LETTER TO THE EDITOR:
In regard to “Ecuador grabs for Chevron’s wallet” (Editorial, May 7), a few points will put the current litigation in Ecuador in perspective.
Texaco Petroleum Co., now a Chevron subsidiary, was one of the majority owners of the consortium from 1964 (many years before PetroEcuador was even created) until 1977 and was the sole operator of the consortium from 1965 until June 1990.
In that role, it elected to use exploitation and waste-disposal practices that would not have been permitted in the United States and which were well below international standards. It continued as an active partner in the consortium until June 1992.
The original lawsuit by Ecuadorian citizens was filed in a U.S. federal district court in New York in 1993. Texaco/Chevron argued that the case should not be tried in the United States and insisted - ultimately successfully - that it be moved to Ecuador, where it was refiled in 2003. Now it claims that it should not be litigated there, either. Chevron suggested on “60 Minutes” that there is no forum at all in which plaintiffs should have an opportunity to litigate their claims.
Contrary to the editorial’s suggestion, the lawsuit focuses on sites operated by Texaco, not PetroEcuador.
The “final release” between Ecuador and Texaco covered only a portion of those sites and only the claims belonging to the government. More importantly, the republic and Texaco/Chevron expressly agreed that any claims of third parties would be expressly preserved, notwithstanding the government’s release of its own claims. The parties thus agreed, in writing, that any agreements between Ecuador and Texaco would not affect the rights of private Ecuadorian citizens, including those advanced in the related environmental litigation.
The government of Ecuador is not a party to the Lago Agrio litigation and, despite repeated urgings by Chevron, has refused to become involved in the case. The government of Ecuador is confident that the Ecuadorian judicial system - which Texaco itself sought out and in which it has scored numerous victories in litigation, including cases adverse to the government - will weigh the voluminous evidence submitted by the parties and will render a just and reasoned decision in the case.
DIEGO GARCIA CARRION
Attorney general of the Republic of Ecuador