Wednesday, May 28, 2008


For years, Chevron has been accused of myriad human rights and environmental abuses, from having nonviolent protesters gunned down in Nigeria to the dumping of toxic waste into Amazon waterways in Ecuador.

This year they are being confronted directly by their accusers as representatives from Ecuador, Burma, and Nigeria are in California to protest at the annual Chevron shareholders meeting.

Amazon Watch Director of Communications Simeon Tegel told The San Francisco Bay Guardian the event was designed to "potentially help shareholders become more active" in pressuring Chevron executives to finally address and rectify Chevron's abuses.

"One hopes they are human beings too, although sometimes it's hard to tell. But perhaps they will be motivated to do something, either from pressure from their shareholders or from the kindness of human nature," said Tegel.

The representatives from abroad - joined by human rights groups in the U.S. - said a rising tide of abuses associated with Chevron requires decisive action from Chevron CEO David O'Reilly and his senior management team.

Amazon Watch reports the California confrontation comes just after Chevron was hit with a damages assessment in an environmental litigation in Ecuador of up to $16 billion - which could lead to the largest judgment in civil court history - and after a U.S. federal judge in San Francisco ordered the company to stand trial in September over the killing of Nigerian villagers who were protesting on a Chevron oil platform.

"Chevron is at a watershed moment in its history over these growing human rights abuses, yet Chevron management is again burying its head in the sand and refusing to deal with them," said Atossa Soltani, Executive Director of Amazon Watch, an environmental organization working with the human rights advocates. We're here to take the fight directly to shareholders because management has completely failed to live up to its legal and ethical obligations."

Amazon Watch says the main issues include:
Nigeria: Security forces flown in and closely supervised by Chevron Nigeria shot nonviolent environmental protesters in an infamous case that will be the focus of two trials in San Francisco later this year. Two people died, several others were injured and some survivors of the attack were then tortured in a Nigerian jail. One decade after the incident, and after years of legal wrangling in American courts, Chevron management has yet to compensate the families of those killed and injured or resolve the original issues raised by the community.

Burma: Chevron’s Yadana pipeline has provided revenues that have propped up the country’s repressive military dictatorship, while security forces guarding the pipeline have been accused of rape, murder and forced labor. The pipeline has also had significant direct and indirect environmental impacts on the Tenassirm region, one of the largest surviving tracts of tropical rainforest in Southeast Asia, including illegal logging, fishing and poaching. Meanwhile, the pipeline has exacerbated the human rights abuses perpetrated by Burmese security forces against the region’s Mon, Karen and Tavoyans indigenous peoples. Naw Musi, a Karen woman who lives in exile, will attend the shareholder’s meeting.

Ecuador: Chevron faces an environmental damages claim of between $7 billion and $16 billion for causing what experts believe is the most extensive oil-related contamination on the planet. Chevron had admitted to deliberately dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into Amazon waterways and abandoning almost 1,000 open-air toxic waste pits, leading to the decimation of indigenous groups. A court-appointed special master recently found 428 deaths from cancer in the region related to Chevron’s oil operations. In addition, community leaders heading the lawsuit have been subject to death threats, office break-ins, and assaults that have resulted in protective measures being ordered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Community leader Luis Yanza, recently awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, will lead a delegation of Ecuadorians that includes Emergildo Criollo, a Cofan indigenous leader.

United States: In Richmond, in the East Bay, 35,000 families live in the shadow of a Chevron refinery that spewed out three million pounds of contaminants during the last three years. Existing pollution from Chevron already causes premature death, cancer, and other health ailments. Richmond asthma rates are 5x the state level. Now Chevron wants to expand the refinery, allowing it to process both more and dirtier crude oil, despite overwhelming opposition from local residents. Most of the people who live in the area are minorities, leading to charges of environmental racism.

The following is from KGO-TV (California)

Chevron shareholders met by protests

SAN RAMON, CA - Chevron officials are being met by protesters as they arrive in San Ramon for their annual shareholders meeting.

Many of Chevron's critics joined forces outside the company's front gate to highlight claims of environmental and human rights abuses in the Amazon, Nigeria, and Myanmar.
The oil company has rejected those claims. Chevron is also being criticized by U.S. consumers for high fuel prices. The oil giant continues to make post profits, their stock jumped 22 percent in the last year.

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