Pablo Fajardo: Lawyer of the people and the Amazon

15 August 2019; originally published 12 June 2019 in Vatican News

Authors: Manuel Cubías – Jean Charles Putzolu

Below follows an unofficial translation:

Transnational companies have often shown their contempt for the so-called Third World countries by plundering their resources. The struggles of peasants and indigenous people against these giants seem destined to fail. Not to fight would be to accept collective suicide.

The words poverty, struggle and commitment are a fundamental part of Latin American history. Many men and women have believed in them and have given their lives day by day, or definitively, to make them a reality in their countries or in their local communities.

Pablo Fajardo is one such case. A man who came from the periphery of Ecuadorian society and who wanted to serve the inhabitants of the social margins of his country.

He came to live in the middle of the world, in Ecuador. It is a South American country with 31 active volcanoes and nearly 17 million inhabitants.

Since his youth, the struggle for the defense of indigenous peoples has been present in the life of Pablo Fajardo. In 2011, together with the Union of People Affected by Texaco (UDAPT), an institution that brings together more than 30,000 people of indigenous and peasant origin, they obtained a ruling in their favor for 9,500 million dollars for social and environmental reparation.

The Texaco transnational left Ecuador and has not complied, not even today, with the legal ruling of the Sucumbíos Court. What is still present is the indelible imprint of death and contamination.

Pablo Fajardo nos cuenta su historia (tells us his story)

The mark of origin

In Pablo Fajardo’s own words:

“I was born on the Ecuadorian coast, in El Carmen, Manabí. We lived in the countryside, my family lived in extreme poverty. Everything we produced and ate was natural. We produced it with our labor. We ate what my father and my brothers produced.

Poverty drove us north to the province of Esmeraldas, where we were looking for better living conditions. After a few years, we migrated to the Amazon region. First it was my brothers, then my parents and me with them.

When we arrived in the Amazon, I experienced a strong contrast, because I was faced with two realities: one was the Amazon full of spirits, whispers, smells and tastes, full of heat, water, insects and animals, in short, full of life. The other Amazon was the polluted one, which had difficulties, which died.

Alongside these two contrasts were the indigenous peoples, the original peoples, who have lived here for thousands of years and whose relationship with nature, with water, with the air, with animals is much deeper. I came across the spirituality of the jungle, the trees. This is a much deeper experience. These are the memories I have of what life was. What I remember.

I am the fifth of ten siblings. My father is a peasant, now 91 years old. He never learned to read or write. I am fortunate because he is still alive. My mother is 84 years old, she also lives and is a peasant. She can only read and write a little. We all work for a living. None of my siblings managed to study at university. Unfortunately, some only managed to finish high school, others didn’t even do that. This happened for economic reasons. Because of poverty. She was the one who was determining who could and couldn’t study.

In my case, I was able to study at the university and graduate because I could count on the support of the people of my community, with the support of the Capuchin Franciscan Fathers and several villages that supported me so that I could study.

There’s one important thing I want to tell you. My father never learned to read or write. Written documents were of no value to him. Courage is given by the word. He said that documents can be broken, but that the given word cannot be broken. He saw this at every moment: when they wanted to do something, a job, they always made word agreements.

In today’s world, many things have changed: if it is not a written document, it is not valid. It would be nice if we could go back to that, so that the word really has its value and is respected by everyone!”

For further reading, in Spanish, please link here.

Call to action!

The Crowd vs. Chevron Oil Spill in Ecuador

Amazon people want access to justice in the Supreme Court of Canada for the reparation of their lands. Read more…

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Do you want to help by either donating (see above) or becoming an online activist (here)?

We welcome the opportunity to help you. On our Be The Difference page, after the philosophy of Mohandas Gandhi, we enable your creative ideas and work to be showcased to help this case.

Share your art and inspirations to make the world a better place for all of us!

Link to UDAPT.org website.

Canadian Supreme Court denies justice to Indigenous Ecuadorians

Filed in Environmental justice by Friends of the Earth on April 4, 2019

Picture credit: Tiputini River and rainforest, Yasuni National Park, Amazon, Ecuador. (Pete Oxford/Minden Pictures/Corbis); Read more at Smithsonianmag.com.

On April 4th 2019, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the appeal in the historic case of the Indigenous people of Ecuador versus Chevron, which has become known as the “Amazonian Chernobyl” due to its devastating impact on the region.

The Ecuadorian plaintiffs seek to enforce a judgment by Ecuador’s highest court ordering Chevron to pay more than $9.5 billion dollars for clean-up of the pollution  caused by deliberately negligent operation of oil fields.

Canadian court rulings

The ruling represents a step backward for the Union of People Affected by Chevron-Texaco (UDAPT) of Ecuador and victims of corporate crimes around the world. The Supreme Court of Canada could have adopted an innovative forward-looking approach with respect to corporate responsibility, justice and equity by ensuring Indigenous communities have access to justice and reparations.

By denying the appeal, the Supreme court chose to continue with the interpretation of the current laws which favour corporate impunity.

“It’s regrettable that legal technicalities and the lack of money pose obstacles to access to justice for people who are victims of corporate crimes. In spite of the decision in Canada, our quest for justice will continue,  and we will initiate legal proceedings in other countries,” said Willian Lucitante, Coordinator of UDAPT.

The Supreme Court of Canada previously recognized this lawsuit as public interest litigation. But the judges of the Ontario lower court declared that “[t]here is a difference between economic reality and legal reality”, so the laws in force should not be modified.

If the laws are changed, the Ecuadorian lawsuit could affect Canadian companies and force them to prioritize human rights above their business interests.

Pablo Fajardo, the lawyer for the Indigenous people and peasants affected by Chevron said “It is regrettable that, once again, a country demonstrates that justice is structured to protect and guarantee impunity for transnational corporations. The Supreme Court of Canada did not get a chance to hear the merits of the Ecuadorian case and only resolved not to accept the appeal. Our lawyers did not get the opportunity to explain the ramifications of Chevron’s legal structure, which protects it from lawsuits by those impacted by their negligent operations. This is a disastrous precedent for social struggles, for rights and justice”.

Seeking justice for over 25 years

The communities’ lawsuit for justice and reparation has been advancing through the courts for over 25 years. This trial has become an emblematic demonstration of impunity that allows transnational corporations to suffer no consequences when they violate Indigenous and human rights. 

UDAPT organization and background

The UDAPT is a grassroots organization made up of six Indigenous Nations and more than 80 peasant communities, representing over 30,000 people affected by the oil company Texaco and their irresponsible activities in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Texaco, acquired by Chevron in 2001, contaminated more than 450.000 hectares of virgin forest (that is more than 650,000 soccer fields!).

The oil company dumped crude oil, toxic waters and polluting gases that affected ecosystems, the population’s health and cultural systems, security and food sovereignty, which increased poverty and exclusion.

This contamination has had a serious impact on the health of the UDAPT community; causing the highest rates of childhood leukemia in Ecuador. Cancer deaths are one hundred and thirty percent more frequent and the mortality risk is two hundred and sixty percent higher than in other parts of Ecuador. Cancer accounts for thirty two percent of total deaths, 3 times more than the national average.

On top of these challenges, Chevron uses all means to obstruct the communities’ access to justice while  the contamination of the soil and rivers of the Ecuadorian Amazon continues. Every year people die without hope of reparation for future generations.

Working at binding treaty at United Nations level

During the past years, UDAPT along with hundreds of non-profit organizations that stand for human rights has joined with international efforts, whose aim  is to lobby for the creation of a binding treaty on transnational corporations and human rights at the United Nations.

The emblematic battle of the Ecuadorians against Chevron has unveiled the structure of impunity that allows transnational corporations to get away with gross human rights violations and environmental damage.

For additional comments by Willian Lucitante, check the website of texacotoxico.net.

The Crowd Versus will continue to crowdfund for their legal needs

The Crowd Versus will continue to seek donations and crowdfund for this very important case. The indigenous peoples and Ecuadorian people stand at the front line of the defense against climate pollution by irresponsible governments and corporations.

The UDAPT have a judgment and they seek enforcement to achieve justice.

We believe they will prevail.

If you do, too, then show your faith here or become active on their behalf here.

Support Against ISDS Decision in Chevron v. Ecuador Case

28 November 2018

Several declarations and letters have been addressed to the President of the Republic, Lenín Moreno and the State Attorney, Íñigo Salvador.

The letters consisted of the following:

The signatories of these letters concur in asking the Ecuadorian authorities to be guarantors of Human Rights. They ask the Ecuador government leaders to reject the application of the decision of the arbitration tribunal.

On the contrary, there remains a risk that the power of the oil company will force Ecuador, through coercive mechanisms, to discard the judgments, setting a serious precedent against the sovereignty of the State.

What can you do?

Just as in other posts, you can have your voice join others who believe #HumanRights trump #CorporatePrivileges and spread awareness through your friends and family, through posting this onto social media channels which in turn will inspire other, like-minded folks. You can start here with a number of options.

UDAPT Tells Story of Battle for Justice on New Website

UDAPT Tells Story of Battle for Justice on New Website

One of the biggest oil spills in the history of our planet happened in the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador, contaminating an area of almost 5 000 square km. They seek justice in, what is called in legalese, “reparations.”

The word reparations mean money. They need this money not to enrich themselves, but to build health care facilities and programs for their people. And their lands with contaminated oil pits need to be further cleaned up, a monumental challenge and task.

The affected communities and peasants have united themselves in the UDAPT organization. For 25 years they have been seeking this type of justice for their peoples through the courts.

UDAPT needs as much help as possible, especially social media attention and money for their worthy cause.

That’s why they developed a new website. On the new UDAPT website you can read about the people involved, the effects on the communities, the programs they have developed so far, and the long legal battle for justice.

How You Can Help Online

Read more about the case on the case page. Or on social media. Check out UDAPT on Twitter, and The Facebook of UDAPT.  Likes and re-posts are very much appreciated.

Frequently Used Hashtags (#):

If you want to share the message of UDAPT, please use the following hashtags:

#UDAPT #LifeWithoutContamination #StopCorporateImpunity #StopChevronImpunity #LaLuchaContinua #ChevronCulpable #ChevronCleanUp #ChevronToxico #tratadovinculante

If you use these, we can find your help, like and/or re-post it!

Why do you want to share or donate?

This Case Is About Human Environmental Rights for All of Us

This case also deals with human rights versus corporate interests. It is about corporations learning to conduct social enterprise: the cost of doing business in larger terms of just taking from the earth and changing it into money.

The facts of this case: in the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador, the oil company Chevron-Texaco left a contaminated mess behind the size of 1 850 square miles (4 800 sq.km). From 1964 – 1990, Chevron-Texaco used inadequate and obsolete oil extraction methods, and ended up dumping toxic waste and crude oil into pits in the jungle.

When they left the area, the local communities stayed behind with contaminated water and oil pits. Nobody in the communities knew the oil would be so bad for their health. Children played in the waters, not knowing the effects long-term. This led to much higher disease rates and even deaths in their communities.

United in UDAPT

Six indigenous nationalities and 80 peasant communities, who had lived and live in these contaminated areas, began the nonprofit organization called UDAPT (Union of People Affected by Texaco). In 1993, UDAPT started the first case against Chevron (then Texaco) for the damage in the provinces of Sucumbíos and Orellana.

The goal was to make Chevron repair the contaminated Northern Ecuadorian Amazon — the lungs of our earth — and provide health care for the people.

Chevron Refuses to Pay

In 2013, the National Court of Justice of Ecuador ordered the multinational Chevron Corporation to pay US $ 9.5 billion in order to build health care programs and restore contaminated areas.

When the case started, Chevron had promised to submit to the judgments of the Ecuadorian courts. In the end, the oil giant refused to pay for the damages.

Since then, the UDAPT-plaintiffs have had to seek enforcement of this Ecuadorian verdict in other countries, where the oil company does have assets (funding to provide healthcare and repair the damages).

Finally this year, their case has landed before the Supreme Court of Canada to seek justice, after a long struggle of appeals and arguments. The case has now achieved the status of a landmark case because of the legal issues it claims and encompasses.

It now functions as an example for other, similar cases about human environmental rights, after 25 years of litigation.

Thank you for helping, wherever, whenever.