Ecuador fails to enforce treaty with U.S. ahead of presidential election

Betsi Fores | The Daily Caller News Foundation

As Ecuador prepares to hold its presidential election, a tribunal has ruled that the government violated terms of an investment treaty with the United States by enforcing the terms of a disputed multibillion-dollar environmental judgment against American oil giant Chevron.

The tribunal arbitrating the dispute said the government of Ecuador disobeyed two prior rulings that ordered the “South American government to prevent plaintiffs representing environmentalist groups from enforcing the judgment abroad,” Washington Free Beacon reports.

The panel ruled that Ecuador was in violation of international law and its treaty obligations with the United States.

In 2011, Chevron was ordered by Ecuadorian courts to pay $18.2 billion in environmental damages to remedy the environmental done at the Lago Agrio oil field from by oil company Texaco, which was later acquired by Chevron. Since the judgement, it has been revealed that the plaintiffs had bribed court officials to receive a ruling in their favor.

The latest arbitration panel directed Ecuador to “take all measures at its disposal to suspend or cause to be suspended the enforcement or recognition within and without Ecuador of any judgment against [Chevron] in the Lago Agrio case.”

The now Chevron-owned entity Texaco operated in northeastern Ecuador in a minority partnership with the state-owned oil company Petroecuador from 1964 to 1992. When the contract expired, Texaco left the region and agreed to pay $40 million in environmental damages.

Plaintiffs, comprised of environmental groups and the country’s indigenous population, brought a suit against Texaco, which was later inherited by Chevron when the company was acquired. They asserted that the company owed significantly in damages due to the destruction of the surrounding rainforest and illnesses experienced by the indigenous.

Meanwhile, state-owned Petroecuador remains in operation on the same land, using similarly questionable environmental practices.

Ecuador’s current president, Rafael Correa, was elected in 2006 by allying himself with the country’s indigenous people, who comprise a quarter of the population. Since then he has clashed with the group over issues such as environmental concerns like mining and water laws, as well as issues of justice.

In 2011, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie) filed a suit against the president and his administration for the alleged “genocide of two native populations in the Amazon region – an accusation Mr Correa dismissed as “ridiculous,”  BBC reported earlier.

“The indigenous movement has been used as a stepping stone. Correa has stolen our ideals. He has been the worst president ever for us,” one indigenous leader said.

President Correa is favored in the upcoming election, which will be held Feb. 17.

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