May 19, 2015

Fighting Chevron in Washington DC

Drew Garvie & Peter Miller

In late April, we, along with three other members of the Young Communist League of Canada, had the honour of attending a historic event in Washington DC. We were part of a caravan of buses leaving from Ontario to attend a rally and conference in solidarity with indigenous peoples in Ecuador fighting the oil giant Chevron.

The place and time of the solidarity events were chosen by Chevron. The corporation has been trying to avoid paying for one of the worst environmental disasters in history, that it created by dumping billions of gallons of toxic sludge in the Ecuadorean Amazon. In 2011, it was ordered to pay $9.5 billion dollars to clean up the mess. Chevron has yet to pay up. There is an ongoing case in Canada where the indigenous plaintiffs could receive justice through assets in Canada. What brought us to Washington, the heart of the leading imperialist power, was the result one of Chevron’s latest dirty tricks it is using to avoid cleaning up its mess. It has decided to take Ecuador to court through the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

Chevron is trying to use this closed tribunal, built on imperialist principles, to wiggle out of paying its debt. To combat this maneuver the "Committee in Solidarity with the Affected Communities by Chevron in Canada" joined activists from the U.S. outside the World Bank headquarters on April 21st.

What made this solidarity action historic was the meeting of indigenous peoples from North, Central and South America. From the North, over 100 people from the Haudenosaunee communities located in Ontario travelled for more than 12 hours to stand in solidarity with their sisters and brothers from the South. From Central America, Dr. Rigoberta Menchú, the renowned Mayan leader from Guatemala and Nobel Peace Prize winner, spoke strongly at both the rally and the conference. Over a thousand other people, many of whom are South American, including indigenous peoples, also made long journeys to add their voices to the chants of “Justice for Ecuador!”.

The events were very powerful to the participants due to both the justness of the cause and because of the existence of the Eagle and the Condor Prophecy. This is a shared prophecy that foretells the coming together of indigenous peoples from North and South America. The indigenous speakers stressed the importance of unity in the face of a common enemy; corporations and their governments.
In her keynote address Menchú outlined the goals of the campaign:

“…I want to greet the indigenous people from the Amazon that have suffered from the ecocide committed by Chevron. Greetings to the First Nations of Canada. They know what destruction means, and I want to give a big hug, to the brothers and sisters of the First Nations of Canada. We want to greet all the indigenous cultures that are here. We have to say that we have to protect our mother, our mother earth, and that any offence against our mother means that we are affecting life. The offence made against mother earth, is an offense against all life, including each one of our lives. That is why we are here.

We are witnesses of the destruction made to the Amazon in Ecuador. Chevron during many years has polluted the rivers, the waters, the plants, and taken many lives. This is a struggle against Chevron, and Chevron has to compensate, or pay back the people who have been affected in the Amazon. We are witnesses to the damages caused to the Amazon region in Ecuador. We are witness that there are many people that are sick, that have many illnesses. We know that we have seen the “dirty hand”. You can see it and you can prove for yourself what happens in the Amazon. You go to the Amazon and you put your hand into the land, into the earth, your hand will come out black with oil, with all the toxic waste that is found in the Amazon.  That’s why we have come here to demand justice. We speak on behalf of the peoples that are the real victims.

Now Chevron wants to become the victim after it destroyed mother earth and took out all the resources. It’s not possible for humanity to be deceived by this double standard for a company. That is why we demand justice. We cannot let Chevron go unpunished, also for the acts that it has [committed] against the sovereignty of Ecuador. This is not the first time I have heard about the crimes that Chevron has committed. I have heard the same story in many indigenous communities all around the world. And so that’s why we are here: so there can never again be ecocide crimes going unpunished. I’m sure that all of you have the same information that I have. And I am sure that we are here because we are convinced, that Chevron must compensate and pay for the damages caused. And also because we are convinced that they want to turn justice around. And we are not going to allow that.”

For more background on the history of the campaign check out these other Rebel Youth articles:

•             Case Against Chevron Highlighted at WFYS

•             Rafael Correa Kicks Off Campaign Against Oil Giant Chevron

Also check out the main campaign page for Canada:

This May 21st is "International Anti Chevron Day" you can join the rally in Toronto here.

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