturo Benitez" with an email address of comandocondor88@gmail.com. Arturo Benitez is the late founder of the Chilean Air Force and the 'condor' in the address may refer to 'Operation Condor,' the brutal campaign of political repression led by Chile and waged by the military and intelligence services of several right-wing governments throughout South America in the 1970s. Condor involved kidnappings, assassinations, and mass disappearances of political enemies.

Examination of the email by tech-savvy experts revealed very little about its possible origins, but it must be taken seriously. At the very least, the Fiscalia should re-instate the security detail it briefly supplied.

And of course, as Pablo Fajardo, lawyer for the Amazon communities, says in the report, the shocking allegations of Chevron's corruption in the trial must be thoroughly investigated. Fajardo told other journalists on Wednesday that Chevron's misdeeds may have little overall effect on the trial in Ecuador expected to conclude this year. Nonetheless, the international arbitration that Chevron has sought and been granted over the case is based principally on its accusations of corruption by Ecuador's judiciary. And the company's main evidence for that? The phony "corruption scandal" that its 'dirty tricks guy' Diego Borja concocted with secret videos of the presiding judge.

Amidst the startling news about whistleblowers, dirty tricks, and oil company corruption, let us not forget the ground truth. While Chevron mounts ever more desperate efforts to evade responsibility, indigenous people eat canned tuna instead of fishing like their ancestors from rivers now polluted. Campesino children continue to get sick from drinking poisoned water. Elders die of cancer instead of old age.

– Han

Han Shan is Coordinator of Amazon Watch's Clean Up Ecuador Campaign

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